Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Scientists versus moralists?

The Second Reading debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill yesterday was very high quality; as the cliche goes, Parliament is at its best on occasions like this. Brian Iddon and Ian Gibson were particularly good on the benefits of allowing scientific research on admixed embryos. Someone - possibly Brian or Ian - said that they strongly objected to the debate being characterised as being between those who supported scientific progress and those who had 'ethical' concerns. They said, quite rightly I believe, that support for the scientists is also very much an ethical position, as it is based on the strongly-held belief that we should be doing what we can to reduce human suffering and to find cures for terminal or chronic diseases. Indeed, some might say that it is unethical for people of strong religious belief to deny others the opportunity to benefit from such scientific progress because it conflicts with their own deeply-held faith. From what I heard of the debate yesterday, a number of MPs questioned whether the research would be of real scientific benefit, but everyone who did so was speaking from a strongly Christian perspective, rather than from a scientific viewpoint. (For perhaps the most extreme example of this, Iris Robinson's contribution is worth a look).

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