The Embryo Research Bill (and a little bit about Murphy-O’Connor’s ‘Evil Atheists’ Comments) [UPDATED]
On Monday, there will be a show of support for the Embryo Research Bill outside Parliament. There are concerns that sense may not prevail and the Bill may be defeated by religious objectors. The likely reason for these concerns is the fuss being made in the press by people such as Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor*. The Times covered O’Brien’s remarks and the Guardian printed a piece with some clarifications. The Guardian piece and two letters to the Independent were published on the Black Triangle blog. One of my favourite opinion pieces on the Embryo Research Bill was written by George Galloway in the Daily Record:
The Bill contains the literally monstrous idea to allow boffins to insert human DNA into animal eggs creating hybrid human-animal embryos. This Frankenstinian proposal allegedly has some Christian ministers parading their double standard consciences
If you want to read more about the Bill, there is some discussion here, taken from the minutes of the Joint Committee on the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill – the report is indexed here: First Report. There was some discussion of the O’Brien comments at the Richard Dawkins Forum here and the Telegraph had a ‘For and Against‘ article. The Times also has some poll results here on PDF.
UPDATE 1: Weirdly, the MRC (Medical Research Council) don’t seem to want researchers to turn up on Monday – they think it would be counter-productive for scientists to come to Parliament and explain their research. Dr Minger has said that he has been encouraged by the MRC’s note – rather than just turn up to the show of support alone, he will be encouraging colleagues to join him. Evan Harris described the MRC note as “rather absurd and paranoid“. Ben Goldacre’s Miniblog had this summary: “Run away, hide, do not engage, do not speak, do not have feelings, do not have opinions, and if you it must let them only be expressed by The Singular Official Voice.”
*Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor (the Archbishop of Westminster) also said some stupid things about atheists recently. In defence of his comments he later claimed on the Today programme that societies ruled only by reason were like those created by Hitler and Stalin – ripe for terror and oppression. As I wrote last week, my view is that repudiation of liberal ideas rather than repudiation of religious ideas leads to despotism (although I used Lenin and Hitler as my examples). I think Murphy-O’Connor has made a mistake invoking Hitler and Stalin as examples of the evils of reason, as I don’t think either man was particularly influenced by reason – in my view they were a pair of murderous, power-hungry bastards (and Hitler had some very strange beliefs indeed – well Google seems to think so anyway). There’s a bit more about Hitler the Atheist here on the Richard Dawkins site [according to the BBC’s online report, Dawkins was on Radio 4 earlier discussing Murphy-O’Connor’s remarks] and some discussion of Murphy O’Connor’s comments on the Bad Science Forum.
UPDATE 3: See my comment below for links to more religion/science stupidity where Hawk-Handsaw is looking at some comments made by Nadine Dorries.