FOREVER on the prowl for something – anything – to divert attention from the global child abuse scandal in which it is so deeply mired – the Roman Catholic Church this week trumpeted its outrage over the Nobel Prize awarded to Robert Edwards, known as the father of the test-tube baby and the inventor of in-vitro fertilisation.
Edwards was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his IVF work – an award which brought swift condemnation from Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, described the award as “out of order,” and said:
Without Edwards, there would be no market for human eggs; without Edwards there would not be freezers full of embryos waiting to be transferred to a uterus, or, more likely, used for research or left to die, abandoned and forgotten about by all.
Since then, a number of conservative Christian organisations and commentators have rallied behind the Church in its condemnation of Edwards – but the prize for the most stupid reaction to the award must go to Cathy Lynn Grossman, who – in an article entitled Test tube babies’: God’s work or human error? written for the “Faith and Reason” section of USA Today – posed two deeply offensive questions:
This provoked a furious response from P Z Myers, over at Pharyngula, who asked:
â€¢ Do you think a baby conceived in test tube is still a child in the eyes – or mind or hands, depending on your theology/philosophy – of God? Does the science behind this merit the Nobel Prize for Medicine or condemnation in the realm of faith and ethics?
â€¢ Do you think a baby conceived in test tube is still a child in the eyes of God? Does the science behind this merit a Nobel Prize, or ethical condemnation? And what about the parents? Is their IVF choice selfish or loving? Are they creators – or merely shoppers?
So what are these children? Soulless zombies? Or are they just damned?
I find it disturbing that some people consider the circumstances of a child’s conception to be serious grounds for contemplating their status as members of the human race. This is where magical thinking about undetectable spiritual entities leads you â€” to a different kind of dualism, where I am privileged because I’ve imagined that I’m granted a soul, while you are lesser because I’ve imagined that you have not â€¦ and by the way, you have no means to challenge my claims, which are entirely ethereal and supernatural and also accepted by the majority of the law makers and enforcers in my country.
And it’s incredibly offensive to go further and suggest that the parents of these children, who have gone to extraordinary expense and trouble to conceive, are mere “shoppers, as if people who get pregnant in a casual evening’s rut are somehow necessarily conscientious ethical philosophers and serious about their children, while someone who sinks $10,000+ dollars into invasive medical procedures and subjects their body to a few months of stressful hormonal treatments must be getting pregnant on impulse.
There really are stupid questions. Grossman just asked a few, and is entirely oblivious to what they imply about her and her attitudes towards children born by methods of which she disapproves. What next? Shall we consider ostracizing a few bastards, too?