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mind-numbed robots on parade

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 17, 2005

We all know that orthodox Catholics check their brains at the door, etc., etc., but Slate's William Saletan, no ally of pro-lifers, makes a good effort at fairness in reporting from the recent bioethics conference at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome. He seems impressed in spite of himself.

The first presenters, a couple of scientists, summarize the state of stem cell research. When they're done, a soft-spoken young priest in the front row raises his hand. "In a case of aneuploidy, it may be possible to laser ablate one or two of the blastomeres," he says. A priest in the back row asks about "aberrant silencing of the IGF and IGF2 receptor." I can hardly believe what I'm hearing. Afterward, I ask the first priest, Father Tad Pacholczyk, where he learned this stuff. Turns out he's got a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Yale, plus a research stint at Harvard Medical School and undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology. Around the room, half the guys in collars are scientists. A couple of weeks ago, there was a conference here on the concept of brain death, which the Vatican is reconsidering in light of new findings. ...

Father Nicanor Austriaco, a white-robed Dominican brother with a doctorate in biology from MIT, uses PowerPoint to demonstrate that the gene Hurlbut wants to delete, cdx2, doesn't affect an embryo until at least the eight-cell stage. This means Hurlbut's "artifact" would develop just like an embryo until then, which raises theological problems. Austriaco cites lab data indicating that the embryonic axis begins to form at the two-cell stage. Therefore, the only moral approach is to delete a gene that enables differentiation at the first cell division.

As Susan Sontag -- or was it Cher? -- said so well, "Get your rosaries, like, off my ovaries."

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Mar. 17, 2005 4:31 PM ET USA

    God bless Pacholczyk and Austriaco. If only the bishops would do more to publicize the expertise of these men and others like them, the truth of the church's teachings on embryonic stem cell research would begin to take hold. Of course, such expertise can also be threatening for prelates who have already decided to make their peace with the brave new world that seems to await us...

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