Communications researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have just announced a rather interesting finding. They are now claiming that, according to their research, and I use the word hesitantly, Americans who are faithful to the teachings set forth by God in the Bible are less likely to support human embryonic stem cell research. The reason? The news report
For respondents who reported that religion played a strong role in their lives, scientific knowledge had no effect on their attitudes toward stem cell research. But for those who claimed to be less religious, understanding the science was linked to more positive views of the research.
In other words, if you are a person of faith and you understand that human embryonic stem cell research is immoral because an embryonic child has to die in order to get those embryonic stem cells, you are not really open to the scientific facts. Therefore, you are not as positive about that research as those who do not accept the scientific fact that a human embryo is a human being.
But wait! That's not all. You could have a different set of "values" which means that you could be someone who understands that the human embryo is indeed alive. However, you would view this entity as something not as valuable as an already-born person with a disabling or terminal condition. Because your values are different than mine, for example, you would defend human embryonic stem cell research because you would be working toward a "greater good".
Values are in the eye of the beholder, of course, and are, in most cases – when divorced from faith in God – based on moral relativism. Therefore, we can see how this research came to the conclusion that is reported. There is a built-in bias against people of faith – at least that is my humble opinion.
When I first read this, I was amazed by the seeming arrogance of the researchers and their comments. But the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that these researchers are not arrogant but ignorant. They have not taken into account that science is informed by faith and that faith informs science. So if I could give them a little lesson, I would be happy to share the following, as expressed most succinctly by Pope John Paul II
, regarding man's efforts in the professions, including scientific research:
... the positive results achieved must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them. Sundered from that truth, individuals are at the mercy of caprice, and their state as person ends up being judged by pragmatic criteria based essentially upon experimental data, in the mistaken belief that technology must dominate all. It has happened therefore that reason, rather than voicing the human orientation towards truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being. (Fides et Ratio, Section 5)
In other words, faith divorced from science results in disaster, because an individual who has no foundation in natural law principles is incapable of determining ethical balance and pursuing only that which is good. Such a person does whatever he can do without ever asking whether or not he should do it.
This truth should inform every aspect of scientific research, but of course we know that it does not, and we also know that God is denied a rightful place in politically correct discussions about questions such as human embryonic stem cell research. But as the New York State Catholic Conference pointed out
in its statements regarding this research, the very fact that human embryonic stem cell research is receiving attention is morally troubling.
The New York State Catholic Conference is expressing these concerns based on fundamental ethical principles. First, the scientific fact is that a human embryo is a human being. The philosophical/theological fact is that a human embryo is also created in the image and likeness of God. These two facts should inform each other rather than being at odds.
But as Dr. Shelley Chawla, a neurologist, has said regarding his new film
on stem cell research, "It just seems like this one perspective is holding back research for the whole world. The world is looking at us for better research. We have lagged behind in the stem cell race because we are bogged down by politicians and fanatics."
Well, my friends, what else can I say? Welcome to my world where I, as a fanatic, praise God for His truth, His light and His grace – the gifts that enable me to see what is true through the eyes of faith. It is glorious being a fanatic!