Science and Religion

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There is a topic that I think we need to discuss, that Eutychus Fell brings up on his blog. Since he doesn't have comments, I have taken the liberty to copy his post on the next page.
I have a lot to say on this, and I intend to write a reasoned response, but I would like to hear what you all have to say on this. Eutychus asks some very good questions here.
I have a few basic concerns, and I wonder if any of you can guide me to some resources for more accurate information about the Galileo issue. I am pretty sure that the public perception that he was violently suppressed is somewhat in error. But I can't lay my hands of the article I thought I read (Crisis, maybe?)Also, I have spent a big chunk of the last 20 years studying medical ethics and coming to the conclusion that Catholic moral theology, based on the natural law, is the only sound basis for deciding these dilemmas. I don't think science is overwhelming our moral language as much as we are succumbing to the lures of false autonomy.
anyhow, go to the rest of this to read the comments from Eutychus Fell.

A few days ago I wrote about worry that the Catholic Church might become a single-issue Church over abortion. When I was in the Orthodontist's office the other day, I read an article in the Atlantic Monthly called "The Case against Perfection." It's a very long and detailed article concerning the secular arguments against using cloning and gene therapy and in-vitro cleansing to design your perfect baby. So you can see, throw in gay marriage and the Catholic Church is anything but a single-issue church. Abortion, contraception, gay marriage, stem-cell research, in-vitro selection, mapping the human genome... the science of the human body is fast overwhelming our moral language.

I worry: Back in the early 1600's, it was astronomy and mathematics that were beyond our moral language and the church made mistakes about science which she was centuries in overcoming and admitting. We have a lot of new Galileos, mapping the inner universe of our body just as the old Galileo mapped the outer solar system. Explorers want in the worst way to go there and we can be sure, because when have explorers ever been stopped, that they will go there.

The question: Once the new world is discovered, once stem-cell cures for Parkinson's or MS or MD or Alzheimer's are discovered. What then? What will Catholic parents do when the cure is there for others but morally unavailable to them? How many of us, today, reject the Christian Scientists for letting their people die rather than allowing simple, medical treatment. One of my neighbors, a young mother, died over Christmas from a kidney stone infection. She was a Christian Scientist who refused treatment and left two pre-school children behind.

The answer: Who am I to say. My conscience is still in formation.

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The next point I want to make about the Science and Religion questions posted by Eutycus Fell and Fructus Ventris has to do with the limitations of science. To do that, I want to look at some things very small,... Read More


Thanks for this, Alicia. I was reading this evening what the Pope had to say about organ transplants back in 1991.

New Way of Sharing Life with Others. In particular, he said:

2. This splendid development is not of course without its dark side. There is still much to be learned through research and clinical experience, and there are many questions of an ethical, legal and social nature which need to be more deeply and widely investigated. There are even shameful abuses which call for determined action on the part of medical associations and donor societies, and especially of competent legislative bodies. Yet in spite of these difficulties we can recall the words of the fourth century Doctor of the Church, Saint Basil the Great: "As regards medicine, it would not be right to reject a gift of God (that is, medical science) just because of the bad use that some people make of it; we should instead throw light on what they have corrupted" (Great Rules, 55:3, cf. Migne, PG 31:1048).

And John Paul II goes on to discuss the donation of organs by the closest living relatives of the deceased. Alicia, it makes me wonder about miscarriages and whether a mother, being the closest living relative of the baby, would be allowed to donate her child's cells for, say, a Parkinson's patient.


I have some material on this somewhere. I'll have to find it. I'll get back to you on Monday here or I'll post something in response on my site.


One could certainly donate the cells of one's child in that case. The problem is, they probably wouldn't be effective. By the time a mom miscarries, the baby has usually been dead for quite a while. There are rare cases where the miscarriage is actually an extremely early preterm birth (of a live child), and maybe those cells would be useable like cord blood stem cells - but the whole thing smacks of cannibalism to me.

One quick note tho - It's a mistake to assume that the Galileo episode was entirely based on his science. If I remember correctly, t was a good bit more complicated than that.

That's what I thought I remembered. I am also concerned about the quasi-religious geocentrist movement that has arisen in some quarters.
Who was it that said there can be no true conflict between science and religion? (Meaning that science at its best is about understanding the world God created).

I hadn't thought about the viability of cells in the case of a miscarriage, Alicia... very true.

I'm off to my son's graduation. :) Thanks again.

::sigh:: Galileo... Even my openly atheist astronomy professors at the uber-liberal University of Rochester stated in class that the Church got a bum rap on that whole affair! Here's the Catholic Answers tract on Galileo. It matches how three different astronomy professors explained it in classes I took, so I'm willing to believe it's accuracy.

In the case of stem cells, the Church has no problem with those that don't require the death of the donor. For instance, it is little mentioned that adult stem cells can be used. Researchers prefer to work with embryonic stem cells as they assume that they will be more malleable. Also, the stem cells from a newborn's cord can be saved and used without harming anyone. I admire this policy because it shows how the Church can keep her eye on the ball (in this case harming or killing a living human) while wishing the greatest good from science.

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on May 28, 2004 11:47 PM.

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