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Friday, May 20, 2005

The Hype of the Clones

Cloning Hype Posted by Hello

In Newcastle, UK there are breathless announcements of human cloning, likewise in South Korea. Unwisely, this has stirred up all sorts of premature excitements about stem cell miracle cures for this, that and the other. The trouble is, of course, that researchers just can't resist the hype ... and neither can the press.

Cloning pioneers know full well that if they go on the offensive about the benefits of therapeutic cloning, this is what the media will publish first, thereby drowning out any ethical objections about the harvesting of tissue from terminated embryos (cloned or otherwise) which always then slip innocuously to the end of news bulletins.

The trouble is of course that, ethical objections aside for one moment, such miracle cures are not "just around the corner." For therapeutic cloning to be available as a medical intervention, there has to be a plentful supply of human ova. At the moment, researchers are using genetic material from IVF "discarded" embryos. These are "failed embryos" but even if the best of the crop were selected there is still the problem of dealing with gross defects in cloned organisms and the possibility of passing these on through stem cells along with such devastating conditions as human variant CJD.

Let's speculate for a moment though that all these severe difficulties have been ironed out (10 years?). Would therapeutic cloning still be ethical? Clearly, those who think that embryos are only genetic bits to be harvested and manipulated for whatever reason are going to have no problem with this. However, for those of us who believe that the human temple has been violated by such procedures with untold unforeseen spiritual and social costs in the years ahead, therapeutic cloning can never be justified, no matter what the much heralded benefits might be.

There are wider issues here of course to do with the manipulation of our own genetic destiny and the crafting of an upgrade to homo sapiens. How will homsap 2.0 deal with homsap 1.0? I can only shudder at these and other prospects. Merely being able to do something does not mean that it should be done.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Guest Contribution from Tony Rizk: "Immigration and Howard"

I am alarmed by the irresponsible stance adapted by the conservative party in the recent election campaign without any consideration to the lives of others in this country and to those of the British expatriate around the world. What disgusts me most, is that the ‘anti-immigrant’ campaign was endorsed by a leader who himself have roots outside the borders of this island and sure his parent may have been on the receiving end of this perilous emotional stirring.

I am a British citizen of a Lebanese origin and have lived in Britain for the last 20 years. Following the election, a colleague at work openly declared that although he didn’t vote conservative, he agrees with the Tory policies on immigration and that there are too many immigrants on the streets of the British cities who are taking jobs from British people. I would be foolish to assume that I didn’t expect such comments after the conservative persistent ‘anti-immigrant’ campaign. Considering the academic qualification at my work place, which is undoubtedly one of highest (vast majority hold either a PhD or an MSc), I dare not imagine the kind of harassment and abuse taking place at other organisations.

It is unlikely that this subject is going to disappear from the front pages of the right-wing media. However, I do hope that the end of the election will cool this issue and will allow a genuine and constructive discussion. I do also believe that the street is NOT the best place to sort out this issue and Mr. Howard should be aware not to cry ‘anti-Semitic’ when the fear culture he most eagerly fed is griping this nation. He should also remember not to blame the extreme right wing and Neo-Nazis when he is offering them ammunitions.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Christ is Risen!

"Many indeed are the miracles of that time: God crucified; the sun darkened and again rekindled; for it was fitting that the creatures should suffer with their Creator; the veil rent; the Blood and Water shed from His Side; the one as from a man, the other as above man; the rocks rent for the Rock's sake; the dead raised for a pledge of the final Resurrection of all men; the Signs at the Sepulchre and after the Sepulchre, which none can worthily celebrate; and yet none of these equal to the Miracle of my salvation. A few drops of Blood recreate the whole world, and become to all men what rennet is to milk, drawing us together and compressing us into unity."

St. Gregory the Theologian (patron saint of Fr. Gregory)

This extraordinary reference to Easter (this now being the season for the Orthodox) shows just how much the resurrection of Christ means to a Christian. It's the sheer regenerative power of the resurrection which drives this faith, ("a few drops of blood recreate the whole world.") It's not that the resurrection is some sort of way off hope for a believer but rather that the whole Cosmos now has potential for life having been liberated from corruption and death.

Some people can only see corruption and death in the world, (often the eyes do not lie). To be a Christian though is to see the world through God's eyes, not blind to its tragedy but seeing beyond its tragedy to something infinitely more powerful. This faith has sustained Orthodox Christians through incredible hardship and persecution over many centuries. It is a faith that billions have lived and died for. The reason? God in Christ makes all things new. Here is a freedom from corruption and decay that is forged out of Infinite Love ... the most powerful personal reality in the Cosmos. This is the "rennet" (clotting agent) that binds, heals, restores and brings all things into unity. It is life. Eternal life.

As St. Augustine declaimed:- "We are an Easter people and 'Alleluia' is our song!"

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