Saturday, October 07, 2006

Toward a Global Common Good

Toward a Global Common Good

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Marks "Laborem Exercens" Anniversary

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, OCT. 7, 2006 ( Here is the text of the keynote address given by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin at Villanova University on Sept. 25, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the encyclical "Laborem Exercens."

* * *

Catholic Social Teaching and Human Work
By Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin

Work is at the center of the Church's reflection on human identity and activity. When the dignity of the person fades from its central position in the realities of work, then upheavals and insecurity inevitably emerge in society. Each generation then must address the challenge of how the centrality the human person in the world of work is respected within the changing and ever complex situation of its time.

This applies also to us in our era of globalization. Globalization, one can say, faces us with "new developments in industry, new techniques striking out new paths, changed relations of employer and employee, abounding wealth among a very small number and destitution among the masses."[1] These are appropriate words, but you may be surprised that I take them from the very first paragraph of "Rerum Novarum." They were written in 1891 in the context of the industrial revolution. They serve to remind us that each generation is faced with a similar challenge in its efforts to evaluate how developments in industry and technology affect "the condition of workers."

When we celebrate the anniversary of "Laborem Exercens" we are celebrating also the anniversary of "Rerum Novarum" and of that series of great social encyclicals which have been written to commemorate the groundbreaking encyclical of Leo XIII which gave rise to the modern era of Catholic social teaching.

The centrality of work

"Laborem Exercens" was the first of three social encyclicals of Pope John Paul II. It was written at a crucial time in modern history, at the beginnings of a process which would eventually lead to the fall of the Eastern European communist systems. Ten years later, Pope John Paul in his later encyclical "Centesimus Annus" could say: "the fundamental crisis of the systems claiming to express the rule and even the dictatorship of the working classes began with the great upheavals which took place in Poland in the name of solidarity. It was the throngs of working people which foreswore the ideology which presumed to speak in their name."[2]

The context in which "Laborem Exercens" was written then was that of the emerging crisis of the Communist systems in Central and Eastern Europe and the foresight of Pope John Paul II who more than most understood just how that system had failed to recognize the dignity of work. From concrete experience he was acutely aware that any form of materialism or economic system that tries to reduce the worker to being a mere instrument of production, a simple labor force with an exclusively material value, inevitably ends up distorting the essence of work and the social fabric itself.

Catholic social teaching has always stressed the fact that "work, because of its subjective or personal character, is superior to every other factor connected with productivity; this principle applies, in particular, with regard to capital."[3]

A key tenet of "Laborem Exercens"[4] in its analysis of the priority of labor over capital is its affirmation that human work has a twofold significance: objective and subjective.

In the objective sense, work is the sum of activities, resources, instruments and technologies used by persons to produce things, to exercise responsible dominion over the earth, in the words of the Book of Genesis.

In the subjective sense, work is the activity of the human person as a dynamic being capable of acting in ways which correspond to the specific vocation of the human person. "Laborem Exercens" notes that "Man has to subdue the earth and dominate it, because as the 'image of God' he is a person, that is to say, a subjective being capable of acting in a planned and rational way, capable of deciding about himself, and with a tendency to self-realization. As a person, man is therefore the subject of work."[5]

According to Pope John Paul, work in the objective sense constitutes the contingent aspect of human activity, which constantly varies in its expressions according to the changing technological, cultural, social and political conditions. On the other hand, work in the subjective sense represents its stable dimension, since it does not depend on what people produce or on the type of activity they undertake, but only and exclusively on their dignity as human beings.

The Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church stresses then that "This subjectivity gives to work its particular dignity, which does not allow that it be considered a simple commodity or an impersonal element of the apparatus for productivity."[6] It is the human person who is always then the measure of the dignity of work: "In fact there is no doubt that human work has an ethical value of its own, which clearly and directly remains linked to the fact that the one who carries it out is a person."[7] Work therefore is for human person, the human person is there not just to work.

The business enterprise

The priority of labor over capital has been such a dominant theme of Catholic social doctrine that many had the feeling that the social doctrine of the Church was not friendly to the business community. It was said that the social teaching of the Church was not comfortable with the concept of profit and more concerned with the distribution of wealth than with the generation of wealth.

There is indeed a tendency within the social teaching of the Church to stress the rights of workers and workers organization and the responsibility of public authorities to address all forms of exploitation. This is understandable and correct. This was due in many ways to the epoch in which the modern era of the social teaching emerged, during the height of the industrial revolution when the position of workers and their rights was dramatic and required urgent attention.

Today the situation of the world of work has changed somewhat and it would be useful to reflect on how the social teaching of the Church has addressed and must address this new situation.

When I look at my own country, Ireland, I can see how the structure of a modern economy has changed. I left Dublin to study and to work Rome in 1969. In those years, Ireland was the poor relative of all the economies of the European Union. Unemployment reached up to 17% nationally and we had parishes in Dublin where that figure reached up to 70%. There was widespread poverty and what one would effectively have had to call structural poverty. Where unemployment reaches 70%, social integration breaks down. There was large emigration of both skilled labor and of ordinary workers.

I returned to Ireland three years ago to find a very different situation. Unemployment stands at less than 4%. Growth this year will be about 5%. Ireland has become a country of immigration, from all over the world, but especially from the newly acceded countries of the European Union. Since the accession of new countries to the European Union a little over two years ago at least 150,000 new immigrants have arrived in Ireland from those countries alone.

What has happened? How did it happen? There are many reasons. Ireland was at the right position at the right time. Ireland received funds from the European Union and used them well in improving infrastructures. And of course, the Irish are the Irish!

But there are also other lessons to be learned which I believe an attentive reading of the social doctrine of the Church can also help us understand better. These lessons are also linked with the nature of a modern economy in the knowledge era.

Many people tend to look at international economic life with a certain skepticism, even anxiety. Globalization has added further unknowns and threatening phenomena for the lives of many. International speculators are considered rapacious and unscrupulous, especially in the aftermath of various international economic crises where uncontrolled speculation was understood to have played a major role in the destruction of entire economies. The shape of the current global market economy tends to make people feel that their jobs are at risk and their pensions insecure.

There is also a certain ambivalence in the attitude of the wealthier countries which adds to the climate of insecurity. I was present in Doha when China was admitted to the World Trade Organization. I was present at the festivities which celebrated the event and its importance for a global, open, rules-based trade system. The Western countries stressed how much free trade can do for international development and especially for the poor countries. Open markets were celebrated as the road signs to development for all. But today, when China begins using its enormous advantage and Western jobs in the textile industry are at stake, those same Western countries are talking about protectionist measures and progress on the Doha round has ground to a halt.

Catholic social teaching traditionally had reservations about assigning a determinant role to the market in managing international economic relations. I remember the outcry from certain circles on the occasion of the publication of the encyclical letter, "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," when Pope John Paul dared to criticize in the same breath -- but in a differentiated fashion -- not just communism but capitalism. Some years later, then, I remember the almost triumphal joy with which the affirmations of the market in the subsequent encyclical "Centesimus Annus" were greeted. Christian social reflection and the market have a difficult relationship.

The problem was not entirely with the Church. Certain economic theorists tend to reject any outside societal interference in the market process, except that of guaranteeing the necessary legal framework which will permit the market to work. Government should keep its fingers out of the working of the market, keep taxes down, keep social expenditures to a level which does not make business non-competitive, keep social legislation regarding working hours and contracts as broad as possible. The market, the theory goes, should be left to do its task of creating wealth which would generate employment and in its own way permit social benefits to trickle down, even if only drop by drop to reach the poorest. There is much truth in these affirmations, but at times this viewpoint had become almost a dogma.

Knowledge-based economy

A modern economy is more and more a knowledge based economy. The so-called industrialized nations are in fact post-industrial economies where the service sector dominates. The success of a modern economy is greatly linked with the possibility of access to knowledge and with the management of knowledge. The principal resource of such an economy is the human person, with his or her creativity and capacity for innovation.

Indeed, the more resourceful the person can be made, the greater a creative resource he or she is for the economy. In a modern economy, investment in people and in those social infrastructures which value human capacity can no longer belong only to the realm of philanthropy, but constitutes an essential element in any healthy program of economic investment. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine notes that "allowing workers to develop themselves fosters increased productivity and efficiency in the very work undertaken. A business enterprise must be a community of solidarity that is not closed within its own company interests."[8]

The economies that have done well are those which have invested in their people, that is, in education and health care and in improving the basic technological capacity of the work force, in such a way as to permit them to enter into the national and the global economy as real actors and protagonists. On the other hand, the unskilled or the nations which do not posses adequate social infrastructures are those destined to remain on the fringes of social and economic progress. The unskilled are the first victims of any economic crisis.

One of the most significant factors which contributed to Irish economic growth was in fact the quality of the educational system, which despite deficiencies in both buildings and curriculum did manage to produce young people with creative and innovative ability who were able to insert themselves with the necessary flexibility into a modern business economy. Paradoxically, in its period of wealth Ireland has not been investing enough in its educational system. There is a major crisis in some aspects of the health system. There will never be social progress without sustained economic growth. But even the extraordinary economic progress that we have seen in Ireland will on its own ensure social progress at the same time.

Creativity and innovative capacity are key factors in today's world. Pope John Paul recognized that "whereas at one time the decisive factor of production was the land, and later capital … today the decisive factor is increasingly man himself…; his intelligence enables him to discover the earth's productive potential and the many different ways in which human needs can be satisfied."[9] Pope John Paul notes then that a business "cannot be considered only as a 'society of capital goods'; it is also a 'society of persons.'"[10]

In the past the distinction between labor and capital was perhaps then a more radical one. Today one talks about human capital and social capital, terms I do not particularly like, since they tend to treat persons as objects. The reality is that it is the subjectivity of persons and the subjectivity of society which drive forwards a modern knowledge-based economy. The worker in today's economy is a real protagonist.

The Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church sums us these reflections affirming that "all of this entails a new perspective in the relationship between labor and capital. We can affirm that, contrary to what happened in the former organization of labor in which the subject would end up being less important than the object, than the mechanical process, in our day the subjective dimension of work tends to be more decisive and more important than the objective dimension."[11]

When then the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church vigorously reaffirms the traditional Church teaching on the dignity of work through stressing the right to work[12], the rights of workers[13], the duty to work[14], the importance of rest from work,[15], it does so confident in the validity of Pope John Paul words that "the integral development of the human person through work does not impede but rather promotes the greater productivity and efficiency of work itself."[16]

Certainly, the current global economy offers great opportunities, but these do not always favor workers. While there is a recognition that human creativity is the driving force of a modern economy, its most precious resource, there is a tendency to look on work as just another factor in the cost of production, to be treated just like any other factor. Indeed there is a tendency to look on labor costs as one of the principal economic factors and to move production to where labor costs are most advantageous. This does indeed offer great opportunity to poorer countries, yet it also leads to a tendency in which the rights of workers and especially of the power of workers' associations are weakened.

In fact, the current labor market is such that it is becoming harder to see a business enterprise as a "society of persons," as Pope John Paul saw it to be. Even the smallest business enterprise may have components of its activities in different countries or continents. The terms employer and employee take on a different significance as different components of an enterprise are outsourced to a series of intermediary enterprises around the world. In such a situation it is easy for respect for workers' rights to fall out of the picture. Consumers in the West can however send the message that they are not just interested in the designer logo on their shirt, but also in the working conditions under which that shirt was produced.

The opportunities which a knowledge-based economy can bring are also relativized by the fact that, as Pope John Paul noted: "many people, perhaps the majority today, do not have the means which would enable them to take their place in an effective and humanly dignified way within the productive system in which work is truly central. They have no possibility of acquiring the basic knowledge which would enable them to express their creativity and develop their potential. They have no way of entering the network of knowledge and intercommunication which would enable them to see their qualities appreciated and utilized. Thus if not actually exploited, they are to a great extent marginalized; economic development takes place over their head, so to speak, when it does not actually reduce the already narrow scope of their old subsistence economies."[17]

Work, the family, migration

In fostering a broader understanding of the relationship between work and the human person, "Laborem Exercens" stressed the relationship between work and the family. The Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church takes this theme up making an appeal. "Family and work, so closely interdependent in the experience of the vast majority of people, deserve finally to be considered in a more realistic light, with an attention that seeks to understand them together, without the limits of a strictly private conception of the family or a strictly economic view of work."[18]

The world of work today is not particularly favorable to the family. More and more people have to travel long distances to work. It is not just that both parents have to work, but it can happen that one or both spouses have to work two jobs to earn sufficient to maintain the family. Today we often encounter the phenomenon of the "working poor," people who are in the labor market, but who do not earn sufficient […] for them and their families to survive. Very often those who work end up paying higher contributions for health and insurance and receive fewer benefits than the person who is unemployed.

Catholic social teaching recognizes the specific contribution of women to the world of work. The Compendium notes that "the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society and therefore the presence of women in the work force must also be guaranteed. The first indispensable step in this direction is the concrete possibility of access to professional formation."[19] It notes the forms of discrimination which exist against women in the work force, but also stresses their need to be able to reconcile their responsibilities in work and those in the family.

One of the key factors in Ireland's economic success has been the high participation of women in the work force. But in speaking with people, in listening to the talk shows on the radio and the letters to the newspaper, one can see that we are still a long way away from a satisfactory response to what women really desire in this area. Very often women have to work just to keep up the family income, when they would prefer at certain periods to be free to address family responsibilities, and be able to return to the work force without suffering disadvantage.

The Compendium looks at the complex situation, characteristic of many societies, of migration and work. Migration has always been a dimension of the world economy; it will inevitably become a normal dimension of an economy that is global. It notes that "institutions in host countries must keep careful watch to prevent the spread of the temptation to exploit foreign workers, denying them the same tights enjoyed by nationals, rights that are guaranteed to all without discrimination."[20] It recalls especially "the right of reuniting families." I would also add, from a European point of view, the need to be vigilant in the face of anti-immigrant sentiment, often racist in its character.

Ireland has become a country of immigration. In my two years as archbishop of Dublin I have designated chaplaincies for large communities from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Nigeria, the Philippines and for Syro-Malabar Christians from India. These immigrants have brought a real enrichment to Irish culture and to the Irish Church. There is however the serious problem that they often represent important talent which is being lost to their own countries at a time in which it is most needed. Some will return to their countries enriched by the experience they have gained establishing an informal sharing of technology and know-how.

Work, the state and the market

Market forces very often demand non-intervention on the part of the state, but on their part they make demands on the way society is structured and thus on the ability of the state to carry out its role. The effects of the dominance of market ideology may be much more far-reaching than we at times realize. "Small government" and "low-tax regimes" can of course be a sound policy. Social goals can, at times, be achieved more efficiently through market means and by the private sector. Pension policy is moving more and more in this direction.

But who takes responsibility for guaranteeing those social goals in times of economic crisis? Who will provide the basic safety nets to defend the weakest, or those who are excluded in the short or long term? Would many of our small governments have the capacity to cope with the human and social consequences of a major market crisis?

Right across Europe today the questions of the relationship between government and market and between market growth and equity are difficult political questions. The ability of the state to cover the costs of pensions, health care and social services is reduced just at the moment in which there is also a certain feeling of precariousness about employment security. Politicians can reply in a populist way and perhaps damage precisely that agility of the market to foster growth.

Pope John Paul in his encyclical "Centesimus Annus"[21] tries to balance the roles of the market, of the state and of a broader participatory society. He notes that "the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs."[22] Interestingly, the Compendium would seem to go even farther noting that "the free market is an effective instrument for attaining important objectives of justice."[23] But the Pope also stresses that "there are collective and qualitative needs which cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms. There are important needs which escape its logic. There are goods which by their very nature cannot and must not be bought and sold."[24]

The Compendium stresses that part of the role of the state in the face of the market is to ensure that it is truly free.[25] The state has the task of determining an appropriate juridical framework for regulating economic affairs in order to safeguard the prerequisites of the free market, which presumes a certain equality between the parties. In that way the state should guarantee that free competition curbs the excessive profits of individual business and responds to consumers' demands through bringing about a more efficient use and conservation of resources.

But the Compendium also stresses that since "the market takes on a significant social function in contemporary society it is important to identify its most positive potentials and create conditions which allow them to be put concretely into effect."[26] It notes that "Economic activity, above all in a free market context, cannot be conducted in an institutional, juridical and political vacuum."[27] And it takes up the important affirmation of Pope John Paul II, namely, that "Economic freedom is only one element of human freedom. … When it becomes autonomous, then economic freedom loses it relationship with the human person and ends up alienating and oppressing him."[28]

Indeed it must be pointed out that no sector of human activity can be excluded from ethical scrutiny. Ethics also belongs to the real world. Ethical scrutiny deals with individual behavior: observing the rules and ethical principles such as trust and honesty, which are incidentally also essential to the market. But ethical scrutiny, being based on the concept of responsibility, must lead each person to reflect on all the foreseeable consequences of their actions, including the consequences for society as a whole. The market and economic activity constitute only one dimension of human activity and, while following their own internal norms, still remain at the service of the broader community.

A truly global and inclusive economy

A distinguishing characteristic of the market today is that it is global. One could dedicate the rest of the evening to discussing the nature of a global economy and the advantages and disadvantages that it brings. I wish however to stress one simple point: a global economy must be truly global. Global must be made synonymous with inclusive. An economic system which leaves on its margins huge sectors of the population or entire regions of a nation or of the world will always remain fragile. The inclusion of the widest possible number of people or nations as protagonists is a primary interest of the global economy. A global economy which produces massive exclusion will be neither global nor stable.

One of the major problems with the current economic situation is the existence of glaring inequalities and of a lack of models -- and perhaps political will -- to resolve the question. There have always been winners and losers in any economic model: In today's global economy there are extraordinary winners and disastrous losers.

One possible positive result from globalization, however, may be a restoration of the concept of the common good and a realization that today there exists a "global common good" which urgently needs to be protected. This applies to the protection of human rights, the protection of the environment but also the protection of the dignity of work. It is becoming more and more obvious that what happens in one part of the world inevitably has repercussions elsewhere. No nation, not even the most powerful, can go it alone.

Respecting the global common good, however, cannot be limited to enforcing certain negotiated economic, financial and commercial norms and standards. Liberalization of trade and finances, for example, is not an end in itself. Liberalization will only lead to growth when certain other conditions are met. But neither is growth in itself is the ultimate value. Growth with equity and inclusion is better than growth which generates great inequalities and exclusion. Growth with stability is better than a growth accompanied by volatility and precariousness.


My rather disordered reflections on this anniversary of the encyclical "Laborem Exercens" have led me to stress -- perhaps with too much optimism -- that the nature of a modern economy may provide new openings for dialogue between Christian social reflection and the world of work and the economy today. A modern economy recognizes that it is not the market which is its driving force. The market is only a means which can more efficiently ensure that the fruits of human creativity can flourish and be distributed.

We should not overlook the fact that "Laborem Exercens" looks on human work not just as the work of an isolated individual. Human work has an intrinsic social dimension. A person's work, in fact, is naturally connected with that of other people. Pope John Paul notes that "more than ever, work is work with others and work for others."[29]

Human work can build solidarity. But it can do so only if the world of work is structured and oriented towards solidarity and enables all to participate through their work in the building up of a world where all can realize themselves in God's image.

Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" has noted that with the Jesus' teaching "the concept of 'neighbor' is now universalized."[30] True neighborliness embraces all. The Good Samaritan responds in love to an unidentified person on the road, just because he is a person, for no other reason than that he is a fellow human being suffering. But if "neighbor" is universalized, it is also not reduced to a generic, abstract expression. Neighbor is not an abstract concept: but a concrete person.

The teaching of Jesus, who came to reveal to us that God is love, is a teaching which is the opposite of the dominant consumer mentality. The consumer mentality tends to utilize or to use for personal satisfaction. Through work the person can give of his or her talents to ensure that all can realize fully the image of God that is within them. In that way work can witness also that "love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and that closing our eyes to our neighbor, also blinds us to God."[31]

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[1] Encyclical "Rerum Novarum," No. 1.
[2] Encyclical "Centesimus Annus," No. 23.
[3] Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, No. 276.
[4] Encyclical "Laborem Exercens," Nos. 5-7.
[5] Ibid., No. 6.

[6] Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, No. 271.
[7] "Laborem Exercens," No. 6.
[8] Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, No. 340.
[9] "Centesimus Annus," No. 32.
[10] Ibid., No. 43.

[11] Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, No. 278.
[12] Ibid., Nos. 287-300.
[13] Ibid., Nos. 301-30.
[14] Ibid., Nos. 264-266.
[15] Ibid., Nos. 284-286.

[16] "Centesimus Annus," No. 43.
[17] Ibid., No. 33.
[18] Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, No. 294.
[19] Ibid., No. 295.
[20] Ibid., No. 298.

[21] cf. "Centesimus Annus," No. 40.
[22] Ibid., No. 34.
[23] Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, No. 347.
[24] "Centesimus Annus," No. 34.
[25] cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 352, and "Centesimus Annus," No. 15.

[26] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 350.
[27] Ibid., No. 352.
[28] "Centesimus Annus," No. 39.
[29] Ibid., No. 31.
[30] "Deus Caritas Est," No. 15.
[31] Ibid., No. 16.

Sigh. Where does one start with something like this. I'll write something on it if I can.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Fundamentalists? We?

Fundamentalists? We?
Bad science, worse philosophy, and McCarthyite tactics in the human-embyro debate.

By Patrick Lee & Robert P. George

We have in many places argued for the humanity and fundamental dignity of human beings in the embryonic stage of development and all later stages. In defending embryonic human life, we have pointed out that every human adult was once an embryo, just as he or she was once an adolescent, and before that a child, and before that an infant, and before that a fetus. This is not a religious claim or a piece of metaphysical speculation. It is an empirical fact. The complete human organism — the whole living member of the species Homo sapiens — that is, for example, you the reader, is the same human individual that at an earlier point in his or her life was an adolescent, a child, an infant, a fetus, an embryo. From the embryonic stage forward, all you needed for your survival and continued growth towards adulthood along the continuum of human development was a suitable environment, adequate nutrition, and freedom from grave disease.

In short, we have argued — though it is fairer to say that we have pointed out, since the scientific facts are not in dispute — that human embryos do not differ in kind from (other) human beings; rather, they differ from other human beings merely in respect of their stage of development. Embryos, fetuses, infants, adolescents, and adults are not different kinds of being — the way a human, an elk, a spider, a cucumber, and an amoeba are different kinds of being. Embryos, fetuses, infants, adolescents, and adults are the same kind of being at different developmental stages.

Still, Lee Silver in “The Biotechnology Culture Clash,” published in Science and Theology News (July 18, 2006), and more fully in a new book entitled Challenging Nature, insists that our views about the humanity and dignity of the human embryo are grounded in religious beliefs. He accuses us of concocting a scientific sounding case against embryo-destructive research in an effort to impose our religious beliefs on others while evading the constitutional prohibition of laws respecting an establishment of religion.

So Now We’re Fundamentalist Theologians?
Silver says that the claim that human embryos are human beings at an early stage of development is “hidden theology.” This could mean two different things. First, as this claim is presented in the book, Silver asserts that we actually hold our position on the status of the human embryo on theological grounds. We are, he suggests, hiding this fact, manufacturing arguments that sound scientific, but are in reality merely a cover for our real, theological, and indeed, “fundamentalist” grounds.

To describe such a claim as an ad hominem argument is to exaggerate its standing. It is nothing more than ad hominem abuse. Silver knows that we are Catholics, and so he uses that fact to suggest that our real ground for believing that human embryos are human beings is Catholic doctrine. But here he has things exactly backwards. Our ground for believing that human embryos are human beings is the indisputable scientific fact that each human embryo is a complex, living, individual member of the human species. Although our claim does not rest on the authority of the Catholic Church, or any other religious body or tradition, we find the Church’s teaching against human embryo-killing credible precisely because it — unlike Silver’s contrary teaching — is in line with the embryological facts. If “fundamentalism” consists in obstinately clinging to a moral, religious, or political view in defiance of empirically demonstrable findings of science that falsify its premises, we are not the fundamentalists in this debate. It is Lee Silver himself who has fallen into a form of fundamentalism.

The biological fact that human embryos are human beings in the earliest stages of their natural development is, to say the least, inconvenient for Professor Silver. So he commits the very offense of which he accuses us and others who oppose his agenda. He hides his ideology under a veneer of science. But the veneer is easily pulled off and the truth exposed. Just examine any of the major embryology texts now in use in American medicine. What you will find is the teaching that a new human individual exists from the earliest embryonic stage forward. That individual is a complete, though, of course, developmentally immature, member of the human species, whose life — whether it lasts for nine minutes, nine days, nine years, or nine decades — is a human life.

The second thing Silver could mean by his “hidden theology” allegation is that our argument depends on an implicit theological premise, whether or not we are aware of it. In the bulk of his analysis, this seems to be Silver’s claim against us. It is a bold charge, and to support it, Silver would have to show that at least one of the premises of our argument is such that anyone asserting that premise must depend on religious faith for his presumed awareness of it. For example, if one could show that a person could advance a particular argument only if he presupposed that God is three persons in one being, or that God became man — propositions about the inner life of God or about his free choices, and so in principle not provable by reason unaided by faith — then it would follow that the argument depended on a theological premise. So, what religious dogma does Professor Silver find lurking in our premises? What is the unstated religiously dogmatic assumption of our argument? At what point are we “stealthy servants of God” (as Silver characterizes us on p. 116)? The hidden assumption, according to Silver, is the following: that a thing either is or is not a human being (though, curiously, on p. 83 Silver actually quotes Robert George openly asserting this supposedly “hidden” assumption).

According to Silver, “This assumption comes from an interpretation of Genesis by certain religious groups that strictly follow the Bible. Genesis 1:27 says, ‘God created man in His own image.’ And that is interpreted by some as meaning that God created man instantaneously. There can be no such thing as gradual creation because then you have partial man, and man would not be in the image of God. There is no such thing as a partial God. God is absolute.”

This is risible. First, the supposed theological argument grounding the key assumption does not even make sense. Formally, the argument would be: “God is not partial; humans are like God; therefore no humans are partial.” But by this argument pattern one could also conclude that humans must be uncreated, perfect, infinite, and eternal. Is it really likely that such nonsense would be the hidden inference bolstering our assertions?

Second, the idea that a thing either is or is not a human being is not a proposition about the inner life of God or about God’s free choices — propositions beyond the reach of reason unaided by faith. Why assume that a very straightforward proposition about human individuals is something knowable only by religious faith?

Third, many philosophers, both ancient and contemporary, some religious and some not religious (e.g., Aristotle, David Wiggins, Roderick Chisholm, Peter Van Inwagen, E. J. Lowe, and many others) have ably defended this proposition on philosophical grounds.

Fourth, this proposition is part of common sense (a fact that doesn’t by itself prove it, but does provide support for it). Most people believe that they persist through time, and so, by implication, that there is a profound difference between their becoming this or that (say, tall or tan), and their coming to be at all. If I am the same concrete being yesterday and today, then I exist completely at each time that I exist (though I constantly change by acquiring new qualities, changing in quantity, and so on). And if I exist wholly at each time that I exist, it follows that I came to be, that is, began to exist, at once and not gradually. Otherwise, during my coming to be I would exist partially, not wholly. Thus, as common sense would have it: there are degrees in various qualities and quantities, such as colors or sizes, but there are no degrees about whether an individual exists or not; either he exists (however developmentally immature or tiny) or he does not.

Finally, there are strong philosophical arguments in favor of this common sense view. The denial of it logically entails what is sometimes called “perdurantism,” or “the temporal parts view” — namely, that a person is only a series of events or experiences spread out in time, like a baseball game or a song. On this view, the temporal extent of a person is part of what he is, and at any one time he exists only partially, not fully. As a consequence, according to this view, “I today” and “I yesterday” refer not to the same concrete individual, but to different temporal phases of the whole series temporally extended.

Were You You Yesterday?
This view has several grave problems, two of which we will mention here. The first difficulty is that, according to this view, a human being (or any ultimate subject of existence) is the sum of time-slices suitably connected (say, by biological or psychological continuity). But what is a time-slice, and, how could time-slices give rise to a human organism’s (or any organism’s) extension through time? If the time-slice itself does not have temporal extent, then the addition of any number of time-slices to each other will not give rise to a temporally extended series — just as the addition of any number of unextended points will not produce an extended line. On the other hand, if the time-slice of a human being does have temporal extent, then no explanatory gain has been achieved by denying a persisting human being, since one will then (by necessity) have admitted that an individual as a whole can persist through at least some extent of time. But if one must admit persistence through time at one level, why not admit it at the level that common sense and explanatory practice seem to demand — that is, the lifetime of a human individual who persists through time?

A second problem with the temporal-parts view is that, in effect, it actually implies the complete denial of change. On the temporal-parts position, a particular object, such as a human being, is not wholly present at any given time. Rather, just as an object has spatial parts, so that at small portions of space only part of it is present, so (on the temporal parts view) each object has temporal parts. An object, for example an apple, has a part that is present at one time, say on Monday, and another part that is present at another time, say on Tuesday. The apple is composed of different temporal parts or stages. Thus, the apple is green at one temporal stage (Monday) and red at another temporal stage (Tuesday). But on this view it follows that in the strict sense there simply is no change. A flagpole that is green at one spatial part and red at another part does not involve any change; but by the same token, an apple that is green at one temporal part and red at another temporal part involves no change either. For real change to occur, the same subject must first be characterized in one way and then in another way.

But it is obvious that change does occur. Consequently, an object (a substance) is not just a series of events, but exists wholly at each time that it exists. When it comes to be, it must come to be at once (though, of course, once it comes into being it may, depending on the kind of substance it is, grow in size and proceed through various developmental phases towards maturity). Changes can precede this substantial coming to be, changes that dispose the future constituents of the substance more and more to that substantial change. For example, fertilization is a gradual process that results in the coming to be of a new organism. But the organism itself does not exist until the process is completed. Prior to the completion of this process it is not correct to say that the new organism partially exists. (It does not “partially exist” during the process.) When it comes into existence, it comes into existence as a whole organism. But the substantial change itself — the actual change from not existing to existing — must be at once.

Thus, both common sense and philosophical arguments provide strong support for the proposition that human beings cannot partially exist, that a human being either is or is not. It is ridiculous to claim — as Silver does — that this proposition is a hidden theological assumption. (Indeed, it would be ridiculous to classify it as a theological belief, as opposed to a philosophical one, even if it could be shown to be incorrect.)

Part and Whole: A Basic Distinction
In addition to claiming that our position is based on “hidden theology,” Silver presents an argument in the form of a reductio ad absurdum for his denial that early stage human embryos are embryonic human beings. He says: “Embryonic stem cells can develop into an actual person. So, based on the definition of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, embryonic stem cells are equivalent to embryos. Yet based on the molecular signals that you give the cells, the cells can change from embryonic to nonembryonic and back to embryonic. You can do this easily.” But the first sentence just quoted from Silver is simply false. Embryonic stem cells are functionally parts of a complete organism; they are not themselves complete human organisms. (When separated from the whole human organism, they are no longer functioning parts of that organism; they become mere cells — fundamentally different from whole, though immature, members of the human species.)

A human embryo — precisely because it is a complete member of the human species — can develop towards maturity, given a suitable environment and adequate nutrition. The embryo possesses the genetic and epigenetic primordia and the active disposition for self-directed growth towards the next more-mature stage. But this is not true of a stem cell or even of a mass of stem cells. Like somatic cells that might be used in cloning, they possess merely a passive capacity to be subjected to various techniques of asexual reproduction and so become parts of a new human organism.

Silver bases his claim that “embryonic stem cells are equivalent to embryos” on the fact that mouse embryos can be generated from embryonic mouse stem cells and have all of their genetic makeup, and cell lineage, derived from those initial stem cells. A tetraploid embryo-like entity known, though controversially, as a tetraploid “embryo” (“tetraploid” meaning that the entity has four sets of chromosomes rather than the normal two sets) is developmentally defective, so it can give rise only to trophoblastic cells (precursors of the placenta and associated tissues) and not to the cells of the “embryo proper.” When combined with mouse ES cells (ones that have a normal number of chromosomes), these can produce a chimeric mouse in which the cell lineage of its placenta and associated tissues is derived from the tetraploid entity (or “embryo”), and the cell lineage of the mature embryo (the “embryo proper”) is derived from the ES cells. From this, Silver infers that ES cells can by themselves develop into the mature stage of the animal (see his book, p. 140) — “by themselves” in the sense that the DNA in all of the mature embryo’s cells is identical to that in the ES cells.

Since it is often argued that human embryos are human beings because they can “by themselves” develop into mature humans, it follows — on Silver’s argument — that embryos and stem cells are (ontologically and morally) equivalent. But since it is absurd to think that ES cells are human beings, it also is absurd (Silver’s argument continues) to think human embryos are human beings.

This argument is a descendent of an earlier, similar argument that embryos are morally equivalent to somatic cells (such as skin cells) because somatic cells can produce mature human beings by way of cloning via somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). In SCNT the nucleus of a somatic cell is inserted into an enucleated ovum and they are caused to fuse by an electrical stimulus, the result (if all goes as planned) being a cloned embryo. It was argued (by Ronald Bailey, Peter Singer, and others) that since somatic cells are converted into embryos, and these grow into mature members of the relevant species, human embryos have no more exalted a status than ordinary somatic cells, such as skin cells. Some critics of this argument replied that the somatic cells cannot by themselves develop into mature humans, which is certainly true. The important point, though, is that the SCNT process makes use of the somatic cells to create entities of a different nature — using parts of human organisms (somatic cells) to make new complete human organisms at the embryonic stage of development.

Thus, in the context of SCNT cloning, somatic cells are analogous to sperm and oocytes (parts of whole organisms) rather than to embryos (which indeed are whole organisms). But Silver thinks production of a mature mouse by tetraploid complementation answers that reply: In this process, the more mature organism is derived directly from the ES cells, so the ES cells do (according to Silver) in some sense by themselves become whole embryos. He thinks this process shows that, just like embryos, ES cells also can develop into mature members of their species if they are just given a suitable environment.

Confusion over Tetraploid Complementation
However, this fundamentally misinterprets the results of tetraploid complementation. In addition, it repeats the mistake in the earlier argument. Tetraploid complementation does not show that the “entire embryo” can be derived from ES cells. The embryo (or embryo-like entity) generated from tetraploid complementation is a chimera, with parts derived from the original embryo that was induced to become tetraploid and parts derived from the ES cells. The placenta and other organs generated from the tetraploid cells are parts of the embryo. They are bodily organs that function only during embryonic life, but they are bodily organs none the less — analogous to baby teeth, which also function only during a portion of the animal-organism’s life cycle. The placenta is a vital organ of the embryo, and it is not directly made by the ES cells.

Moreover, in tetraploid complementation, the ES cells do not by themselves generate a mouse since they do not by internal self-direction develop into a mouse. So the ES cells are not mouse embryos or their equivalent, and never were. True, the mature mouse’s cell lineage is completely derived from the ES cells, but an analogous point is also true in SCNT cloning — the DNA of the mature mouse or sheep or other animal is identical to that of the donor somatic cell (although the cytoplasm from the enucleated ovum also has a determinative effect). The central point is that, just as in SCNT cloning, so here: the manipulation (in this case, the combining of the ES cells with the tetraploid entity or “embryo”) generates a new type of biological entity. This is demonstrated by the profoundly new type of behavior observed in the entity produced by the process or processes of tetraploid complementation. The manipulations involved do much more than merely release an inner capacity of the stem cells. The combining of the stem cells with the tetraploid embryo does not merely place these cells in an environment hospitable to the process of organismal development. Rather, it transforms them from functional parts to components of an actively developing whole organism. Or, more precisely expressed: the combining of the stem cells with the cells of the tetraploid embryo generates a new organism, an organism that is not a stem cell.

The tetraploid complementation procedure is simply a type of cloning. In the most common form of cloning — SCNT — a new organism is generated; it comes into being as an embryo which immediately begins actively developing itself into the more mature form of the whole organism it now is. Completely analogous to what occurs in tetraploid complementation, the new embryo in SCNT cloning has the same genetic code as the somatic cell. The combining of stem cells with a tetraploid embryo does to the mouse stem cells what fusing an enucleated ovum does to a somatic cell in SCNT, the procedure that generated Dolly the sheep and many other cloned mammals — namely, it produces a distinct, whole organism.

So a stem cell does not “become” an embryo (the way an embryo truly does become a fetus, an infant, a child, an adolescent, and an adult). Rather, many stem cells are used in a cloning process that, if successful, results in the production of a new and distinct organism. The proof that this results in an entirely new and distinct organism is that it has a radically different trajectory of growth.

Thus stem cells are not equivalent to embryos. They lack the defining feature of embryos, namely, the internal active disposition to develop themselves to the mature stage of the organism of the relevant species. If placed within an environment suitable for the development of human embryos, human stem cells do not do what embryos do. (The crucial fact that by themselves — that is, when not introduced into a pre-existing, albeit defective, tetraploid embryo — ES cells produce only disorganized masses of tissue, either embryoid bodies or teratomas, is conveniently ignored by Silver.) Only if human stem cells are joined with other factors so as to generate a distinct and whole organism in SCNT, or in the combining of stem cells with tetraploid embryo-like entities, does an embryo come to be.

Several passages in Silver’s book indicate that he regularly fails to see the significance of the distinction between a whole organism, on the one hand, and a tissue or part of an organism, on the other hand. Thus, he believes our argument is easily refuted by pointing out that a single human skin cell or a teratoma has the same genetic code as other (whole) members of the relevant species. But our argument has never been simply that human embryos are human beings because they have the full genetic code. Rather, we have always argued that their full genetic code, plus (and more importantly) their internal active disposition for self-directed development toward the mature stage of a human, show that they are what the standard embryology texts say they are, namely, distinct and whole (though immature) individuals of the human species.

Stem Cells Are Human Too?
Having assumed erroneously that one can convert a human stem cell into a human embryo and back again quite easily, Silver then says:

So then you can ask, ‘How many human beings are there in a dish of embryonic stem cells?’ If there are a million cells in the dish, and you separate all the cells, then you have a million human beings. But you can then put them back together to form a single organism. What happened to the 999,999 human beings? Robert George would say they all died.

He supposes that this is a decisive argument, but in truth it is a failure. The prospect of actually creating and then killing almost a million human embryos merely by separating cells is a figment of Silver’s imagination.

To the question, “How many human beings are there in a dish of embryonic stem cells” the answer is: none, for stem cells, like other somatic cells, are not human beings.

When Silver asserts next, “If there are a million cells in the dish, and you separate all the cells, then you have a million human beings,” this is simply incorrect. You must do much more than merely separate stem cells in order to generate embryos. Separating them will merely spread them apart. Like a somatic cell, a stem cell must be fused with something else that will transform it from a part into a whole in order to produce an embryo.

But suppose that a lab were successfully to produce a million clones from human embryonic stem cells. How many nascent human beings would you have? The answer is: a million. Of course, no one, to date, has managed to demonstrate success in cloning even a single human embryo, using the methods that succeeded (with much labor) in other mammals. The scenario Silver proposes (which involves producing a million clones in a short time) is not possible today, and perhaps will never be possible. It certainly cannot be “easily done.” Moreover, if tetraploid complementation were successfully performed on human stem cells, only one human organism would be generated from several stem cells, not one embryo per stem cell.

Conspiracy Theories
Silver’s errors in dealing with embryological science are nothing by comparison to the extraordinary charges he makes when he turns his attention to political matters. Silver claims to have uncovered an extremist right-wing conspiracy among academics and politicians. He asserts that there is a highly organized effort by “fundamentalists” to gain control over portions of our government and schools, in order to impose a narrow religion on all.

For example, Nigel Cameron is a Christian who claims to present pro-life arguments that can appeal to all people, whether religious or not. Silver first exposes Cameron’s Christianity, quoting from an article Cameron wrote extolling the merits of a theological understanding of medicine. Silver then says that Cameron is using “code words” to convey religious messages to Christians, codes that are not recognized as religious by unsuspecting seculars. He adds: “Cameron’s tactics are taken from the playbook of clever fundamentalists who feel impelled to instill their beliefs as soon as possible, not just in their own children, but in everyone else’s children as well” (p. 102). Again, Silver refers to pro-life intellectuals, including Robert George, as advocates of an ideology who put forth “scientific-sounding arguments to advance their case” (p. 112). He warns of the craftiness of fundamentalists who might lure scientists into arguing with each other: “And so fundamentalists often succeed in transforming a religious debate into a dispute among scientists”(p. 118). One must especially be careful to resist their secular-sounding slogans, which (again) are codes that usually only fundamentalists understand the true meaning of: “Theological terms and ideas are translated into secular-sounding code words and phrases. Sanctity is converted into dignity, the soul becomes life, and the biblical version of morality is presented as a secular bioethics” (p. 118).

Here Silver veers from bad science and even worse philosophy into sheer paranoia. He seems incapable of understanding that the issues about which he is writing are complex and difficult matters on which reasonable people can reasonably disagree. Instead, he assumes that anyone who does not share his opinions is a “fundamentalist” (or dupe of the “fundamentalists”) and is part of a sinister conspiracy to impose a theocracy.

Speaking of Robert George, Silver writes: “Almost certainly, George knows that his so-called ‘scientific evidence’ finds no acceptance among any secular, molecular, or modern developmental biology professor at any major research university” (p. 108). Yet a glance at any of the standard embryology textbooks rebuts this claim. See, for example, Bruce Carlson, Human Embryology and Developmental Biology (St. Louis: C.V. Mosby, 2004); William J. Larsen, Human Embryology, 3rd ed. (2001); Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human, Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th ed. (2003); and Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Mueller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition (2000).)

According to Silver, one should also be wary of conservative think tanks, since they are actually hot-beds of conspiracy: “Evangelical think tanks and lobbying groups proliferate with innocent-sounding names like the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, which is directed by the fundamentalist Nigel Cameron” (p. 118). (It would probably be useless to point out to Silver that Dr. Cameron is no fundamentalist, and does not direct the center in question.) Indeed, according to Silver, “The subterfuge is more subtle, but no less potent, in the academic realm. One particular secular-sounding word — natural — frequently infuses the arguments of diverse opponents of biotechnology” (p. 119). Here the entire philosophical tradition of “natural law” reasoning on ethics, whose roots predate Christianity by at least three centuries in the works of Aristotle, becomes a mere façade for the “fundamentalist” conspiracy.

In the end, Silver’s manner of arguing degenerates into a form of McCarthyism. He relentlessly uncovers the Christianity of various lawyers, political figures, writers, physicians, and academics, describing them as “stealthy servants of God.” On his list of Christian “fundamentalists” and individuals collaborating with them (some of whom are Jews) to impose Christian theological dogmas on the entire nation are: Johns Hopkins Medical School surgeon and President’s Council on Bioethics member Benjamin Carson, Oxford University legal philosopher John Finnis, Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon, Stanford University consulting professor and President’s Council on Bioethics member William Hurlbut, former President’s Council on Bioethics executive director Yuval Levin, and Johns Hopkins Medical School psychiatry professor and President’s Council on Bioethics member Paul McHugh. We wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Silver has a list of 205 card-carrying fundamentalists and their fellow-travelers. Perhaps he will ask others, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Christian religion?”

Losing It Completely
Going from the ridiculous to the bizarre, Silver extends his conspiracy theory to his fellow scientists. As we have observed, he insists that human embryonic stem cells are the equivalent of embryos because they are (he supposes) capable of developing into human babies. Why hasn’t the public been made aware of this remarkable “fact”? Because, he says, scientists have deliberately kept the public in ignorance: “stem cell scientists know this fact, but they have succeeded in hiding it from the public at-large.” Oh, those stealthy servants of science! There they are, in full knowledge of a key fact about embryonic stem cells, but deliberately covering it up lest the unenlightened masses become alarmed and start slapping new restrictions on legitimate research.

One can be forgiven for savoring the irony here. If, as Silver claims, stem cell scientists have deliberately concealed what they believe to be the truth about embryonic stem cells — namely, that they are equivalent to embryos — then he has established that embryonic stem cell scientists cannot be trusted to be honest with their fellow citizens about facts that might be politically inconvenient. If, on the other hand, what Silver alleges about his fellow scientists is false, then his own credibility collapses.

Silver’s real problem is that the proposition that the human embryo from the zygote stage forward is a distinct, complete (though immature) human being, identical with the child or adolescent which later everyone will recognize as possessing basic rights — that this proposition is fully supported by arguments open to people of all faiths, or of no faith at all. He resorts to name calling (“fundamentalists”), ad hominem abuse, and McCarthyite tactics to distract attention from the scientific facts and their logical implications. Those implications are inescapable once we accept the moral principle that all human beings are entitled to equal concern and respect.

Contrary to what Silver imagines, the great threat to embryo-destructive research is not that “fundamentalists” will take control of the United States government; it is that citizens of every faith, or of none at all, will acquaint themselves with what modern embryology has revealed about human embryogenesis and development.

Patrick Lee is professor of bioethics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. . Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University.

Thanks to Fr. Neuhaus at First Things.

Jurgen Habermas comes to BC



and gives a lecture... I should try to obtain a copy of the lecture, since I could not really follow it, partly due to the nature of the lecture itself, partly due to his accent...

I have not read much of his work, but he does seem to be a liberal and a internationalist... the Philosopher calls him a Marxist. He studied critical theory with Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno.

Illuminations: The Critical Theory Website
SEP entry on critical theory
Critical Theory resources
Horkheimer Archive
Horkheimer and the Philosophy of Education
SEP entry on Adorno
intro to Adorno
mythosandlogos page on Adorno
Adorno bio

Habermas Links:
Dual Layered Time: Reflections on T. W. Adorno in the 1950s
Towards a United States of Europe
Why Europe Needs a Constitution
The European Nation-State and the Pressures of Globalization
The Illusory "Leftist No"
Religion in the Public Sphere (html)
Bruno Kreisky Prize acceptance speech (Andrew Keen's blog entry)
Theorems of Legitimation Crisis
America and the World: A Conversation with Jürgen Habermas
Summary of The Philoosphical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures
EGS page
MIT Press
Northwestern page
Time profile
The Jürgen Habermas Web Resource
Habermas links
JH On Society and Politics
Theodor W. Adorno and Jürgen Habermas
The Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas
A review of Religion and Rationality
Jürgen Habermas and the Public Sphere
more seconday lit

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Two Roles for Catholic Philosophers

nice piece by Dr. Freddoso (other writings)

apparently he was advisor for one of the members of the Cornell Society

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Quentin Skinner

faculty page

Who else is an expert in the history of political thought?

(Annabel Brett)

Statement of Catholic-Orthodox Commission

Statement of Catholic-Orthodox Commission

Franciscans Prepare for 800th Anniversary

Franciscans Prepare for 800th Anniversary

Chapter Reflects Vocation of Order

ASSISI, Italy, OCT. 1, 2006 ( Some 150 Franciscan friars concluded an extraordinary general chapter that will serve to prepare the order for the celebration of its 800th anniversary in 2009.

In the letter convoking the chapter in Assisi, the minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, Father José Rodriguez Carballo, said that the participants reflected on the document "The Order's Vocation Today."

The document was written in response to the Second Vatican Council's invitation to "return to the sources," said Father Rodriguez.

Those who attended the meeting, which ended today, also prepared "a path of discernment and renewal of the order," said the letter.

"It is a spiritual chapter," continued the general minister, "a celebration intended to be a living memorial of the path followed by the Friars Minor in the course of the centuries."

Among the friars in attendance were the three most recent ministers general: Father John Vaughn, Father Hermann Schaluck and Father Giacomo Bini.

At present, the Order of Friars Minor has more than 2,400 monasteries in 107 nations throughout the world.

For links to the texts of the meeting see:

Dignity of Human Embryo Underlined

Dignity of Human Embryo Underlined

Cardinal Castrillón Monitors Videoconference

ROME, OCT. 1, 2006 ( God loves every human embryo from the first moment of its existence, concluded the most recent videoconference organized by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy.

The Sept. 27 conference, held over the Internet, attracted some of the Church's leading theologians to discuss "Bioethics: The Human Genome and Stem Cells," including Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The discussion was opened and closed by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.

He presented the mystery and dignity of the human embryo with the words of Psalm 139:13-14: "You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew."

"These words on the transcendent nature of the human person and his very high dignity acquire a richness of particular significance when we enter the new horizons opened by biology, genetics and molecular medicine," said the Colombian cardinal.

"They are scientific horizons that open astonishing knowledge on man's biological life and delicate ethical questions for human freedom," he added.


In conclusion, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos said at the end of the discussion, "we have heard the reaffirmation of the inviolable character of the biological nature of every man, as he forms a constitutive part of the individual's personal identity in the course of the whole of his existence."

In the different addresses, he added, it was theologically argued that "genetic manipulation, when it is not therapeutic, that is, when it does not tend to the treatment of pathology of the genetic patrimony, must be radically condemned."

In that case, he clarified, "it pursues modifications in an arbitrary way, inducing to the formation of human individuals with different genetic patrimonies established according to one's discretion. Eugenics, the creation of a superior human race, is an aberrant application."

Based on the theologians' interventions which had just been heard, the cardinal underlined that "the project of human cloning represents a terrible deviation which a science without values has reached."

"To halt the project of human cloning is a moral imperative which must be translated into cultural, social and legislative terms," he affirmed.

The videoconference, part of a monthly series, brings together theologians from around the world.

The intervention of Cardinal Hoyos can be downloaded in Italian from

Human hands emit light

Human hands emit light

Implifications for the glorified body?

Thanks to Dappled Things.

Jay Wexler, professor of law at BU

Judging Intelligent Design

He was at the Boisi Center last Thursday to give a critique of part of the Dover decision by Judge Jones. Click on link to see abstract, which lays out his major thesis well. Apparently Professor Wexler got a B.A. in East Asian Studies at Harvard. Center for Science and Culture coverage.

1. He didn't address the question of whether the Constitution prevents states from establishing religion--perhaps he goes along with a more centralist interpretation of the Constitution. I suspect it would not have gotten anywhere...

Dalbert (1972?) -- establishes Federal rule of evidence--how is scientific evidence to be presented and weighed, etc.

2. Apparently the court must decide whether there is an agenda of promoting a religion--they need to look at various things and guess. Now, if Christians wanted to promote the teaching of philosophy and "philosophical" proofs for the existence of God (along with the counterproofs) in public schools, would the implementation of that program count as a "violation" of the First Amendment? And how does the court distinguish between religion and philosophical theism? Does an atheist have to be the one advocating such a program? So Christians would not be allowed to advocate the study of their intellectual patrimony in a public school? If this is the case, do we need any more evidence to show that the public schools are not only secular, but hostile to religion and to authentic Western culture, as those in control are being unreasonable?

Malcolm Pringle, who's doing research over at MIT and was present last week for Dr. Behe's talk was also at the lucheon colloquium. He argued that it's the job of science teachers to teach students how to think, not the conclusions.

Uhhuh, give them critical thinking skills. What teacher doesn't emphasize this, especially in a statement of teaching? And what teacher actually has taken a step back to examine whether they have these critical thinking skills, and if they are justified?

What else could critical thinking skills be but the art of logic? And both formal and material logic?
How many people are really qualified to teach logic, as opposed to their own system of drawing conclusions? Can they evaluate the certitude of propositions?

The hypothetical-deductive method surely requires a critical look, along with the principle of falsifiability. Should not one also discuss "scientific" positivism? (If one says this is proper to the philosophy of science and not science I ask then why one should accept the scientific method as it is, and see what sort of fallacious arguments are presented, including the old stand-by of pragmatic value.)

Can it be shown that something that is posited as a formal or efficient cause is insufficient for the task? And can it therefore be evidence that there must be something greater? (But would it be going to far to suggest that this something greater is God? Only if the thing requires something less?) How can one show that the explanation does not meet the principle of sufficient reason?

Principle of sufficient reason
"Principle that there must be a sufficient reason - causal or otherwise - for why whatever exists or occurs does so, and does so in the place, time and manner that it does."

Quentin Smith, A Defense of a Principle of Sufficient Reason

A Restricted Principle of Sufficient Reason and the Cosmological Argument

Alexander R. Pruss

Should secondary schools really be teaching science? And if it's only teaching the "method," and not the conclusions, how does one measure whether a school is doing an adequate job? Standardized tests don't judge critical thinking skills (unless it happens to be something like the logic section of the GRE, which was done away with).

Besides, what if some of the conclusions are actually wrong, though assumed to be true and unchangeable dogma? How does a teacher know if he is guiding a student to a true conclusion, as opposed to the conclusion that he endorses?

Personally I do think public schools should get out of teaching science--there aren't enough qualified individuals to staff all of the public high schools in the United States. (And it is the case that very few academic scientists or research scientists have looked at their method of reasoning critically. This might be left to the philosophers of sciences, but how many scientists pay attention to them?) Better to leave students in ignorance then to indoctrinate them with opinion that is not critically examined and to foster a sense of pride, when they actually don't know that they don't know. But this isn't going to happen, because too many people have a lot at stake.
If they should try to teach anything, it should be logic, but that would still be problematic, since modern logic is so dominant. (As it is, not many public secondary schools teach logic.)

Note: Eric Rothschild's arguments for the plaintiff are not to be found online, as far as I know. Dr. Behe claims that a comparison of those arguments with the decision written by Judge Jones will reveal a lot of "similarities."