Through their Howdy
Doody front man, George W. Bush, the Religious Right ruled America for eight
years. George is out, but the Religious Right and their pocketed GOPers
continue their illogical, anti-reality agenda.
President Obama has begun reversing
some of the damage done during the eight years of the Religious Right�s rule
through King George the W. Freeing medical research -- embryonic stem cell
research -- from religious ideology was a good first step. The disingenuous
reaction from Focus on the Family and the hysterical one from Don Wildmon did
nothing but further expose their stale, irrational arguments.
On March 10, 2009 Focus on the Family�s CitizenLink featured a Commentary by �Dawn Vargo, bioethics
analyst.� It began:
Obama�s decision Monday to open the floodgates of federal funding for
destructive embryonic stem-cell research (ESCR) is a step backward for science
-- and a step backward for the millions of Americans suffering from disease and
disability. . . .
With all due respect to Ms. Vargo (whose academic credential are not
given), how can promising new medical research be �a step backward for science -- and a step
backward for the millions of Americans suffering from disease and disability�?
That�s prima facie illogical and
A prequel to Ms. Vargo�s assessment, appeared on March 9, 2009. It was
penned by �Jennifer Mesko, editor� of CitizenLink:
Obama Creates Incentive to Destroy Tiny Human
In another blow to family advocates, the president also wants to overturn
rules that protect health care providers� freedom of conscience.
As promised, President Barack Obama has overturned his predecessor�s policy
and created an incentive to destroy human embryos for federally funded research.
. . .
In another blow to family advocates, Obama announced Friday he wants to
overturn rules that protect health care providers� freedom of conscience.
Ms. Mesko quoted �Carrie
Gordon Earll, senior bioethics analyst for Focus on the Family Action� as
saying calling the funding of ESCR �the
latest government bailout� of a �morally bankrupt and failing industry.�
�bioethicists� abound at Focus on the Family. Unfortunately, neither of the two
quoted made much sense. How can an �industry� that hasn�t been allowed possibly
be failing? �Failing� presumes a viable attempt. In America, ESCR has never
been allowed to get off square one. Something cannot fail if that something has
never been tried in reality, can it?
Carrie Gordon Earll
also referred to ESCR as �morally bankrupt�: the accusatory battle cry of the
sanctimonious. What�s more moral, allowing the blastocysts that would be used
in ESCR and that are currently in storage at fertility clinics succumb to
freezer burn or simply being discarded, or to use those cells to save the lives
of living human beings? (Is there a Christ-like �giving one�s life to save
others� message in there?)
Ms. Mesko also quoted
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN): �It�s particularly sad since recent scientific
breakthroughs have made it completely unnecessary to even consider research
that destroys human embryos.�
unnecessary . . . research�? On what does this Republican ideologue base that statement?
Does he know more about stem cell research than the trained medical researchers
that claim ESCR might hold the cure for many diseases and debilitating
conditions? That�s like saying, �Hey! We got penicillin, so why bother looking
for more effective, wider spectrum antibiotics?�
And then there was Don Wildmon�s March 10, 2009 Action
OKs embryonic stem cell research; actions are immoral and ineffective�:
stem cell research is immoral and ineffective. It is immoral because it
destroys human life at its earliest stage of development by harvesting the stem
cells for body parts. It is ineffective because it has yet to be used a single
time in any therapeutic application. . . .
Wildmon does have a
way of twisting things into unrecognizable shapes: �destroys human life at its
earliest stage of development.� As previously noted, the blastocysts will be
destroyed anyway, something Wildmon either doesn�t understand or simply
ignores. If a cluster of undifferentiated cells can save a human life, isn�t
that the truly moral way to go? Or are those doomed cells more important than
people . . . real-life living human beings?
�By harvesting the
stem cells for body parts.� What is this man talking about? Does Wildmon really
believe one can take stem cells, put them in a Petri dish, wave a magic wand
over them, and BINGO! They grow into a fully functional human arm or leg
(depending on the type of magic wand used)? Or is he just plain . . . lying in
true ideologue form?
And speaking of ideologue
formulations and current efforts to reverse the harm they�ve
the final days of the Bush Administration, regulations that could limit LGBT patients� access to health care services were
rushed through the Department of Health and Human Services (�HHS�). The
regulations purport to interpret federal law to allow a health care provider to
refuse to provide any health care service or information for a religious or
moral reason. These regulations could impair LGBT [and other patients�]
patients� access to care services if interpreted to permit providers to choose
patients based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or family structure.
Now, the Obama Administration is considering rescinding these regulations . . .
The next step in the rule making process is allowing for public
comment. . . . [links added]
GOP ideologues are
being confronted with common sense on other fronts as well and, not
surprisingly, mouth the same old nonsense:
GOP blasts Obama pot rule
(Washington) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is taking aim at the Obama
administration�s policy change over medical marijuana.
The Justice Department has announced it will target California�s medical
marijuana distributors only if they violate both federal and state law. That�s
a break from the Bush administration, which targeted dispensaries under federal
law even if they complied with the state�s law allowing sales of medical
Grassley said the new policy, outlined by Attorney General Eric Holder, is harming health care reform and will lead marijuana users to try harder
drugs. [italics added]
�Harming health care
reform�? How is adding another inexpensive, effective tool -- one with
substantively fewer, less dire side effects than many (most?) prescription
drugs -- to modern medicine�s pharmacological toolbox �harming� health care?
How does it �harm� the health care system�s reform when it is a cost-effective
�Will lead marijuana
users to try harder drugs.� The only response to this preposterous allegation
by Sen. Grassley is �Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you
left no sense of decency?�
The American Medical
Association deems marijuana effective for treating side effects of HIV/AIDS and
some forms of cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. Does Sen. Grassley
really think people suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma or multiple
sclerosis are going to view their medically prescribed marijuana treatment as
an invitation to try crack and PCP?
Whatever effective treatments can ease people�s
suffering and improve their quality of their life should be allowed. Period.
Physicians should make medical decisions, not senators . . . and certainly not the pope: ��You can�t resolve [AIDS] with the distribution of condoms,� the pope
told reporters on Tuesday, [March 17, 2009] aboard a plane headed to Africa, a
continent ravaged by AIDS. �On the contrary, it increases the problem.��
European reactions to the
pope�s comments were swift and poignant:
Chevallier, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry, said in an online
briefing: �France voices extremely sharp concern over the consequences of
Benedict XVI�s comments. While it is not up to us to pass judgment on church
doctrine, we consider that such comments are a threat to public health policies
and the duty to protect human life.� . . .
Laurette Onkelinx, Belgium�s health minister, said the pope�s comments
reflected �a dangerous doctrinaire vision.� �His declarations could demolish
years of prevention and education and endanger many human lives,� she said.
In Berlin, German health minister Ulla Schmidt and development minister
Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul [said] �Condoms save lives, in Europe as well as on
other continents. . . . Modern assistance to the developing world today must
make access to family planning available to the poorest of the poor especially
the use of condoms. Anything else would be irresponsible.�
A New York Times
editorial expressed similar concerns:
The Pope on Condoms and AIDS
Published: March 17, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI has every right to
express his opposition to the use of condoms on moral grounds, in accordance
with the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church. But he deserves no
credence when he distorts scientific findings about the value of condoms in
slowing the spread of the AIDS virus. . . . [italics added]
everyone else, the pope has the right to express his opinions, but let�s not
call them �moral� or based on �moral ground.�
The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention cites �comprehensive and conclusive� evidence
that latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are �highly
effective� in preventing heterosexual transmission of the virus that causes
AIDS. The most recent meta-analysis of the best studies, published by the respected
Cochrane Collaboration, concluded that condoms can reduce the transmission of
the AIDS virus by 80 percent.
Telling people not to
use something that has been scientifically and medically proven to reduce the spread of a deadly virus is blatantly immoral.
No. Condom use will
not �resolve,� as the pope put it, the AIDS pandemic. But their use can save
some lives �His Holiness� seems quite willing to sacrifice in the name of
anti-human dogma concocted by an institution that covered up decades of child
abuse by its priests. Some of that abuse, according to the Philadelphia Grand Jury�s report, included:
- An 11-year old girl who
was raped by her priest and became pregnant. The priest took her in for an
- A fifth-grader who was
molested inside a confessional booth.
- A 12-year-old who, raped
and sodomized by his priest, tried to commit suicide and remains in a
mental hospital as an adult.
- A 12-year-old, repeatedly
raped by his priest, was told by that priest that his mother had approved
of the abuse.
Add to that the fact
that Benedict XVI -- who lives in a palace, wears robes made of the finest
linen, eats the finest foods, and who made his anti-health statements while aboard
his private jet (does any of that sound like something Jesus would approve of?)
-- and his so-called �moral ground� becomes a mountain of sanctimonious
hypocrisy with a 24k gold miter on top. And along those same lines . . .
The dictated-by-God (and therefore inerrant and not subject
to change) dogma of Christianity has a nasty habit of opposing scientific and
medical, social and cultural progress, even if it means fudging a bit on its
foundational, unchanging dogmatic facts. The Catholic Church claims it has always insisted the �the soul� enters at
the moment of creation, hence its claim that using blastocysts in ESRC is �killing a human being.�
But the Church�s claim is not quite true, historically.
St Thomas Aquinas, the
proclaimed �Doctor of the Church,� is arguably one of -- if not THE -- greatest
Catholic theologians. He, as well as other earlier (and later) Catholic
theologians, believed in �late ensoulment,� also known as �delayed
hominization.� Basically, they believed �the soul� enters at some time well
after conception. As Robert Pasnau, professor of Philosophy at the University
of Colorado, wrote in Aquinas and Human Nature: A Philosophical Study of
Summa Theologiae, 1a 75-89
(Cambridge University Press, 2001):
is an unfortunate tendency to conflate interest in medieval philosophy
especially on the work of Thomas Aquinas, with sympathy for the Roman Catholic
Church. Inasmuch as the Church�s intellectual foundations lie in medieval
philosophy, above all in Aquinas, sympathy for his work naturally should
translate into sympathy for Catholicism. But the conflation is still
unfortunate, because in recent years the Church has identified itself with a
noxious social agenda -- especially on homosexuality, contraception, and
abortion -- that has sadly come to seem part of the defining character of
Catholicism. So it should be gratifying, for students of medieval philosophy,
to see how in at least one of these cases Aquinas provides the resources to
show something of what is wrong with the Church�s position.
To be sure, some Catholic apologists dispute Professor
Pasnau�s conclusions. To do so they use the tortuous esoteric arguments
apologists have made infamous. But the basic facts remain:
- �God,� �soul,� �sin,� �angels,�
�witches,� �devils,� �demons,� and all the rest of religion�s cast of
characters as well as religion�s dogma are human creations with a less
than humane history;
- Used properly, condoms are
an effective tool in combating HIV/AIDS;
- Proper condoms used
integrated with comprehensive
sex education -- something the Bush administration blocked and the Obama
administration unblocked -- are even more effective tools in combating
Perhaps Spain (and FaceBook
users) had the most appropriate (and effective) response to the pope�s
anti-science, anti-human statements:
Spain Counters Pope,
Sends Condoms to Africa
March 18, 2009
Spain announced that it will send a million condoms to Africa to fight the
rampant spread of HIV/AIDS in the continent. . . .
claims it is the source of morality, but its dogma is often anti-human. And
that�s not moral.