Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Oxford ethicist says parents have ‘moral obligation’ to use genetic screening: expert disputes

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

BOSTON, August 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute has responded to statements by Oxford ethicist Julian Savulescu that “genetics determines” personality and character, and that parents have a “moral obligation” to use genetic screening.

Putting the moral question aside, Dr. James Sherley told LifeSiteNews.com today that Savulescu’s scientific claims are “absolutely false.”

“Our understanding of the contribution of the human genome to human psychology is not nearly advanced enough to make such a claim,” he said in an interview.

Savulescu raised a small storm of controversy this week when he said that parents should screen out undesirable personality traits and choose positive characteristics for their children. “If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring — rather than consigning them to the natural lottery — then we should,” Savulescu said.

In the past Savulescu has also argued that there is a “moral obligation” to use IVF to select only the most intelligent babies.

However, while the argument is centering on Savulescu’s ethical and moral foundation, little has been said about whether his scientific claims are accurate.

One award-winning bioengineer who works in regenerative medicine, told LSN today that so many factors go into the makeup of human personality that only “fools and egotists” could think it is genetically predetermined. Dr. James Sherley is a one-time professor of Biological Engineering Division at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He said that the reality is far from such sensational headlines.

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“Since my genome has been sequenced, if he were correct,” Dr. Sherley continued, “I would now know all about my own psychology. Such characteristics were not even considered during the scant evaluation of the ‘meaning of my genome’ that is currently possible.”

“Even if the genetics of human psychology were sufficiently advanced,” he continued, “given the vast diversity of human existence and experience, only fools and egoists would profess that they know better than Nature which traits are ‘positive’. 

“When fools and egoists makes such statements, their sources should be demanded and reviewed with extreme scrutiny.”

Asked if current genetic sciences are close to such levels of precision, he replied bluntly, “Not a chance.”

Dr. Sherley’s work has been in precisely the field for which Savulescu and other proponents of the New Eugenics have made their claims. His work, however, has steered away from the use of embryos and focused on the molecular and biochemical mechanisms of adult stem cells. He has been a vocal opponent of embryo research. In 2010 Dr. Sherley launched a suit challenging federal funding of embryonic stem cell research that succeeded in halting much of the research on embryos formerly funded by the National Institutes of Health.

In his article, Savulescu names specific genes that have been discovered, he claims, to control an array of personality traits. But Sherley said that his take on the science is mechanistic and unsophisticated.

“His mistake is in thinking that linkage equals causation and prediction,” he said.

“I’m not familiar with these particular genes, but there are many gene loci in which variants are statistically associated with certain human disorders and perhaps even human ‘traits’. 

“But that does not mean that we are any position to genetically manipulate these loci by either genetic engineering or trait selection with any level of confidence in predicting what the outcome would be.”

He added, “For complex traits like cognition, behavior, or even skin color for that matter, suggesting that we can determine human characteristics by either manipulation or selection of single gene loci is completely unfounded. It’s science fiction.”

Asked if it is even possible to “splice” specifically selected genes into an existing embryo, Dr. Sherley said that gene splicing is being investigated but not yet used on human subjects. “The technology does exist for mouse embryos.”

“Exclusion of embyros with known deleterious gene mutations for specific disorders is practiced in some IVF clinics now. However, I’m aware of no groups engineering human embryos by incorporating exogenous gene sequences.”

There is “no doubt” in his mind, he added, that the public is being misled into an overly deterministic view of the science of genetics by these kinds of assertions.

“The inherent uncertainties of genetic determinism are difficult to understand even by scientists.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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