Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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

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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Please, enough with the cult of pop stars. Our kids need real heroes.

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April 29, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Two things happen each time a significant pop culture figure dies: Christians attempt to dredge up some moderately conservative or traditional thing that figure said at some point during his long career, and mainstream media attempts to convince a society thoroughly bored with such things that the person in question was a ground-breaking radical. The two most recent examples are the androgynous David Bowie—a cringe-worthy and possibly blasphemous video of him dropping to his knees during a rock performance and uttering the Lord’s Prayer circulated just following his death--and the pop star Prince.

I’ve had to suppress my gag reflexes many times as I saw my Facebook newsfeed fill up with memes sporting quotes from Prince about his faith and articles announcing that the musician who “embraced gender fluidity before his time,” according to Slate and “will always be a gay icon” according to The Atlantic, was against gay marriage. Sure, maybe he was. But only a Christian community so shell-shocked by the rapid spread of the rainbow blitzkrieg and the catastrophic erosion of religious liberty would find this remarkable. After all, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said the same thing barely one election cycle ago. As one obituary celebrating Prince’s paradigm-smashing sexual performances written by Dodai Stewart put it:

Dig, if you will, a picture: The year is 1980. Many states still have sodomy laws. The radio is playing feel-good ear candy like Captain and Tennille and KC and the Sunshine Band. TV hits include the sunny, toothy blond shows Three’s Company and Happy Days. There’s no real word for “gender non-conforming.” But here’s what you see: A man. Clearly a man. Hairy, mostly naked body…a satiny bikini bottom. But those eyes. Rimmed in black, like a fantasy belly dancer. The full, pouty lips of a pin-up girl. Long hair. A tiny, svelte thing. Ethnically ambiguous, radiating lust. What is this? A man. Clearly a man. No. Not just a man. A Prince.

Right. So let’s not get too carried away, shall we? I know Christians are desperate to justify their addictions to the pop culture trash that did so much to sweep away Christian values in the first place and I know that latching on to the occasional stray conservative belief that may manifest itself in pop culture figures makes many feel as if perhaps we are not so weird and countercultural, but this bad habit we have of claiming these figures upon their passing is downright damaging.

After all, parents should be teaching their children about real heroes, titans of the faith who changed the world. Heroes of the early church who stood down tyrants, halted gladiatorial combat, and crusaded against injustice in a world where death was all the rage. These men and women were real rebels who stood for real values. If we want to point our children to people they should emulate, we should be handing them books like Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness by the brilliant writer Eric Metaxas rather than the pop albums Purple Rain or Lovesexy by Prince. If parents spend their time glorifying the predecessors of Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus instead of highlighting heroes like William Wilberforce, they can hardly be surprised when their children choose to emulate the former rather than the latter.

The mainstream media’s adulation of these pop stars is equally irritating. The unspoken truth of these obituaries is that the flamboyant antics of Prince and the rest of the so-called rebellious drag queens populating the rock n’ roll scene have been mainstream for a long time already. Want to see dozens of bizarre body piercings? Weird hairdos? Purple mohawks? Dudes with nail polish? Strange tattoos? Easy. Just go onto any university campus, or any public high school without a dress code. With headphones wedged firmly in their ear canals, they can pump the cleverly commercialized “counterculture” straight into their skulls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

More than that, some of these courageous rebels have actually sued their employers to ensure that they can let their establishment-smashing freak flag fly at work, too. An Edmonton woman with 22 visible body piercings complained that her employer was unfair because apparently she was being discriminated against “based on body modifications.” Yeah! The Man must be told, after all. And if he doesn’t agree, we will lawyer up. I wonder what the shrieking rebels of the early days would think about the snivelling children of the current grievance culture.

So these days, the media’s eulogizing about aging culture warriors who went mainstream a long time ago rings a bit hollow. After all, most rock n’ roll stars these days look tame compared to what shows up in the children’s section at Pride Week. Freaky is normal now. Normal is radical. Welcome to 2016.

When Christians are posting nostalgic tributes to the rebels who helped inoculate their children against the radical views of Christianity in the first place, you know that the victories of the counterculture are complete and Stockholm syndrome has set in.



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Target boycott climbs to over 1 million

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April 29, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Over 1 million people have signed a pledge to boycott Target over its new policy allowing men to access women’s bathrooms. 

The American Family Association’s Boycott Target petition gained traction immediately, reaching the one million mark in only nine days.

“Corporate America must stop bullying people who disagree with the radical left agenda to remake society into their progressive image,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “#BoycottTarget has resonated with Americans.  Target’s harmful policy poses a danger to women and children; nearly everyone has a mother, wife, daughter or friend who is put in jeopardy by this policy.  Predators and voyeurs would take advantage of the policy to prey on those who are vulnerable.  And it’s clear now that over one million customers agree.”

Target defended its policy in a statement saying that it believes everyone “deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally” and earlier this week, a Target spokeswoman defended the policy as “inclusive.” 

The AFA said that unisex bathrooms are a common-sense alternative to allowing men unfettered access to women’s bathrooms.

“Target should keep separate facilities for men and women, but for the trans community and for those who simply like using the bathroom alone, a single occupancy unisex option should be provided,” the petition says. 

The AFA warned that Target’s new policy benefits sexual predators and poses a danger to women and children. 

“With Target publicly boasting that men can enter women's bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?” the petition asked. 

There have been numerous instances of predatory men accessing women’s bathrooms and intimate facilities in the wake of “transgender” bathroom policies allowing them to do so. 

“We want to make it very clear that AFA does not believe the transgender community poses this danger to the wider public,” said Wildmon. “Rather, this misguided and reckless policy provides a possible gateway for predators who are out there.”



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Amazing new video captures the flash of light the moment life begins

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CHICAGO, April 29, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Life begins with a spark – literally.

Researchers at Northwestern University have documented the striking event in a new video that accompanies a study published this week.

At the moment of conception, the egg releases massive amounts of zinc, which creates a spark that can be seen with the aid of a microscope.

“It was remarkable,” said Teresa Woodruff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University's medical school. “To see the zinc radiate out in a burst from each human egg was breathtaking.”

The research team had noted the zinc sparks before in mice eggs but had never observed the process in human beings.

“All of biology starts at the time of fertilization,” Woodruff said, “yet we know next to nothing about the events that occur in the human.”

One of the researchers, Northwestern chemistry professor Thomas O'Halloran, explained the science behind the process in 2014.

“The egg first has to stockpile zinc and then must release some of the zinc to successfully navigate maturation, fertilization and the start of embryogenesis,” he said. “On cue, at the time of fertilization, we see the egg release thousands of packages, each dumping a million zinc atoms, and then it's quiet.”

“Each egg has four or five of these periodic sparks,” O'Halloran said. “It is beautiful to see, orchestrated much like a symphony.”

Since the amount of zinc in an egg correlates with successful implantation and birth, the Northwestern researchers are highlighting that their research may be used to assist in vitro fertilization.

But that raises concerns given the grave moral issues with IVF, which involves creating numerous embryos that are either killed or frozen. Moral theologians also emphasize that IVF is an injustice even for the children who are born as a result, as they are created in a lab rather than in the union of man and woman.

The study may have far-reaching consequences the research team did not intend, such as strengthening public belief in the longstanding scientific consensus that life begins at the moment of conception/fertilization.

Many of those who saw the Northwestern video said it testifies to the beauty of life and the shallow lies that buttress the argument of abortion-on-demand.

“I saw this, and I was blown away by it,” said Rush Limbaugh on his nationally syndicated radio program Thursday afternoon. “For anybody in the mainstream media to openly admit that life begins at conception” defies arguments that an unborn child is only “tissue mass.”

Researchers released a separate video of the zinc spark taking place in a mammalian egg more than a year ago:

The paper, which is entitled “The Zinc Spark is an Inorganic Signature of Human Egg Activation,” was published by Scientific Reports on April 26.



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