Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
On Friday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed critics of federal funding of life-killing embryonic stem-cell research with this argument:
“We’ve had a situation where it’s faith or science — take your pick,” Pelosi said about how the administration of George W. Bush allegedly dealt with the funding issue and other hot-button issues that involve making moral choices about scientific research. “We’re saying science is an answer to our prayers.”
Added Pelosi, “We need science, science, science, science, science.”
At his Secondhand Smoke blog, bioethicist Wesley Smith demolishes Pelosi’s claim that embryonic stem-cell research represents state-of-the-art science. In fact, a host of exciting recent developments utilizing stem cells that have been derived from sources that require no killing of human embryos — in other words, human beings in the earliest stage of their lives — is demonstrating almost daily that Pelosi is backing bad science.
But Pelosi’s comments to her hometown San Francisco Chronicle newspaper are equally telling regarding where she puts her faith. In essence, Pelosi is arguing that science has the capacity to supply morally acceptable answers to humanity’s prayers for the medical cures of illnesses, without any reference to the truths of religion and objective morality.
This is utter nonsense. The physical sciences merely describe the operations of nature; they make no judgments whatsoever about the moral acceptability of the applications of these operations of nature.
Only philosophy and religion can assist us in making these kinds of judgments. Science simply isn’t competent to pass judgment on moral matters.
And Pelosi would know that if she took her own Catholic faith seriously when it comes to the life issue. The Church has published a wealth of teaching documents about these matters in recent years. The only way Pelosi could have remained ignorant about their contents is by willfully refusing to find out about the truths the Church proclaims about the sanctity of human life and the basis upon which the Church teaches these fundamental moral truths.
Memo to Pelosi: When it comes to assessing what kinds of research can be ethically funded by federal taxpayers, science is no answer to anyone’s prayers. To make these assessments we need “morals, morals, morals, morals, morals,” not “science, science, science, science, science.”
But according to Secondhand Smoke’s Smith, Pelosi’s faith isn’t really in either science or morality: The House speaker worships primarily at the altar of political expediency.
“It is really bad when the third most powerful leader of the United States is both demagogic and clueless at the same time,” Smith remarks. “For Pelosi it isn’t really science, science, science, science, science, science, but politics, politics, politics, politics, politics.”