MAY 17th 2008
The ultimate potential under ideal conditions and perfect continual nourishment of a group of cells is no basis for deciding on their status in law. Nothing could be more absurd. While there is no certainty that so-called hybrid embryos are necessary for the successful development of future therapies, there is absolutely no moral status that can be attributed to such an artificially organised and reconstructed assembly. It has in practice no potential anyway, so the argument for its moral status is doubly flawed.

It has been pointed out that stem-cell therapies for diseases such as Parkinson’s and diabetes could become illegal under embryo research laws planned by the Government. The Bill currently passing through Parliament could prevent patients from receiving potentially life-saving treatments based on embryonic stem cells, because it does not permit regulators to license them for therapeutic use. This makes the passing of the Bill even less controversial as it will require further legislation before the results of the research can ever lead to application.

I see no connection at all with any religion that has been practiced in the UK or used as the basis for our laws. So-called theologians just make up their discipline as they go along with no basis in the Gospels at all. Clerics should just mind their own business. That business is to understand their own religion before teaching it to others, to bring the interpretation of scripture up to date and to recognise their considerable failure is the single most significant factor responsible for drug addiction, alcoholism, obesity, teenage pregnancy and anti-social behaviour. All of these are examples of self-indulgence which is the result of lack of understanding, purpose and social cohesion, That science and religion should be at odds is an absurdity. The wisdom of Jesus has been twisted in knots for centuries by the Catholic church and the fundamentalist protestant evangelists are just as bad.

There is talk of 'matters of conscience' and 'moral dilemma' but no insight into the real heart of the matter. It reminds me of debates for and against nuclear power and even nuclear deterrence. The fact is that whether one is for or against the development and use of such techniques it is the duty of the UK to make sure that our scientists are at the highest level of understanding in this matter, because this knowledge and biological technology will be developed globally whether we in the UK like it or not, and if there is to be any control over it, this can only be exercised by those in the forefront of the research.

If our scientists were to stay aloof from such biological developments it would encourage those elsewhere, not subject to such enlightened and responsible government, to experiment, to make claims and to manufacture product without the leadership of responsible and democratically accountable scientists and institutions.

We have tasted the tree of knowledge so there is no return. What counts is what we do with that knowledge. Just as with atomic power, this sort of biological breakthrough can be used for good or it can be abused. What matters is who is to be in control and able to discover the advantages and the dangers and develop the intellectual and therefore moral authority to advise politicians and the public so that decisions can be made.

Personally I doubt that such science will bring the long term solutions to human health problems that some scientists propose. It may well lead to other problems. My personal opinion is not a basis for legislation but the risks cannot be avoided by banning research at this stage in the UK.

There is also confusion over other matters currently under discussion. The leader in The Independent of May 16th says the evidence shows that a stable lesbian couple can bring up a child just as well as a heterosexual couple. But that is not the issue. The issue is whether it is right to choose lesbian parents for a child in a world where no child has ever been conceived without a father and mother for millions of years and where a father and mother is the norm. Maybe we should, but since there is no way this issue can be decided other than by our usual democratic process, it is nonetheless important to know what it is we are deciding and for whom. Children are not, in our modern world, for the amusement or satisfaction of adults, whether they be men or women, orthodox or homosexual and whether or not they may have been considered in this way in the past.

A similar consideration should be given to IVF treatment, when the last thing this planet needs is an increased birth rate, and to the discussion of abortion. There is no reason to alter the current laws on abortion but there is every reason to see that they are more sensibly applied, that the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions is reduced, and that if they are unfortunately necessary they should be a early as possible.

What needs to stop is the pretension of grappling with an agonizing moral dilemma by those whose thinking is based on religious brainwashing that leaves their comprehension of life on the medieval level. As a long-time critic of Richard Dawkins I find myself now gradually understanding what he is fighting against - religious fundamentalists who have no appreciation or understanding of the religion they should be celebrating.

MAY 20th 2008
The members of the House have voted, and have come to reasoned majority answers except on the question of IVF for single mothers and lesbian couples. This just bloody daft. It was said that the present law discriminated against artificially producing children for unmarried women and lesbian couples. I would have thought that was exactly what laws are for - to discriminate. We discriminate in favour of what is best or what is required. The planet does not need more children, it needs fewer, more advantaged children. We discriminate in law against burglars, drug addicts, bad drivers, homicidal maniacs. We discriminate as public citizens against bad singers, losing cricketers, unfunny comedians. The basis of civilised society is discrimination. When it comes to subsidising IVF, which in my view should be outlawed anyway, the last thing we should do is make it available to single mothers and other families with no father. It's just more self-indulgence.