Vatican decries Nobel Prize

October 4, 2010 • 1:59 pm

We should have expected this: the loons in the Vatican are decrying the Nobel Prize awarded to Robert Edwards for developing in vitro fertilization for humans.  According to the BBC,

Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said the award ignored the ethical questions raised by the fertility treatment.

He said IVF had led to the destruction of large numbers of human embryos.

Nearly four million babies have been born using IVF fertility treatment since 1978.

Mr Carrasco, the Vatican’s spokesman on bio-ethics, said in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) had been “a new and important chapter in the field of human reproduction”.

But he said the Nobel prize committee’s choice of Prof Edwards had been “completely out of order” as without his treatment, there would be no market for human eggs “and there would not be a large number of freezers filled with embryos in the world”, he told Italy’s Ansa news agency.

“In the best of cases they are transferred into a uterus but most probably they will end up abandoned or dead, which is a problem for which the new Nobel prize winner is responsible.”

IVF always requires a surplus of eggs, and frequently a surplus of fertilized ones.  Absent religions like Catholicism, which insists on seeing a small ball of cells as an ensouled human, there would be no moral outcry over a procedure like this.

It’s ludicrous pronouncements like this, against a procedure that has helped so many people, that will spell the end of the Catholic church.

103 thoughts on “Vatican decries Nobel Prize

  1. Whenever I want advice on driving, I always go to someone who has never owned a car, never used public transportation, and never ridden a bicycle.

            1. … and who think we are all born DUI ….

              …. and that every 5000 miles we should drink the oil for it ‘translubricates’ into the blood of our head-mechanic in heaven … THY WHEEL BE DONE !

            2. So it’s hardly surprising when they condemn the award of a prize to the inventor of the tubeless tyre.

              (Not quite the same thing, but wasn’t the Virgin Birth the ultimate Artificial Insemination by Donor?)

      1. I didn’t say that I didn’t want to prevent them from doing anything damaging, but caring about this is meaningless because it only feeds their sense of self importance.

  2. “In the best of cases they are transferred into a uterus but most probably they will end up abandoned or dead, which is a problem for which the new Nobel prize winner is responsible.”
    Thanks for the lolz, it was badly needed.

  3. Ugh, why must the RCC be so stupid about morning all the random eggs and sperm that get lost through IVF?
    Why not morn the extra 50,000 or so eggs left completely unused in the ovaries when a woman goes through menopause, or the millions of sperm that don’t get to fertilize an egg?
    Why can’t they be happy that childless couples can have a kid when they might not otherwise. If they’re so upset about it, put some of the sweet Vatican cash up and find a way to make those old men pregnant with the excess.

    1. Ugh, why must the RCC be so stupid about morning all the random eggs and sperm that get lost through IVF?
      Why not morn the extra 50,000 or so eggs left completely unused in the ovaries when a woman goes through menopause, or the millions of sperm that don’t get to fertilize an egg?

      Those haven’t been magically ensouled. It’s only after fertilization that god inserts a soul.

      1. Ah, so the SPERM has the soul. I didn’t know…

        Is that why masturbation is bad?

        It must be OK for girls to rub one out, though, since nothing is “spilled”.

        1. Wait…are you saying girls, you know…?

          I don’t understand why they’d bother — it’s not like it would be enjoyable or anything, right?

          1. Porn star Katie Morgan has a “Hello Kitty” pocket rocket.

            Ask her.

            Her HBO specials on sex are some of the funniest shows on TV.

  4. “In the best of cases they are transferred into a uterus but most probably they will end up abandoned or dead, which is a problem for which the new Nobel prize winner is responsible.”

    Let the blood of all those blastocysts be upon his head. No, wait…

    Ah, the Church. And if you are fertile, you cannot choose to remain childless, as all marriages must be open to children. Desperately poor? Tough. At risk for a devastating genetic disease? Tough. We just love kids so much, even (especially?) when borne of rape victims.

    1. I do not. In fact, they kind of screwed this one. Unless they intend to give a separate prize for stem cells/iPS/cloning, 2 of those 3 things should have been recognized together with IVF (or 2 of 3 instead of IVF). Would have been a lot more of a statement.

      But because they gave a prize for IVF, it won’t be at least another few years until they give one for stem cells.

      1. If they did not give Edwards a prize this year it is quite likely he would not qualify again. The man is currently very sick, and since he is in his 80s, the long term prognosis is not good.

  5. I can respect this point of view – not agree with it but respect it – much more than those that seem to take no issue with IVF but then are dead set against doing anything other than destroying all the unused fertilized eggs. It at least seems a lot more ethically consistent.

  6. I think the Catholic church also needs to take a course on basic reproductive physiology; the number of fertilized eggs that naturally fail to implant is immense. Apparently god really didn’t care about those souls because his ‘plan’ involved killing them, but all these souls that scientists are stealing from him and then not using? Monstrous…

  7. The thesis of the conflict is a false one reason being the precursor of the scientific study of animal artificial fertilization was a scientist of the stature of the priest Lazzaro Spallanzani, the implementing it demonstrated in an experiment with a couple of dogs, injected with a syringe at a bitch and sperm that became pregnant. At the same time, thanks to this experiment demonstrated the importance of sperm in the process of scientific achievements fecundación.Los this devout Italian priest did not stop at fertilization: sonar of bats, volcanology … Regarding the serious questions artificial fertilization ethical I refer to this article:
    Surrogate motherhood, a booming industry in India
    http://www.aceprensa.com/articulos/2010/aug/30/la-maternidad-de-alquiler-una-industria-floreciente-en-la-india/
    Moreover Robert G. Edwards is not Vesalius, whichever way you look, it is also extremely fun to father children in the traditional way.

  8. If an egg is a person as soon as a sperm attaches to it, then a pencil laid on a pad of paper is a novel. (Neither is true)

    Both have the potential to be something special, but they have a long way to go to reach it.

      1. “If an egg is a person as soon as a sperm attaches to it…”
        Then when homozygotic twins are born
        a) they have half a soul each, or
        b) one is soulless, or
        c) there is an uneven distribution of soul-fractions, or
        d) souls are not conserved and reproduce asexually when the zygote divides, or
        e) the soul does not enter at fertilization or
        f) there are no such things as souls.

    1. Um…well…uh…I thought we objected to the buggery activities of the church, since it often involves the choir boys and altar girls.

      Yes, in this case, I think a different curse would be in order.

  9. “In the best of cases they are transferred into a uterus but most probably they will end up abandoned or dead…”

    …as opposed to cherished and safeguarded by the Catholic Church?
    And what about those that are transferred into a uterus but still wind up dead as a result of a miscarriage? Is God on the hook for those? Guess he’s out of the running for a Nobel, too.

    It’s ludicrous pronouncements like this, against a procedure that has helped so many people, that will spell the end of the Catholic church.

    From your lips to God’s ears!

    Wait… Oops!

  10. All together now:

    “Ev’ry sperm is sacred,
    Eve’ry sperm is good.
    If a sperm is needed
    In your neighborhood.”

    What hypocrites – they promote wanton reproduction because god wants to see millions of starving ill-educated people. They say condoms spread AIDS. They say they are some god’s representatives on earth. Do they never say anything which is true?

  11. “Ignacio Carrasco de Paula…said the award ignored the ethical questions raised by the fertility treatment.”

    Or more likely, the award committee did consider the ethical questions raised by the Church and rejected them as meritless.

  12. I wonder what the Vatican would think if one made an embryo whose genome was written artificially, a human genome that no extant human has, constructed from randomly choosing an allele where variation is known to occur. When does this embryo get a soul? Is it when the machine finishes writing the genome? Or is it when the file on the computer containing the ATCG code is no longer modified? If someone destroys the genome code, is that murder? Because surely that genome code has just as much chance of becoming a unique human as any frozen embryo.

    1. It doesn’t have to make sense or be consistent at all because they have faith. Geez.

      Next you’re going to start asking how souls are consistent with degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimers.

      1. This is a great point, in that 1) I’ve not seen it convincingly addressed by any theist and 2) it is extremely intuitive, even, one would hope, to most religious folks.

  13. Are these people stupid? Without IVF those 4 million babies wouldn’t have happened. And whining about the embryos that were discarded is…

    I don’t know…

    Completely fucking stupid?

    It’s like, why even open your mouth on something like this… I mean except for the obvious need to be an attention whore…

  14. “It’s ludicrous pronouncements like this, against a procedure that has helped so many people, that will spell the end of the Catholic church. ”

    Surely you josh. So long as there remains one hapless, foul trolling the Earth, the Vatican has its work cut out for itself.

    I’m not seein’ a general decline in fools.
    ~Rev. El

  15. Rarely are the consequences of religious insanity so direct and clear. Think about it: if you’re one of those millions of healthy people conceived by IVF, the Catholic church thinks that you should not exist! (But please, even if you’re one of those people, give us some money – those golden mitres and gem-encrusted thuribles don’t grow on trees, y’know.)

    Bonus tip: Try asking a pro-lifer this one – If there was a fire in a family planning clinic, and on one side of the burning room was a petri dish with a dozen frozen embryos, while on the other was a scared, crying 4-year-old girl, and you could only rescue one, which one would you save and why? In my experience, fundamentalists often get really upset when you ask them this.

    1. I’ve tried that in the past. They think it’s a very unfair question, dodge it and change the argument.

  16. Wish there was a way to know the number of people for whom this is the last straw re. the RCC.

    I eagerly await the accomodationist position.

      1. Ophelia, I know you are joking, but holy crap, it just hit me… that totally explains why decent fairly liberal people can still consider themselves Catholics: they’re relationship to the church is like the one I have with my elderly mother. I love her and would never renounce her — but I know she holds some really quite preposterous opinions, and so I try to avoid discussing those, and if they do come up, usually I’ll just ignore it, only occasionally pointing out that how silly it all is.

        Of course, the difference is that my mother has enough respect for me to recognize this issue, and she mostly — though not as consistently as I would like — avoids those issues too. The Vatican, on the other hand, has no qualms about bossing its flock around.

        So it’s kind of like the relationship I have with my elderly mother, except if she had absolutely no respect for me and had ludicrous amounts of worldly power. Hmmm…. That would be bad..

  17. The Vatican is, and always has been, a fraud. Any religion that supposedly follows the teachings of Christ and spends all of its time accumulating wealth and spewing hatred has to be fraudulent. Read a good novel about the church called On This Rock by Dave Leonard. It’s a good read and it has a real interesting take on how this church stole Christianity.

  18. This week’s CNN report on the Pope’s undeniable complicity in the rape of children underlines the Church’s preference for the well being of souls of cell clumps over actual children.

    1. Thanks. Very interesting report indeed.
      My two cents: to the popes defenders, he is the reformer, the one who has done more than anyone to tackle the problem. To his critiques, he is part of the problem.
      What is amazing is that both views may be true. How?
      The situation is so disastrous that all the “reforms” have barely scratched the surface. The bishops who protected the abusive priests have paid no price all; not least the notorious Bernard Law. And stunningly even today there are priests with allegations of pedophilia against them that are still on active duty.

  19. Catholics use the doctrine of double effect to justify abortions when it is required to save the life of the mother. For instance, if a woman has uterine cancer while pregnant, double effect says it is permissible for her to have a hysterectomy even though a consequence of this action will be an abortion. The reasoning is as follows: even though the abortion is a likely and foreseeable outcome of the procedure, the abortion is not actually intended. All that is intended is the saving of the woman’s life. Since what is intended is morally good, the procedure is justified.

    Now I don’t personally stand by the doctrine of double effect but it is a principle that Catholic ethicists have endorsed in numerous cases. So why doesn’t it apply in the case of IVF?

    Here is the reasoning. It is a likely and foreseeable consequence that IVF will lead to the destruction of human embryos. But it is not the destruction that is intended. The clear intent is to make an infertile couple pregnant. Since clearly Catholics think that being pregnant is morally good, IVF is morally justified. QED.

    I can’t fathom why Catholics would take a stance against IVF. It has the weight of public opinion and the net effects are clearly great. What is even more galling is that they have a moral principle in their pocket which can be used to justify the procedure, yet they refuse to deploy it. That speaks volumes about their moral seriousness.

    1. Because it’s (supposedly) against the natural law for sexual intercourse and reproduction to be separated.

      Besides, the the doctrine of double effect doesn’t mean that you can produce any outcome at all, no matter how horrible, as long as the means used are intrinsically acceptable and the bad part of the outcome is unintended. The doctrine of double effect still has a requirement of proportionality, and if the foreseeable, though unintended, outcome of IVF is the destruction of millions of little ensouled blobs made in God’s image … well, that’s disproportionate.

      But we have to understand that they’d see IVF as contrary to natural law even if no embryos were “killed”. Even before we get to that, the Vatican will see the means as morally impermissible because it separates the “procreative” and “unitive” functions of the sexual organs.

      (For anyone who is new here, I’m not endorsing this rubbish, just reminding people how it works. My own response to the Vatican on this issue is over on my own blog – http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2010/10/vatican-condemns-nobel-prize-to-robert.html – and it ain’t conciliatory.)

      1. I think that Vatican opposition to IVF is primarily motivated by the negative evidence it provides with respect to dualism. If human beings can actively control every step in the process, and we can watch conception happen in a laboratory setting, then at what point does *ensoulment* take place?

          1. Hi Russell – I didn’t realize that the expert on Catholic dogma I was replying to was you. Thanks for 50 Voices!

        1. Catholics believe two things: (1) that there is a soul; and (2) that the soul inhabits the body at the `moment’ of conception.

          As far as I am concerned, both are untenable but in order to justify IVF, one need only worry about (2). If the soul doesn’t inhabit the body at the moment of conception but, say, two-three weeks after conception around the time of implantation, then IVF and stem cell research turn out to be morally permissible (I would even say morally obligatory). Abortion still remains impermissible but that is another battle.

          So the issue is this: why believe ensoulment happens at conception as opposed to implantation or the point at which the brain reaches a critical number of neurons or the time at which the pineal gland develops? Catholics don’t have any evidence of ensoulment tout court so they have no evidence about when it happens!

          1. Clearly they don’t understand the procedure. It’s right there in the IVF manual: Step 6 – Insert Soul.

      2. This is an interesting point. However, there is already a natural separation of the procreative and unitive functions. Older couples, women who have had hysterectomies, infertility of other kinds, all indicate the separateness of procreative sex and the unitive power of sex. Furthermore, there is a unitive power of having a child that needs to be factored into the balance.

        Here is the deal. If we assume natural law is true (a huge assumption), then human beings have some sort of purpose or purposes. Catholics think they know what that purpose is (though their epistemological practices are abhorrent). If I were a Catholic, which I am not, I would see IVF as a situation where I should go back and evaluate what I think I know about the purposes of sex and its relation to reproduction.

        I realize that DE can’t justify anything. Here is what the Catholic encyclopedia says: “The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect“ (p.1021) So the real question is whether the lives of the four million healthy and vibrant “test-tube babies” are sufficiently desirable as to outweigh the lives of the several million destroyed blastocysts. These Catholics must think so (because they have another completely indefensible position about the soul), but put this way, one can see just how radical their view is.

        1. You don’t have to tell me that it’s nonsense. They do have an answer, of course, when it comes to older women, infertile couples, etc., but their whole way of looking at things is idiotic even before you get to that.

    2. How does this square with the case of the raped nine year old Brazilian girl who’s parents were excommunicated for allowing her to have an abortion that saved her life ?

      1. I am not familiar with this case. If the pregnancy was life threatening, Catholics should allow the abortion given DE.

        1. No, that’s not how it works. You can carry out a procedure to help her that has the foreseeable additional effect of killing the fetus (which may then, presumably, have to be removed). What you can’t do is help her by means of killing the fetus.

          That may sound like a subtle nuance but it has real-world effects. It does actually restrict what sets of medical procedures will be carried out by Cstholic medical staff. In a case such as discussed above, Catholic staff will not carry out an abortion. They may do something else to help the mother – give her a drug, or whatever – that might have an additional effect of harming the fetus. But they will not perform an abortion. The double effect principle is clear on this.

          Hence, the staff who performed the abortion were indeed censured – quite rightly if you believe all this stuff – and, I believe, even excommunicated.

      2. That’s not quite true. Only one of the girls parents, her mother, was excommunicated. Her father, who had raped her and made her pregnant in the first place, was not involved in seeking the abortion and so was not excommunicated – by the great moral guardians of the church.

  20. It is no longer necessary to point out that the leadership of the Catholic Church is little more than a support group for bigoted, evil motherfuckers…

    …because every time they make news, it’s like they’re trying to make that point for us.

  21. The vatican should shut up. I do not oppse IVF I think that there are more important issues than fertility when there are enough people already, but that is a, to my mind, pragmatic argument not an ‘ethical’ one. I now support this prize!

  22. This must be an interesting subject for upcoming historians of medicine: the way the Vatican – and of course also other christian groups – define egg cell and sperm, and fertilization, zygote, blastula, gastrula (‘snowflake-baby’?, embryo, fetus, and how (past and present) religious definitions relate to (past and present) biological and medical definitions.
    Maybe this has already been done? Then I would appreciate references.

    1. It was a commonly held belief that a baby wasn’t a person until it was one-week old. And even then a young child’s life was pretty cheap and worthless.

      As for the whole IVF controversy, I find it annoying and hysterical that the Catholic Church cares considering the Biblical treatment of the fetus. The Bible is clear that the death of an in-utero child/baby/zygote/whatever is a fairly meaningless event. There is compensation mandated but it was, in those days, a fairly small sum. Far less than actual injury to an adult human.

      But let’s build the case (in simple form) instead of just asserting. In Exodus, as many other places, it tells us that if you should kill (murder) another human, the punishment is death (Leviticus 24:17):

      Anyone who kills a human being shall be put to death.

      And then again in Leviticus 24:21:

      One who kills an animal shall make restitution for it; but one who kills a human being shall be put to death.

      So, we’ve established the worth of a “real” human. (And children really didn’t count. It’s adult humans that counted.)

      Now, what does the Bible establish? Well, I think it’s clear that the Bible establishes the fetus as not really a worthy, human-like, object in Exodus 21:22-25.

      And, btw, this is where, to me, the whole issue gets really interesting. When you look at older translations of the Bible, the words are translated clearly that the “eye-for-an-eye” portion directly relate to the woman.

      If men, while fighting, do damage to a woman with child, causing the loss of the child, but no other evil comes to her, the man will have to make payment up to the amount fixed by her husband, in agreement with the decision of the judges. (There’s the dead baby price.)

      or this

      If men quarrel, and one strike a woman with child, and she miscarry indeed, but live herself: he shall be answerable for so much damage as the woman’s husband shall require, and as arbiters shall award. (Again, the dead baby price.)

      When you look at more modern translations, this one from 2007, they’re different:

      “Now suppose two men are fighting, and in the process they accidentally strike a pregnant woman so she gives birth prematurely. If no further injury results, the man who struck the woman must pay the amount of compensation the woman’s husband demands and the judges approve.

      Suddenly it’s a lot more ambiguous. Deliberately ambiguous. No more dead baby. Just premature delivery and the loss of the woman as focus.

      After that verse, the Bible goes on withe standard “eye-for-an-eye” punishments. In the older versions, it’s directed solely to the injuries of the woman. In the newer ones, they drag in the fetus.

      Old translations:

      But if her death ensue thereupon, he shall render life for life.

      But if damage comes to her, let life be given in payment for life,

      Modern translation:

      But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life,

      See how the fetus has been dragged in? In the early verse, the ambiguity has been set by a group of cultural warriors who have changed their “Holy Book” to suit their morality!

      It’s so obvious that it makes me want to scream. And it’s one of the many issues I have with the concept of “biblical inerrancy.” Bibles, especially modern bibles, are translated to the morality of the translator vis the cultural wars in which we find ourselves.

      They are not, in any sense of the form, the Inerrant Word of God. Rather, they are the prejudicial word of man.

      Anyway, the price for fetus killing was pretty small. Certainly not that of killing an “actual” human. And the Bible is clear about that. No ambiguity at all.

      And I don’t even feel the need to drag in the direct baby-killing. Time and time again God ordered rivers-of-blood baby and pregnant women killing. Did a lot of it himself, too.

      So, honestly, I’m never impressed with religious abortion arguments. The bible is pretty clear it’s both not much of an event and is, quite often, a condoned activity. So, I just can’t get impressed by some cleric whining about IVF which creates babies while ignoring the very real truth of his holy scriptures.

    2. Somewhere I read that up till some date in the 19th century the Catholic church had no problems with the loss of a prematurely born or aborted child, because they did not consider a fetus as a person. Instead it was seen as a part of the maternal body. It is medical science that began making distinctions and the theologists just followed in their wake. So the so-called ‘pro-life’ rhetoric of Christianity is in fact some form of modernist contamination.

      1. See: Londa Schiebinger, West Indian Abortifacients and the Making of Ignorance. In: Robert N. Proctor & Londa Schiebinger, Agnotology. The making & unmaking of ignorance. Stanford University Press, 2008. (p. 156 and references given there)

  23. The problem, Jerry, is that you don’t understand Catholic-ese. It’s sort of like the confusion about “refried beans”… they are not fried twice, it comes from the Mexican dish “frijoles refritos”, where the prefix “re-” in Spanish doesn’t mean “again”, but rather “well” or “very much so”. So “frijoles fritos” means fried beans, and “frioles refritos” means well-fried beans. Refried beans is an error in translation.

    So it is with the Catholic-ese prefix, “pro-“. In English, the prefix “pro-” means that you are in favor of something. In Catholic-ese, it means you want to see the amount of it reduced.

    Hence, when Catholics say they are “pro-life”, they aren’t in favor of life — they want to decrease the amount of healthy births. Similarly, when they say they are “pro-marriage”, it means they want to outlaw certain types of marriage.

    Makes perfect sense once you understand the translation difficulties. Either that or the Vatican is, as the Mexicans would say, “well-tarded”.

  24. “In the best of cases they are transferred into a uterus but most probably they will end up abandoned or dead, which is a problem for which the new Nobel prize winner is responsible.

    An excellent example of the moral bankruptcy of the catholic hierarchy. So Prof Edwards, who was instrumental in devising this technique, but who had no authority at all over the millions of private individuals who decided to use this procedure to have a child, is responsible for those peoples actions? How gracious of him to alleviate all those people of responsibility for their own actions and decisions.

    If Prof Edwards asks forgiveness and swears fealty to jesus christ can he still get his ticket to heaven?

    And yet ratzinger, who did have authority over all the catholic clergy that have abused and raped children for decades (ratzi’s authority, not the abuse), claims repeatedly, along with his underlings, that he has no responsibility for their actions.

    Of course it is clear that he doesn’t believe that he has no responsibility. He very apparently believed that he was responsible, at the least, to remove the guilty clergy from the danger of having to answer to secular authority for their crimes, silence the victims by coercion, and when given no other choice, to spread some hush money around to quiet things down.

    I don’t understand how shit like this doesn’t break through whatever armor, or complacency, that catholics hide behind. It is getting harder to reserve my contempt for the beliefs and not the believers.

  25. If the Catholics can show me (or let me hear) the shrieking souls of these surplus fertilized embryos, I’ll withdraw my support for the use of this technology.

  26. I think it’s rather sick that the Vatican spokesman on bio-ethics’ name sounds like “Mr. Crisco”.

  27. ‘End the catholic church’?

    After all that the ‘church’ has done to humanity over the centuries they have existed this one incident is going to ‘end the catholic ‘church”?

    As long as there are people that believe that ‘god’ is a nasty judgmental asshole who really is cranky and hates humans, there will be a place for the catholic ‘church’…

  28. We need to invent a filter that can be attached to a tampon, so that all those other eggs are not destroyed and flushed into oblivion !!

    Save the Eggs, but no food aid for the starving children.
    Save the Eggs, but on money for education.
    Save the Eggs, .. Oh, you get the trend.

  29. Pop Quiz: At one time, the Roman Catholic Church did not consider a child a human being until it reached this stage of development:

    A. Conception

    B. Quickening (The mother can feel movement)

    C. Birth

    D. Baptism

    The correct answer is D. This meant that for centuries, the most effetive means of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy was for the mother to hide when she started showing, then abandoning the newborn to die (which wasn’t a sin because it hadn’t been baptized).

  30. I am opposed to immigration “reform” (amnesty). This country is overpopulated, and 21 million Americans are out of work.

  31. I am impressed with the volume of responses. There are many that still have a lot of charge on the Pope… I believe that evolution of thought will make them extinct in the near future…but politicians may stop evolution.

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