Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Media whips up superstitious frenzy

Yesterday, the UK parliament voted on the Human Embryo Bill, specifically on the issue of experiments on hybrid embryos. I'm glad to say that the bill was approved by a large majority, which paves the way for research into better ways to treat a wide range of diseases. In the months leading up to this vote, an enormous amount of nonsense was written and spoken in the press, which seemed to delight in misrepresenting the issue. This misrepresentation was eagerly latched onto by the inaptly-named 'pro-life' crowd, including any number of religious groups, particularly Catholics and Evangelical Christians, whose members used emotive and nonsensical arguments against the practice.

Most of these arguments centred on morality. They made no sense for a variety of reasons, but their proponents seemed genuinely to believe they were quite sufficient:
"This is morally wrong! Why? Um....it just is!"
In other words, they had no other reason for seeking to ban the practice than their own personal distaste based on their misunderstanding of the issue, willingly fostered by the press.

There were other arguments by people who should have (and probably did) know better. For example, the MP Ann Widicombe appeared on television prior to the vote claiming that the research method is invalid because it hasn't cured anyone yet. Quite right, Ann. That's what research is for. The scientists in question wish to use this method of research to find better treatments. If they already had better treatments, they wouldn't need to do the research, would they? I'm sure she knows this and was objecting mainly on the grounds that she is a member of the opposition party. Talk about playing games with people's lives.

There is an excellent article about the issues involved and the press' apparently willful misinterpretation of the whole sorry episode here:


A quote from the article:

"The central fact that anything other than growing-a-ball-of-cells for 14 days-in-a-dish will still be ILLEGAL under the new law, just like under the old law, has not always been clear in much of the media coverage. It is pretty clear to me that the religious groups have done their best to obfuscate this deliberately, and that too much of the media coverage, especially early on, allowed them to get away with it."

No comments: