For as long as scientists have attempted to make sense of the world the church has tried to prevent them. It's only in recent years that the Vatican has conceded that, yes, maybe that Galileo guy was onto something.
It's therefore no surprise that the God Squad is resorting to its customary chicanery as Parliament debates the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (HFE).
The Independent on Sunday yesterday reported that an organisation called Christian Action, Research and Education (CARE) is financing its members as they masquerade as interns in the House of Commons (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-rightwing-christians-group-pays-for-commons-researchers-802607.html ).
This none-too-subtle attempt at osmosis has its undoubted advantages, according to the IoS report:
"As research assistants, Care's interns can go unaccompanied to nearly all areas of Parliament and are allowed free access to documents that are out of bounds to journalists. Their passes also allow them to interact with all MPs in Portcullis House, the main meeting area of Westminster."
CARE's activities are not confined to Westminster, it transpires:
"Besides Westminster, interns have been placed in the Scottish and European Parliaments, the BBC and Whitehall."
Any puzzlement at the BBC being on their list should be dispelled by the thought that said interns may wish to work their way up in BBC journalism; editors & sub-editors dictate the agenda & tone of the Corporation's reporting.
As befitting its subject, the HFE is a complex piece of legislation, & I readily accept that there are valid reasons to question key areas of the bill. However, this is just the latest in a long line of squalid & intellectually cowardly attempts by the religious zealots to impose their own curious version of morality not just on society generally, but on the field of scientific advancement. Research in this field may yield immeasurable steps forward in tackling Alzeimer's, Parkinson's Disease & other hitherto untreatable conditions. It's time to face down these bigots.
The HFE debate has its local angle. Ian Hernon, Westminster reporter for the Liverpool Echo, remarks on the divisive nature of the Bill & the problems it poses for some local Labour MPs:
"Gordon Brown was forced to back down and permit a free vote on hybrid embryos, the need for a father before IVF treatment and the creation of 'saviour siblings'-allowing the parents of a child with a serious medical condition to use IVF to create an identical brother or sister who will be an ideal donor.
Or did he? The free vote will only be allowed in the early stages of the bill's progress. When it is nearing completion, whether or not amendments have been passed, MPs will then be under a three-line whip.
And there will be no concessions on equally controversial clauses to allow parents with a history of genetic diseases to screen out embryos carrying the same condition, or to extend the rights of lesbian couples to access IVF treatment.
Bootle's Joe Benton fumed, 'It's a sham. It's total hypocrisy. What sort of free vote is this?'"
Ah, Joe. Yes, we all know that when it comes to matters such as this, you've always put your own views ahead of the constituents you're supposed to represent. Granted, the legacy of Irish settlement in Bootle & the north end of Liverpool has been a large Catholic factor in local politics down the decades. However, here's one Bootle constituent who thinks that the medical advances which could accrue due to this legislation far outweigh the agenda of the unthinking, mean-minded moralistic mob in their clamour to oppose the bill.
So, Joe, are you going to go with your "conscience", or are you finally going to remember the reason for your presence at Westminster?