Rowan Williams: Society can’t handle science

Religion / Science

Here’s some news that will probably be in the blogs in the coming weeks.

“Society is ill-prepared to handle scientific breakthroughs because it lacks understanding of human life, the Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed.

Dr Rowan Williams issued his warning as MPs prepare to vote on proposed laws which will allow scientists to create hybrid human-animan embryos for research.

The archbishop claimed that the planned reforms threaten to open the door to practice that conflicts with religious belief, and said that society does not have the ‘moral perspective’ to cope with such momentous advances.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, he also criticised evolution theory as ‘limited’, urged politicians to be open about their faith, and attacked religious conspiracy theories such as the Da Vinci Code. “

The article goes on to lay out the Archbishop’s concerns in each of the areas above.

Apparently this is going to be the theme of a series of addresses the Archbishop is planning for the upcoming weeks.

Read the rest here.

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  1. I think he’s totally right on this – and actually, I think a lot of non-religious people also believe that scientific discovery is outpacing moral and ethical development. I’ve seen such statements around, anyway.

  2. Caelius Spinator says

    I’m glad I read the actual item, the excerpt on evolution was worrisome. He’s absolutely right on this score, “He argues that champions of neo-Darwinism have oversold the theory as “a key which fits all locks and can tell you not only about evolution but where beliefs come from, what truth means.”
    But, on the other hand, the Archbishop can’t just damn scientific advances in biotechnology. He really needs to make a compelling case for what kinds of lines of inquiry are ethically responsible and for alternative responses to the frailty of our mortal nature. Because I’ll tell you that when scientists my age hear churchmen say these kind of things, they wonder what they’re expected to do about cancer, hereditary diseases, and the vulnerability of agriculture in the Third World. A lot of them have a sense of purpose, and they do not take kindly to their purpose in life being villified.

  3. It would be nice to read the whole interview. At least then the jumps in topic might make a bit more sense.
    Caelius, I don’t see him damning science so much as asking us to give some thought to what we’re doing. The quote from the article that seems to me to most clearly address this point is this:
    “Man playing God is not a problem about science. It’s a problem about our decisions about the results of science and we shouldn’t be so much afraid of science as we should about our own inability to have a clear moral perspective on these matters.”
    At least when the topic is research and treatments involving embryos, it seems that society doesn’t have a clear moral perspective on the matter. The same may be true in dealing with cloning for reproductive purposes or using cloning to get a new child with the organ(s) that an older sibling needs to survive. What is the moral status of an embryo? Is it a human being of some sort or is it more like a tissue sample? What about clones? Are they humans with all the rights that go along with that or are they more like property to be used however the cloner desires?
    While the Archbishop could give his own opinion on the matter the only way for society to make up its mind on what is morally permissable and what isn’t seems to be for the society as a whole to discuss it for as long as it takes to come to a consensus both on the subject and on what steps need to be taken to respect those who dissent.

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