Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
From: Point of Inquiry
By: Allison Kilkenny
From: The Huffington Post
A recent ABC poll reports that 16% of U.S. science teachers are Creationists, and worse, one in eight of them admit to teaching Creationism as a kind of valid science in their classrooms .
There is such a thing as too much tolerance. Those of us born after 1980 were raised on a sugary diet of time-outs, love-ins, and diversity seminars. We are encouraged to discuss our feeling and always, always value the beliefs of our fellow citizens. As a result, America is a padded multicultural nation where every creed, ideology, and puny belief basks beneath the gentle rays of Credibility. After all, it's better to accept everything than risk excluding someone, somewhere.
Liberty's eagerness to clutch even the most retched, mutated gimp of a philosophy to her bosom sometimes results in absurd declarations getting absorbed into the national dialog. We begin to treat utter bullshit like truth.
This policy of tongue-kissing intellectual opponents who hold beliefs different than the status-quo is usually acceptable, oftentimes remarkable, and definitely essential in a democracy. Though, lurking in the shadows is the inevitable backlash of this institutionalized tolerance.
Institutionalized tolerance makes it taboo to condemn the practice of teachers teaching Creationism in the classroom. This intellectually bankrupt curriculum needs to be condemned because believing in a creator doesn't make it true. It's not true because no one can prove it's true. Belief is the opposite of science, which is knowledge attained through study or practice. Students can study the behavior of bacteria, plants, and animals, but God -- along with all deities -- belongs in the philosophy and religious studies classrooms.
Any other handling of religion vs. science is dangerous. The two must remain separate so we can continue to enjoy learned doctors and engineers, and not suffer from the constant paranoia that the lady operating on our brain, or the dude fixing our plane's engine, is a Jesus Kid who never went to college.
Some argue that Creationism is a legitimate spiritual alternative to the intellectual argument of Science. Except, the two aren't a ying-yang presentation of reality. Creationism is a theory. Science is real. The majority of sane individuals in this country have a duty to condemn crazy, fringe beliefs instead of incorporating them into educational curriculum lest we rear an entire generation of dumbasses, who have no idea which nations fought which wars, but they're pretty sure Jesus arm-wrestled dinosaurs and punishes gay people for being too fabulous.
The media is guided by this same kind of corrupt tolerance where the absurd global warming debate has entered its awkward period. The smart people in the room are exasperatedly eying each other with their palms up, wondering what else can we do to convince these assholes?
But instead of presenting the science accurately and dutifully broadcasting our looming planetary doom, the media warps reality and for every legitimate scientist permitted on-air wailing time, there waits a showcase of peanut gallery idiots and cons, claiming all the science is wrong. Of course, many of these so-called neutral experts who dismiss global warming as a hoax work for the oil industry, but no matter. Remember: everyone gets to have their shot at the one Truth even if they're lying.
Dangerous doses of blind tolerance allow Creationism in the classroom and con men on the airwaves, just as an overdose of tolerance allows the GOP presidential candidate, John McCain, to parade around with a lunatic like John Hagee, whose latest crazy blathering included the sentiment that Hitler was only fulfilling the will of God.
Of course, all of this is only important if Americans value sane, rational discussion. In order to preserve a community of civil debate and steady intellectual evolution, certain theories and beliefs must fall by the wayside.
Education weeds out intruders like myths and rumors. The separation of politics from religion ensures that no religious hacks can get their grubby, swollen nubs on children and brainwash them into believing the sexist, racist, evil things uttered by the likes of John Hagee.
Otherwise, all ideas are treated as equals. Bad ideas like Creationism are taught as truth in the classroom. Bad ideas like global warming being a hoax are broadcast by the media. A bad idea like a religious zealot parading around with a GOP presidential candidate goes underreported by the mainstream media.
And in America, not all ideas should be treated as equal.
Monday, May 26, 2008
From: New Statesman
By: Julian Baggini
We need new ways to decide ethical issues
"I have deep respect for those who do not agree with some of the provisions in the bill because of religious conviction," wrote Gordon Brown the day before Monday's Commons vote on hybrid embryos. "But I believe that we owe it to ourselves and future generations to introduce these measures and, in particular, to give our unequivocal backing, within the right framework of rules and standards, to stem-cell research."
In those two sentences Brown managed to capture all that is wrong in how we approach public debates about bioethics.
Brown's words are typical of the way religious views are "respected", only so that they can then be ignored. The debate then proceeds on fatalistic, utilitarian premises: there is no other option; we have to do this for the greater good. Both these moves are not so much steps forward as sideways, avoiding the tough issues and disagreements.
Take the engagement with religion first. There is a curious implicit pact here, whereby atheists, agnostics and believers alike all accept that faith stands somehow to one side of rationality. The devout gain respect and immunity from rational prosecution, at the price of being excluded from intellectual debate. Non-believers get to keep the civic sphere entirely secular, at the price of having to back off from believers. At one level, this is right. Much religious belief is a matter of faith, as impervious to rational scrutiny as the Vatican is to women. However, when it comes to specific matters of morality, the idea that religious convictions need respect, not interrogation and defence, is absurd. The world's major religious texts have nothing to say about stem cells, not least because those words do not appear in any of them. It may be a matter of faith that Christ rose from the dead, but Christians have to defend anything they say about the first stages of life.
For example, in his Easter Sunday sermon, Cardinal Keith O'Brien quoted from a letter he and several other church leaders had signed: "This bill goes against what most people, Christian or not, reckon is common sense. The idea of mixing human and animal genes is not just evil. It's crazy!" It is not good enough, on reading this, simply to nod sympathetically and say, "I respect your view." For one thing, the respect is not reciprocated: scientists and supporters of the bill are being accused of doing great evil. What we should do is demand that the central claims be substantiated, which, in this case, they are not. As a matter of fact, opinion polls repeatedly show that most members of the public do approve of embryo research, interspecies or otherwise. More importantly, if anyone other than a church leader accused something of being evil and crazy, we would want to see some reasons why we should agree. Instead, we smile, and move on.
Once religion is set aside, the debate then tends to proceed in a crassly simplistic way. Most of the time, the argument is no more than the claim that the benefits of the research will be enormous, and therefore we must do it. But this is far too quick. Using the terminally ill for experiments might teach us things future generations will benefit from, but that doesn't mean we should do it.
Yet it suits people to stop the debate here, because the real issue is much more complex: What is the moral status of embryos? Bishops simply assert they are as precious as full-grown human beings, scientists avoid answering the question altogether, and between the two camps, the fundamental issue is passed over in silence.
This fudge suits the religious lobby more, for it leaves unchallenged the view that cells from which human beings grow are precious. A similar silence has occluded the morality of abortion for decades. But if we thought 14-day-old embryos and aborted foetuses were as fully human as we are, then no appeal to the balance of costs and benefits could justify their routine killing. People talk as though foetal life has an important moral status, but act as though it does not.
The contradiction can be resolved in one of only two ways: either we agree the bishops were right all along, or we face the facts squarely and stop the pretence that anything growing in the womb is important, and as human, as a tiny baby. The latter need not lead us down a slippery slope where human life in general is granted less respect. Nor would it entail treating stem cells with no respect: it is good for us to practise reverence for life even if, on reflection, we do not always think it is worth preserving.
But how can we debate these deeply divisive issues, when people's fundamental convictions are so different? What is needed is a way to bring religious perspectives into public discourse without diluting the essentially secular nature of the public square. This might sound impossible, as it is too often assumed that a secular politics requires people to leave their religious beliefs behind them. But that is a mistake. Democratic politics in a pluralist age requires, not that people set aside their fundamental commitments, but that they discuss their differences in a common language. The absence of God will inform someone's opinions on morality, but one cannot expect arguments in public debate to carry any weight if they start with an assertion of atheism. Catholicism may inform someone's beliefs on birth control, for instance, but we cannot be expected to agree with them on the basis of what the Pope says.
What both sides must do is to make their case in terms the other can assess and understand. Arguments for stem-cell research need to appeal to facts about the actual, not imagined, nature of early embryos, as well as serious thought about the potential social consequences of entirely new ways of doing science. Arguments can also draw on religious insights, just as long as they do not assume any particular theological framework. One can talk about the need for humility, deep respect for human life and the dangers of hubris without invoking St John's Gospel.
The justifiable desire to keep religious dogma out of public life has led to an unjustifiable tendency to treat religious views as a whole as separable from civic life. It is in the interests of everyone, believer or not, to end this artificial divide and start a real intellectual tussle in which secular and sacred views battle it out, rationally and in the open.
Julian Baggini is editor of The Philosophers' Magazine
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
If you think that Jesus taught only the Golden Rule and love of one's neighbor, you should reread the New Testament. Pay particular attention to the morality that will be on display when Jesus returns to earth trailing clouds of glory:
Thursday, May 22, 2008
By: John Remy
I may actually agree with the state representatives of Tennessee in the following, though probably not for the same reasons:
There is quite a range of how “academic study,” “approved textbook” and teacher selection might be interpreted and implemented. I, personally, would positively delight in teaching the range of academic approaches to the Bible today, especially if I could use a primo text like Bart Ehrman’s The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. The techniques and theories used by even the most devout biblical scholars would challenge many assumptions held by your average Bible Belt Christian. For example, I think that most scholars could agree that the assignment of authorship of the gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is extra-biblical, and that New Testament wasn’t assembled until over 200 years after the death of Christ.
“Academic study” would imply that students would be introduced to competing claims, including ideas accepted by many mainstream Christians that the so-called five books of Moses actually had multiple authors, that Paul didn’t write some of the letters ascribed to him, and that there is overwhelming evidence that whoever wrote Luke and Matthew plagiarized off of the gospel with Mark’s name on it. Such impartial, non-sectarian academic study would truly encourage critical thinking and create an environment for more nuanced approaches to religious claims.
I’m not so naive as to think this is how things would play out. After all, 16% of US science teachers are creationists, and
So much for trusting teachers to teach the approved curriculum. Instead of proper academic study, the high school students Tennessee will get Sunday School six days a week. There go my dreams of an enlightened, not quite so fundamentalist Christianity rising up from the heart of Clinton country.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Taken from Pharyngula
Here's the most depressing thing I've seen all week (and I'm grading genetics exams): it's the result of a national survey of high school biology teachers.
At least 16% of our high school teachers are young earth creationists. Furthermore, 12% our our teachers are using biology classes in public schools to teach creationism in a positive light. The majority are still pro-science, but even in the good cases, relatively little time is spent on teaching evolution.
The news isn't all bad. One constructive discovery is that it is neither legal battles nor demanding state standards that determine how much effort is put into teaching evolution — it's how much education the teachers have in the subject. The obvious lesson is that we ought to be encouraging more coursework for teachers; help educate the teachers, give them more material they can use in the classroom, and the students benefit.
Here's the conclusion of the paper, which lays it all out very clearly.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Reason No. 1 - god is Silent
If God wants something from me, he would tell me. He wouldn't leave someone else to do this, as if an infinite being were short on time. And he would certainly not leave fallible, sinful humans to deliver an endless plethora of confused and contradictory messages. God would deliver the message himself, directly, to each and every one of us, and with such clarity as the most brilliant being in the universe could accomplish. We would all hear him out and shout "Eureka!" So obvious and well-demonstrated would his message be. It would be spoken to each of us in exactly those terms we would understand. And we would all agree on what that message was. Even if we rejected it, we would all at least admit to each other, "Yes, that's what this God fellow told me."
Excuses don't fly. The Christian proposes that a supremely powerful being exists who wants us to set things right, and therefore doesn't want us to get things even more wrong. This is an intelligible hypothesis, which predicts there should be no more confusion about which religion or doctrine is true than there is about the fundamentals of medicine, engineering, physics, chemistry, or even meteorology. It should be indisputably clear what God wants us to do, and what he doesn't want us to do. Any disputes that might still arise about that would be as easily and decisively resolved as any dispute between two doctors, chemists, or engineers as to the right course to follow in curing a patient, identifying a chemical, or designing a bridge. Yet this is not what we observe. Instead, we observe exactly the opposite: unresolvable disagreement and confusion. That is clearly a failed prediction. A failed prediction means a false theory. Therefore, Christianity is false.
Typically, Christians try to make excuses for God that protect our free will. Either the human will is more powerful than the will of God, and therefore can actually block his words from being heard despite all his best and mighty efforts, or God cares more about our free choice not to hear him than about saving our souls, and so God himself "chooses" to be silent. Of course, there is no independent evidence of either this remarkable human power to thwart God, or this peculiar desire in God, and so this is a completely "ad hoc" theory: something just "made up" out of thin air in order to rescue the actual theory that continually fails to fit the evidence. But for reasons I'll explore later, such "added elements" are never worthy of belief unless independently confirmed: you have to know they are true. You can't just "claim" they are true. Truth is not invented. It can only be discovered. Otherwise, Christianity is just a hypothesis that has yet to find sufficient confirmation in actual evidence.
Be that as it may. Though "maybe, therefore probably" is not a logical way to arrive at any belief, let's assume the Christian can somehow "prove" (with objective evidence everyone can agree is relevant and true) that we have this power or God has this desire. Even on that presumption, there are unsolvable problems with this "additional" hypothesis. Right from the start, it fails to explain why believers disagree. The fact that believers can't agree on the content of God's message or desires also refutes the theory that he wants us to be clear on these things. This failed prediction cannot be explained away by any appeal to free will
So this theory doesn't work. It fails to predict what we actually observe. But even considering atheists like me, this "ad hoc" excuse still fails to save Christianity from the evidence. When I doubted the Big Bang theory, I voiced the reasons for my doubts but continued to pursue the evidence, frequently speaking with several physicists who were "believers." Eventually, they presented all the logic and evidence in terms I understood, and I realized I was wrong: the Big Bang theory is well-supported by the evidence and is at present the best explanation of all the facts by far. Did these physicists violate my free will? Certainly not. I chose to pursue the truth and hear them out. So, too, I and countless others have chosen to give God a fair hearing
Even when we might actually credit free will with resisting God's voice
I know this for a fact. Back in my days as a flight-deck firefighter, when our ship's helicopter was on rescue missions, we had to stand around in our gear in case of a crash. There was usually very little to do, so we told stories. One I heard was about a rescue swimmer. She had to pull a family out of the water from a capsized boat, but by the time the chopper got there, it appeared everyone had drowned except the mother, who was for that reason shedding her life vest and trying to drown herself. The swimmer dove in to rescue her, but she kicked and screamed and yelled to let her die. She even gave the swimmer a whopping black eye. But the swimmer said to hell with that, I'm bringing you in! And she did, enduring her curses and blows all the way.
Later, it turned out that one of the victim's children, her daughter, had survived. She had drifted pretty far from the wreck, but the rescue team pulled her out, and the woman who had beaten the crap out of her rescuer apologized and thanked her for saving her against her will. Everyone in my group agreed the rescue swimmer had done the right thing, and we all would have done the same
So we can be certain God would make sure he told everyone, directly, what his message was. Everyone would then know what God had told them. They can still reject it all they want, and God can leave them alone. But there would never be, in any possible Christian universe, any confusion or doubt as to what God's message was. And if we had questions, God himself would answer them
Despite this conclusion, Christians still try to hold on to their faith with this nonsense about free will
There can't be any excuse for God, either. There are always disagreements, and there are always people who don't follow what they are told or what they know to be true. But that doesn't matter. Chemists all agree on the fundamental facts of chemistry. Doctors all agree on the fundamental facts of medicine. Engineers all agree on the fundamental facts of engineering. So why can't all humans agree on the fundamental facts of salvation? There is no more reason that they should be confused or in the dark about this than that chemists, doctors, and engineers should be confused or in the dark.
The logically inevitable fact is, if the Christian God existed, we would all hear from God himself the same message of salvation, and we would all hear, straight from God, all the same answers to all the same questions. The Chinese would have heard it. The Native Americans would have heard it. Everyone today, everywhere on Earth, would be hearing it, and their records would show everyone else in history had heard it, too. Sure, maybe some of us would still balk or reject that message. But we would still have the information. Because the only way to make an informed choice is to have the required information. So a God who wanted us to make an informed choice would give us all the information we needed, and not entrust fallible, sinful, contradictory agents to convey a confused mess of ambiguous, poorly supported claims. Therefore, the fact that God hasn't spoken to us directly, and hasn't given us all the same, clear message, and the same, clear answers, is enough to prove Christianity false.
Just look at what Christians are saying. They routinely claim that God is your father and best friend. Yet if that were true, we would observe all the same behaviors from God that we observe from our fathers and friends. But we don't observe this. Therefore, there is no God who is our father or our friend. The logic of this is truly unassailable, and no "free will" excuse can escape it. For my father and friends aren't violating my free will when they speak to me, help me, give me advice, and answer my questions. Therefore, God would not violate my free will if he did so. He must be able to do at least as much as they do, even if for some reason he couldn't do more. But God doesn't do anything at all. He doesn't talk to, teach, help, or comfort us, unlike my real father and my real friends. God doesn't tell us when we hold a mistaken belief that shall hurt us. But my father does, and my friends do. Therefore, no God exists who is even remotely like my father or my friends, or anyone at all who loves me. Therefore, Christianity is false.
The conclusion is inescapable. If Christianity were true, then the Gospel would have been preached to each and every one of us directly, and correctly, by God
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction.
This is a great debate - Of course Bart lays the smack down on Mr. Wright. You can view it in its entirety here:
Before responding, let me address two minor points that you make in passing, one about my argument and the other about me.
(1) On that ole emotion issue, you indicate that “if one is making an argument, then multiplying examples of the problem doesn’t actually add to the force of that argument.“ That’s a logician’s point and (I’m afraid) suggests different investments from the ones that I have in this “debate.” My view is that the numbers matter because people matter. They all matter and they are all that matter. If the Nazis had killed only one Jew, we would not be having this conversation (we probably should be, but we wouldn’t be). They killed six million. Each is an example, and multiple examples matter, logicians (please, one might add) be damned.
(2) You suspect that I left the faith because I had an intellectualizing understanding of it. I’m afraid that’s wrong. I was dead set against understanding Christian faith as some kind of assent to propositional statements – I preached (sometimes literally) against this view frequently, for years. My faith was a relationship with Christ, and through him with God. Several people have tried to psychoanalyze my journey; most of the time they get it wrong. I can see why they try though. If I left for good reasons, they too may be left facing the void!
Those points aside, I have two major responses to your second posting.
The most prominent answer in Scripture is given by the prophets: the reason people suffer is because they have sinned and God is punishing them for it. Is this a view that you, as a biblical theologian (or anyone else?) wants to support? Just take the book of Amos, who is characteristic, in this respect, of the entire prophetic corpus. Because Israel is God’s chosen people (3:2), “therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” And punish them he does. He brings starvation (4:6), drought (4:7-8), crop failure (4:9); he literally “killed your young men” (4:10) as he did the people of Sodom and Gomorah (4:11). It’s not that these are isolated events, for Amos or for the rest of the Bible. This, for much of the Bible, is how God deals with his people! “Does disaster (calamity/evil) befall the city if the Lord has not done it?” (3:6)
Then there is the poetry of Job, where the answer to suffering appears to be that there is no answer, that God is almighty and is not accountable to us peons, and if we dare to ask why, though innocent, we suffer, we are liable, like Job, to be squashed into the dirt by God’s all powerful presence, forced to “repent in dust and ashes” even for asking the question.
The kingdom never did come. You seem to think that it will. So has every generation of Christians from day one – many of them, like Matthew, Mark, and Luke (and Paul!), expecting it within their own lifetimes. Every one of them has been wrong. I don’t think this should be taken lightly. The view that the kingdom is already beginning to be manifest in the life and ministry of Jesus hinges on its actual appearance in the (imminent) days to come. If that actual appearance is jettisoned, everything is changed.
But leave aside the question of whether it is sensible to think the kingdom really, actually, is ever going to come. How does one see it manifest in Jesus? In fact, it is not simply in his “obedience” (and suffering), as you intimate. I think you are reading the Gospels through the lens of Paul, rather than reading the narratives of the Gospels themselves. For the Synoptics, for example, the Kingdom is manifest in Jesus’ life and work: in the kingdom there will be no disease, no demons, and no death. Jesus manifests this kingdom in the meantime: he heals the sick, he casts out demons, and he raises the dead. This was not a message about some vague power of God breaking in at some period thousands of years hence. It was God breaking in now (in anticipation of its imminent appearance in power).
And is he? This I think is where we differ in a major way. In my view there is nothing to suggest that the Kingdom has arrived, even provisionally, in the coming of Jesus, in the way the Gospels themselves think (that in his coming the sick are healed, the demons cast out, and the dead raised). There are no fewer sick, demon-possessed, or dying now than before the appearance of Jesus (and his obedience and death). There are no fewer people born with horrible birth defects. There are no fewer lepers, blind, and lame. The multitudes are not being fed. The storms are not being stilled (think Katrina, for example).
Quite the contrary, the world goes on as it ever did. The writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not expect this (nor did Paul). They saw the kingdom arriving with Jesus’ ministry, they saw his death and resurrection as the beginning of the end, and they expected the end to come in their lifetime – when God would overthrow the forces of evil and set up a kingdom in which there would be no more pain, misery, or suffering. Our actual history stands at odds with their expectation, our world of genocides, AIDs, malaria, unclean drinking water, leprosy, birth defects, hurricanes, Columbian mudslides that kill 30,000, Pakistan earthquakes that kill 50,000, Indian Ocean tsunamis that kill 300,000, and on and on and on.
I wish Jesus had brought the Kingdom. But the human race struggles along its not so merry way, with all its pain, misery, and suffering – biblically based hopefulness notwithstanding – world without end.
What I see as extremely valuable in your view is the emphasis on the need to imitate Jesus in a life of obedience. If Christians really would be obedient to what they see as the will of God – for example in the “two greatest commandments” – the world would be a much better place. But it would still not be the Kingdom.
I know this note sounds critical in places, but I have wanted to state my view forcefully. Let me conclude on a conciliatory note, and ask if you will agree with me on four of the leading claims of my book God’s Problem:
(1) There are in fact many and varied answers in the Bible to the question of why there is suffering, not one overarching answer common to all the Bible’s authors.
(2) Some of these answers stand at odds with one another.
(3) Some of these biblical views (that God starves, drowns, and slaughters people he disapproves
(4) Even if we cannot, in the end, know the reasons for suffering, we can at the least have appropriate responses to it. We ourselves can feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked; we can work to solve problems of poverty; we can give money to agencies finding cures for cancer and AIDS; we can volunteer more often locally; we can give more to international relief efforts. We can, in fact, fulfill the urgent demands implicit in Matthew’s account of the judgment between the sheep and the goats, for “as you have done this to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done it unto me.”
Friday, May 16, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Scientists have created what is believed to be the first genetically modified (GM) human embryo.
A team from Cornell University in New York produced the GM embryo to study how early cells and diseases develop. It was destroyed after five days.
The British regulator, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has warned that such controversial experiments cause “large ethical and public interest issues”.
News of the development comes days before MPs are to debate legislation that would allow scientists to use similar techniques in this country.
The effects of changing an embryo would be permanent. Genes added to embryos or reproductive cells, such as sperm, will affect all cells in the body and will be passed on to future generations.
The technology could potentially be used to correct genes which cause diseases such as cystic fibrosis, haemophilia and even cancer. In theory, any gene that has been identified could be added to embryos.
Ethicists warn that genetically modifying embryos could lead to the addition of genes for desirable traits such as height, intelligence and hair color.
The Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, which will have its second reading this week, will make it legal to create GM embryos in Britain.
The bill will allow GM embryos to be created only for research and will ban implantation in the womb. Ethicists, however, say that the legislation could be relaxed in the future.
The HFEA has said that it is preparing for scientists to apply for licences to create GM embryos. A paper, published by the authority, states: “The bill has taken away all inhibitions on genetically altering human embryos for research. The Science and Clinical Advances Group [of the HFEA] thought there were large ethical and public interest issues and that these should be referred for debate.”
The Cornell team, led by Nikica Zaninovic, used a virus to add a gene, a green fluorescent protein, to an embryo left over from in vitro fertilization.
The research was presented at a meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine last year but details have emerged only after the HFEA highlighted the work in a review of the technology.
Zaninovic pointed out that in order to be sure that the new gene had been inserted and the embryo had been genetically modified, scientists would ideally need to grow the embryo and carry out further tests.
The Cornell team did not have permission to allow the embryo to progress, however.
Scientists argue that the embryos could be used to study how diseases develop. They also say GM embryos could be more efficient in generating stem cells.
However, Dr David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, warned: “This is the first step on the road that will lead to the nightmare of designer babies and a new eugenics. The HFEA is right to say that the creation and legalization of GM embryos raises ‘large ethical and public interest issues’ but neglects to mention that these have not been debated at all.”
He added: “I have been speaking to MPs all week and no one knows that the government is legalising GM embryos. The public has had enough of scientists sneaking these things through and then presenting us with a fait accompli.”