Spirituality for Today – June 2009 – Volume 13, Issue 11

The Trash People

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A photo of a trash can with two hands peeking through the top

A long line of grey cattle cars were being pulled by a powerful locomotive through the iron-gated entrance of the death camp known as Auschwitz. The mighty train halted in the courtyard with a loud screech – a preface of the screams to come. In a grand spectacle of dread, hundreds of frightened souls emptied from the cars and gathered in a mass. A man stood before them. He was impeccable in appearance and was despicable in all other aspects of his being. Dr. Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death," surveyed his prey. With an arrogant wave of his hand, he separated into two groups those who would live and those who would die. The "fortunate" ones, especially twins, would become the subjects of his horrifying and often fatal medical experiments. From whatever wretched pit within which his dark soul resides, he must be smiling now. Once again medical researchers will separate those who will live from those who will die, experiments will be performed, and government and science will congratulate themselves.

Embryonic stem cell research allegedly provides a pathway to curing numerous human ailments and regenerating lost tissue and organs – but at what cost? Are we sacrificing some lives for the benefit of other lives? Does human life in certain stages have less value or no value at all? President Obama wants to put science in its proper place, but what about proper science? Should science have a conscience and be accountable for its actions? What is the role of morality in scientific endeavors and, for that matter, in all human activity? These questions and many more need to be addressed.

Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding. The source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

– Albert Einstein

Religion and science must form a strong bond in order to weigh the impact of what can be done to what ought to be done. Stem cells are drawn from adults, umbilical cords, or from embryos. Adult cells are more difficult to obtain and the process is time consuming, but these cells are the superior source due to exact DNA and no problems of rejection by the body. The Church is opposed to stem cells derived from the embryonic source only. It has been stated that at least one of the physicians who initiated embryonic stem cell research agrees that embryonic stem cells are not the best source of stem cells for the research being pursued. There is plenty of room for very ethical and completely moral types of research in the area of stem cells. Of course, one could construe that this solution likely would be opposed by the Pro-Choice lobby. According any worth or meaning to the embryo as a human life would be anathema. Regrettably, in the arena of stem cell research, practicable and acceptable options are available, but will be disfavored.

Religion, government, and science can and must establish an alliance in the ever increasing potential reflected in human inventiveness. If this does not occur, the future holds very terrifying prospects for humanity. Hope dwells in the human condition always. There may be a time when the love of the Creator truly takes root in his creation and faith will be authentically and universally lived. Then, there will be no gradations of value among human beings, no tyranny of the powerful, and no trash people.