Is Science Manipulating Man?

Warnings Raised on Biotechnology

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ROME, MARCH 10, 2003 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Is science being tempted by the illusion of omnipotence that leads to the manipulation of man?

This question was addressed by a writer, a scientist, a politician and a cardinal at a meeting held Friday at the German Goethe Institute in Rome, with the theme «Humanity in Face of the Promises of Biotechnology.»

German writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger responded by accusing scientists of wanting to take the place of failed ideologies, such as Marxism, or debatable ones, such as globalized capitalism.

In promising men and women a longer life, science seems to be trying to substitute for religion itself, the writer added.

Geneticist Edoardo Boncinelli, director of the International School of Advanced Studies of Trieste, Italy, commented: «Up until now we have done good and useful things. The critical moment will come in 10 or 20 years, when it will be possible to clone and then program the human being, giving him special characteristics.»

«Don’t be deceived, that moment will come,» he warned. «Then it will have to be decided if it is or is not licit to arrive at that point.»

Cardinal Karl Lehmann, bishop of Mainz and president of the German episcopal conference, asked: «What price must we pay for progress that is not always at the service of man?»

This is why, according to Giuliano Amato, vice president of the European Convention that is writing the continent’s future Constitution, «the scientist must not be allowed to be the only one who decides.»

Enzensberger said that scientists have also challenged the political power: «In Germany they say: If you don’t let us go ahead with this research, we will go to Asia and you will lose jobs.»

For his part, Cardinal Lehmann talked about the pressing problem of the use of human embryos.

«From conception the embryo has the characteristics of a human being, participates in the control of its own development, and does so together with the mother’s organism,» the cardinal said. «Therefore, it must be protected now, not tomorrow.»

He stressed that «to kill in the name of progress is not allowed,» especially if one remembers that stem cells can also be taken from the umbilical cord, avoiding the elimination of a human life at its origin.

Amato, the European Convention vice president and a proponent of Italian socialism, posed the following question as an ethical guide: «What will happen to others as a consequence of what I am doing?»

No scientist, Amato added, can cause effects in others that are unknown to him. It is not licit to program the destiny of man, who is born free, he said.

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