Science and Faith: Episode 8- Embryonic cells in research and medicine – Is the Church against progress?
Written by Radio Maria England on 02/04/2021
Radio Maria England Science and Faith
Episode 8: Embryonic cells in research and medicine – Is the Church against progress?
Science and Faith will be broadcast Sunday at 5pm, Wednesday at 2am, Thursday at 11am and Friday at 9pm.
In episode eight of our Science and Faith series, we invited two guests, Prof. Paul Fairchild – a stem cell scientist and Professor of Immunology in Oxford, and Michael Wee – a Catholic bioethicist, to talk about the various types of stem cell research, how these differ from foetal tissue cell lines and their links to vaccine development.
Prof. Fairchild explained the different ways of sourcing stem cells and what diseases the scientific community hopes to treat using them. We also talked with Michael about which of these sourcing methods would be morally preferable. In addition, we engaged in an interesting conversation about why it is important to read beyond sensationalist headlines, especially when a controversial scientific topic is involved. In fact, Richard Dawkins and Benedict XVI were the protagonists of this last segment.
Then, we cross-examined Michael over the concerns Catholics have with regards to the use of drugs and vaccines developed using foetal cell lines, in particular we discussed ‘remote cooperation with evil’. Finally, Michael also commented on the Church’s stance on COVID-19 vaccines.
Prof. Fairchild and Michael Wee found common ground but agreed to disagree about some of the moral aspects of the use of embryonic stem cells and foetal cell lines in research and medicine.
Does the Church restrict or encourage stem cell research?
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Prof. Paul Fairchild: Paul Fairchild began his research career in Oxford, where he studied for a DPhil in the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, focussing on the challenges of transplant rejection. After spending five years investigating the cellular and molecular basis of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis in the Department of Pathology in Cambridge, he returned to Oxford, where he is now based at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology and serves as a Fellow of Trinity College. In 2008, he founded the Oxford Stem Cell Institute, for which he served as Co-Director until the end of 2015, a role which exposed him to the many ethical questions that new technologies inevitably raise. It was in this capacity that he was invited to discuss the ethics of stem cell biology to world leaders at several meetings of the World Economic Forum. His current research draws on his background in immunology and interest in stem cells to develop new approaches to the treatment of a broad range of diseases with an immunological basis: indeed, his recent work has led to several patents and the recent establishment of a biotechnology company focussing on cancer immunotherapy. He has served on the Scientific Advisory Boards of various companies and organisations, including the government’s Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, and has provided evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee for Science and Technology. Paul is a committed Christian and has been involved in church leadership in various evangelical churches in both Oxford and Cambridge.
Michael Wee: Michael Wee is the Education and Research Officer at the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, a Catholic research institute based in Oxford. He is also a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Holy See’s advisory body on bioethics. He has published on medical ethics and moral philosophy in scholarly and popular journals. His other research interests include Aquinas, Wittgenstein, the philosophy of language and the philosophy of psychology.
The Anscombe Bioethics Centre: http://www.bioethics.org.uk
Oxford Stem Cell Research Centre https://www.stemcells.ox.ac.uk
Vatican Observatory Foundation https://www.vofoundation.org/faith-and-science/about/
Christians in Science https://www.cis.org.uk/resources/
Faraday Institute for Science and Religion https://www.faraday.cam.ac.uk
Interactive Science and Faith workshops https://gatbb.co.uk