Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thou-shalt-not genetically experiment

It appears that genetic biologists are now sinners. The Vatican has updated its list of mortal sins - and it has added 7 more for the age of globalisation:
After 1,500 years the Vatican has brought the seven deadly sins up to date by adding seven new ones for the age of globalisation. The list, published yesterday in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, came as the Pope deplored the “decreasing sense of sin” in today’s “securalised world” and the falling numbers of Roman Catholics going to confession.

The Catholic Church divides sins into venial, or less serious, sins and mortal sins, which threaten the soul with eternal damnation unless absolved before death through confession and penitence.
To see if you are on the list, here are the new mortal sins:
  • Environmental pollution
  • Genetic manipulation
  • Accumulating excessive wealth
  • Inflicting poverty
  • Drug trafficking and consumption
  • Morally debatable experiments
  • Violation of fundamental rights of human nature
Alright, alright, I'll buy a hybrid next time. But being in the academia, I'm in no danger whatsoever of accumulating excessive wealth. Bill Gates, on the other hand, may be in trouble. But it appears that the boundary between science & religion is being squashed here and the magestaria are now indeed overlapping. So will this really deter any biologist or any scientists? I think the missing component is a list of associated punishments. Here is a list published in the Times article for the original seven mortal sins (I actually don't know the accuracy of the punishment list):
The original offences and their punishments
Pride Broken on the wheel
Envy Put in freezing water
Gluttony Forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes
Lust Smothered in fire and brimstone
Anger Dismembered alive
Greed Put in cauldrons of boiling oil
SlothThrown in snake pits
(what, no waterboarding??)
Hmm...but the new deadly sins only threaten the soul and eternal damnation. Well, I guess, most biologists will be fine with this deal.

This is another aggressive step of the current Pope dealing with a scientific issue. While its true that this may not effect scientists, it does give some indication of the Papal mood. Lets just hope that the Pope doesn't come out with an endorsement of Intelligent Design any time soon.

Read the full story here and here (BBC).

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, Hieronymus Bosch 1504 (Prado Museum, Madrid).