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G . The Principle of The Supremacy of Science

Facts proven by legitimate controlled scientific investigation must take precedence over any religious or moral teachings to the contrary. Science may be guided in its investigations to prevent conducting investigations by immoral means,25 but it may not be prohibited from investigating any subject matter on the grounds that the subject matter is of a religious or moral nature. If the scientific investigation proves that the religious or moral concept is wrong, then it is the religious or moral concept which must be revised, not the scientific results. On the other hand, while the scope of scientific inquiry may never be limited by religious or moral concerns, the methods of scientific inquiry are a proper subject of such concerns. It is clearly immoral to treat children as if they were laboratory animals. It is clearly immoral to conduct any kind of scientific experiment on any individual who has not given a free and fully informed consent to the experimentation, except in those cases where the individual is either physically or legally incapable of giving a valid consent, in which case the necessary free and fully informed consent must be obtained from the next of kin or court appointed guardian (if any) of the individual upon whom experimentation is proposed to be conducted. Finally, so far as the Agnostic Church is concerned, male sperm, female eggs, and first trimester fetal tissue26 are subject to any disposition or use which is acceptable to the donor (or the legal guardian of the donor) provided that a free and fully informed consent is obtained.

25 Scientific experiments of many sorts are seen as immoral. However, that is a situational morality which has developed without a true religious base. For example, the animal rights advocates stress cruelty to pets when soliciting funds, but actually advocate a total bar on the use of laboratory animals. The proper balance is struck by considering the Utility of the experiment, with the harm to the laboratory animal(s) weighed against the good to various individuals, and to society as a whole, of the experimental results.

26 As this is being written, a proposal has just been published to allow experimentation on human embryos up to a limit of fourteen days (two weeks). This seems overly restrictive and limiting to scientific investigation because the selected cut-off date is just prior to the beginning of nerve system development (including a rudimentary brain). Some of the most promising treatments for some brain diseases involve the use of aborted fetuses. If such tissue is needed, it certainly seems preferable to grow it in the laboratory rather than relying upon abortions as the source of such tissue. Considering the present state of scientific knowledge about the survivability of premature infants (basically no chance prior to 24 weeks) and the position of the Agnostic Church on the abortion issue (freedom to choose first trimester abortions), it seems incongruous not to take a position which would allow controlled scientific experimentation up to a limit of 13 weeks (the first trimester).

Copyright 1994-1999 by the Agnostic Church

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