I had little hope for a victory on my amendment banning animal-human hybrids – a provision of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill now making its way through Parliament. And of course it was crushed when it came to the vote. The Prime Minister had indicated his support for such research. Some celebrity scientists like Lord Winston are – if lukewarmly – behind it. And anyone who has loved ones suffering from a number of serious diseases might be forgiven for clutching at the hope that a cure may one day come from this avenue. I cannot blame them for hoping.
Yet there is a sad polarisation in the way this debate is sometimes presented, as if it is science versus religion. As I pointed out, the scientists are by no means unanimous.
The Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson had even told the Government that ‘there was no clear scientific argument as to why you would want to do it’ (albeit he was referring to true hybrids, not the cytoplasmic hybrids, or cybrids most sought by scientists). And Professor Yamanaka, a leading scientist in this field, changed his mind about the ethics of embryonic research in favour of using adult stem cells. He, a scientist, changed his mind because of what he saw through his microscope. As he put it: ‘I suddenly realised there was such a small difference between it and my daughters.’
Like religion, science is concerned with the truth. Professor Yanamaka’s microscope showed him the truth about the humanity of the embryo. Unlike some scientists, he was humble enough to fully accept it.
Below is a link to the Hansard of my speech.