Multi-faith perspectives on embryo sanctity

Progress Educational Trust

I’ve just been sent an invitation to attend a conference that will debate the question “Is the embryo sacrosanct?” from a number of diverse religious faith perspectives.

The event, to be staged in London on 19 November, is being organised by the Progress Educational Trust: a charitable organisation that focuses on stimulating public debate on the ethics of assisted reproduction, embryo research and human genetics.

Even this cynical atheist can see the value of such a discussion. For one thing it will highlight the multiplicity of often contradictory views held among religious believers on the question of embryo ‘sanctity’. Fundamentalist religious cults such as the Roman Catholic Church tend to portray such moral and ethical issues as simple and absolute, whereas in the real world deciding on the right course of action requires serious thought and debate.

Speakers planned for the conference include a rabbinic judge, a liberal catholic theologian, two bioethicists, an Anglican bishop and an Islamic jurist. The debate promises to be interesting. However, I’m in no position to attend unless paid by a media organisation to report on it.

Maybe I shall revisit this after the conference has taken place.


I was wondering about the absence of a clearly identifiable representative of the Roman Catholic Church among the conference speakers. But I’ve just learned that Professor David Jones, who is one of the two academics billed to speak, holds the ‘imprimatur’ of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales on questions of bioethics.