Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 22, 2000
Students wary of biotechnology
Science is going too far, they say
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Thirty-one students experienced life, from birth to death, in three days.
The students, from throughout Alberta, gathered at Newman Theological College, May 8 to 11, for a lesson on the technological advancements capable of making and taking life.
The program was the first youth institute in the Littlemore Program, designed by former religion teacher Jack Kelly. The Littlemore Program offers workshops for students to foster their faith and spirituality. It also offers in-services, talks and resources for religion teachers.
Facilitated by Sister Mary Lou Cranston, the youth institute focused on bioethical issues related to reproductive technology, cloning and organ transplants. It reflected how science has affected human life from conception to geriatric care.
Scientists not only have the ability to create babies in test tubes and through genetic modifications, but also to prolong life for decades, even if it means that life is comatose.
Cranston, director of St. Joseph's Ethics Centre, said the high school students in attendance were "ripe to look at these issues."
"It's important for them to know this because they are our next generation," Cranston said. "We have to make them realize that these things will affect them."
The program included talks and discussion from university professors, medical doctors and an organ transplant recipient. The students also visited Youville Nursing Home in St. Albert and spent the morning listening to issues important to its residents. Topics ranged from smoking on site to age limits for driver's licenses.
However, it was human cloning that initiated furious discussion among the students. The topic was accompanied by the movie Gattaca, a story of how perfect human beings are valued in society, rewarded with the best jobs and lifestyle, while imperfect ones were cast aside.
"That was suppose to be a science fiction movie," said Celia Perrins, a Grade 10 student from O'Grady High School in Prince George, B.C. "But it may not be fiction anymore and that freaks me out."
Perrins said the series of talks and discussion had an immediate affect on her. After the workshop on genetically modified foods, Perrins was hesitant when she sat down for supper.
"You start looking at your food and wondering what's in it," she said. "It's kind of scary if you don't know what you're putting in your body. You wonder if it's even real food."
Amy Peterson sees some of the technology available today as off limits.
"You're playing God," said Peterson, a Grade 10 student from High Prairie, talking about the production of babies in laboratories. "That's not your role in life. You're here to assist (God), not be him.
"Millions of human babies die because of abortion or because no one takes care of them. Why are we making more?"
The students fervently shook their heads at cloning, particularly the prospect that it would create human beings for medical purposes.
"We're making and raising (babies) to kill them," Peterson said. "They make humans for organ transplants and things like that - that devalues life."
Sheena Sikora, a Grade 10 student from Fort Saskatchewan added, "One question I can't get out of my mind is 'What kind of rights will the clones have?' I think science is getting out of control. It's totally changing society."
The change, says Sikora, is not overwhelmingly positive.
The term technological advancement is somewhat of an oxymoron, admits Lindsey Di Marcello, a Grade 12 student from Archbishop Jordan High School in Sherwood Park.
"(Science) is good because some of the things we couldn't do, we can do now . . . like things that saves people's lives," Di Marcello said. "It's bad because now we have things like genetic engineering. I see that as another stem of eugenics. It's almost like Hitler all over again. We're going to want only perfect human beings."
She added that such technology would strip society of its competitive nature "because everyone will be the same. Individualism is very important but there will be none of that."
Students like Lorriann Bebeau think cloning is unnatural and is not part of God's plan.
"If God wanted you to be cloned, he would have done it himself," said Bebeau, a Grade 10 student from High Prairie.
Elise Westgeest, a Grade 11 student from Spruce Grove added, "We're going a bit too far with science. They're going to make everything unnatural. Everything is going to be man made."
The youth institute is expected to continue next year with a focus on social justice, said Kelly.