There was a recent article in the New Scientist which has been getting much hyped in news coverage. The article contends that the "rhythm method" is responsible for killing more embryos than contraceptive sex. I figured somebody in St. Blogs would confront the silliness of what goes for science and Catholic journalist Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz does it amiably in a letter he has written to the editor of the same magazine.
The story on the "rhythm method" was farcical from the start. If you have a false premise, then the rest of your argument fails. In this case, no one is using the rhythm method anymore. This has long been replaced by any number of methods far more scientific in approach than rhythm ever was. Collectively, they are called Natural Family Planning. And, yes, from personal experience I can testify to its effectiveness — at both postponing and achieving pregnancy.
Beyond this, though, Bovens’ position is absurd. The issue isn’t the creation of embryos that then die naturally. That happens regularly and should cause no one any moral concern. The issue is whether or not the deaths of these embryos are deliberate. If they die a natural death, so be it. Contrary to Bovens’ claims, the Catholic Church has never taught that the preservation of the embryo is the summum bonum.
However, if they’re deliberately killed or killed because of the deliberate presence of a chemical known to make the womb hostile to new life, that’s a completely different story. It is here that the moral agent has culpability.
Even if NFP does cause more embryos to die (which I think is highly doubtful), the couple are not liable for that, and Bovens should know that and no amount of moralizing on his part can change that fact.
It is at best reprehensible for Bovens to try to place guilt on couples who practice NFP because of this supposed finding. As much as I try, though, I cannot believe Bovens was really trying to help anyone along. It is clear from this one quote, "If you’re concerned about embryonic death, you’ve got to be consistent here and give up the rhythm method," that Bovens is trying to get in a jab at the Catholic Church. He fails miserably, leaving behind a stench of hypocritical moral superiority that reeks throughout the story — and it is revolting.
Great points again proving that many scientists are lousy moral theologians. To often the gotcha approach of we caught you in hypocrisy prevails over a serious moral questioning of a subject. Though at least they are admitting that embryo’s can be killed. I was surprised to even find this article linked over at digg.com. I guess when you are looking for stories on the latest geek news, you also want pot shots at the Catholic Church.
Thomas of American Papist also discusses the obvious errors in the article.
This sounds like junk science. I’d like to see some actual data from this guy rather than his bias-driven speculation…
I’m not really sure how this is a pot-shot at the Church? Philosophers (which purportedly Bovens is) are in the business of examining ethical issues. I think it is reasonable to question whether it is equally culpable to expose embryos through a lack of receptivity (if that is in fact what’s happening!) as it is to use a chemical inhibitor.
It does not seem responsible to even refuse to address that question.