Fate/zero Episode 18: At What Point Should Religion Be Applied to Science?

The most recent episode of Fate/zero presents a most interesting scenario.  On the island on which Kiritsugu grew up, the townspeople, led by a Catholic father, are suspicious of the boy’s father, who is a mage.  He is creating flowers which grow to a certain age and never wilt, and at first, we think that through his trials, he will perfect a way to help people.

The father takes aside the mage’s assistant (who happens to be Kiritsugu’s boyhood crush) and advises her to stay away, less she be possessed by demons.  The comparison seems clear – the advancement of humanity, in the form of magic (which in this case is analogous to science) is being halted by backward religion.  Superstitious morals are getting in the way of progress and, well, compassion.

Of course, the rest of the episodes goes a different route and validates the villagers’ concerns.  Also, science/magic = vampires and uncompromising search for the root.

But returning to the beginning of the episode, I was reminded of stem cell research and the worries of many religious folk concerning the destruction of embryos.

I wonder what you readers think about this divisive issue.

At what point does morality need to be taken in account in regards to science?   What role should religion play in the direction a country takes in regard to “morally problematic” scientific research and development?

17 thoughts on “Fate/zero Episode 18: At What Point Should Religion Be Applied to Science?

  1. More like it’s Monday during Finals week. Not a good time to write out a solid reply… especially on something so controvertial.

    But my short answer is, I think there are acceptable reasons to do stem cell research, and there are resources to do it. When people go in for in-vitro fertilization, they create an excess of embryos since they don’t know which ones or how many will implant. Excess ones are detroyed every year – going to waste. When those embryos are going to be destroyed because they aren’t being used, then they should be put to better use. And that use is potentially saving lives.

    As a former bio major, I’m well aware of the potential of stem cells, and after my death I’m donating my body to science because I’m certainly not going to need or want my body anymore. I’d rather have future surgeons practicing on me, or testing the reliability of combat boots to save soldier’s limbs, or whatever they see fit, than having my body rot in the ground.

    1. And that’s what I get for skimming the end- only caught the ‘stem cell research’ part and not the rest:

      “At what point does morality need to be taken in account in regards to science? What role should religion play in the direction a country takes in regard to “morally problematic” scientific research and development?”

      That’s a difficult question. Obviously experiments like the Nazi’s, performed on thinking, feeling humans are out of the question. However, all experiments have the potential to harm those who undergo them, and that’s why people volunteer for trial testing. Maybe the question asked should be “is this really going to help people, and how much”, when it comes to moral quandaries. Society honors those who sacrifice themselves to save others. That’s the crux of Christianity.

      Religion plays into morality, but there are so many reigions. There can’t be one used as a moral compass. And there are many well-to-do countries that aren’t very religious, which makes me wonder what their basis for things is. Sweden is doing well for itself, lower crime rates and longer-lived people than America. I can’t answer the religion part without a little more research into what makes the non-religious countries successful.

      1. Thanks for ALL the great answers. I lean toward one “side,” but I’m not informed enough about stem cell research, in particular, to form a good opinion.

        As for the questions I posed, I don’t think they’re easy to answer – I’m glad to get your feedback.

  2. I think a better question to pose is what is morality? But that’s a whole other can of worms. When you ask a question like that you start to try and condense the topic because it’s so big. Is it when the benefits outweigh the cost? That sounds good if you’re the one reaping the benefits, but it’s little consolation for the test subject. So how can you measure it objectively? Is that even possible?

    I was actually thinking about something along these lines when I watched Fate/Zero Ep. 18 and I’ve actually written a paper on Nazi morality during college. And after wracking my brain over an eight page paper I wrote four years ago, as much as many people would deride me for it, I don’t think you can call it a black and white issue of morality vs immorality. It’s almost as if while the deed is being done it’s a completely black, immoral act that should never be undertaken. But once the deed has been done and the life is lost forever, I think it would be far more immoral to discard the knowledge gained at the cost of that life. To this day, most people do not appreciate how much the Nazis contributed to modern medical science.

    It’s too complex an issue to get too deep into here, but I can say that my studies on the topic of morality gave given me a very gray view of the world.

    1. You’re right, this is a big question. And it’s very open ended – purposely so. I’m interesting in knowing what the readers think about a variety of issues related to this multi-layered, thorny subject. I also agree with you that the idea of “morality” is a “can of worms” – it’s a complex idea that needs to be preceded by “Christian” if I’m discussing the ideas specified by my faith. In the question I posed, I was not intending to do this – again, just be open.

      As for the Nazis…I’d be interested in reading your paper, if you still have it handy. I’m not sure if you know this, but I work with Holocaust and genocide issues professionally. I’m apt to say that, sorry, whatever medical advances were made (and they certainly word), by almost any measure of human decency, the costs were not worth the gain. All one has to do is look at the pictures and read documentation of what Josef Mengele and others did to Jews, Roma, and others at concentration camps, and especially children (infants!) to come to a conclusion that indeed, there is a line between progress for the good of all and that human cost at which it comes.

      1. Ah, unfortunately I don’t have the slightest clue as to where that paper is. Probably burned onto a disc back in the states. And yes, I remember you mentioning something like that in the past, but it may have slipped my mind, sorry. >.<

        I think the gist of what I wrote can be summed up like this. The paper was for a communication class and was very dry and analytical about the kinds of language the Nazis used to rationalize what they were doing. Morality played into the paper because part of the assignment was to pick a side and defend it based on the question, "is using the knowledge gained by the Nazis that has improved modern medical science moral?"

        I want to be clear that I feel what happened during the Holocaust was horrific. But I also believe that not taking advantage of the information those lost lives can provide for the living today is a sick rationalization made by overly sensitive people to make themselves feel superior about something horrible they had no part in.

        Yes, we should never forget what happened and do everything we can to prevent something like that from ever happening again. But those people are gone and they're not coming back. Its cold I know, but it's how things turned out and in a twisted way their legacy lives on in the lives of those today who benefit from the knowledge they unwillingly imparted.

        If I put myself in their shoes I know it's what I would want–to know that my death would mean life for others.

  3. I must be very French in that regard but I don’t consider religion should be taken into account when state direction is concerned.
    I don’t think the country should direct the direction scientific researches is conducted either, sure the country is a great help to labs, especially to sustain them financially, but ultimately researchers are the ones to decide what they’re researching (whether or not the country decide to sponsor those researches is another matter)
    Ultimately, I think it’s up to the researcher her/himself to decide whether s/he wants to take religion into account while working.
    A lot of scientists, especially those involved in researches about the big bang are religious by the way, strangely enough.

    I still think laws should be necessary, not for the sake of morality or religion but for the sake of protecting everyone involved in these researches, be it the people who’ll benefit from these researches or the researchers themselves or the test subjects (because they exist, they’re volunteers but it exists)

    1. You bring up a lot of great points. The U.S. has constitutionally had a separation of church and state, so religion here shouldn’t directly impact government limitations on research; but certainly, personal religious views might affect individuals who have such authority.

      You also bring up a great point about the morality of testing individuals (and others would also add animals). The history of psychology, for instance, has certainly taught us that strict guidelines need to implemented to protect these people. Another example is World War II, as brought up by Alexander above with the Nazis, as well as Americans testing black soldiers.

      Thanks for the comments!

  4. Well, magic in movies is never the way it is in real life. Fictional magic is portrayed as some kind of power people are either born with or capable of accessing through study and obtaining the right materials–like science. In real life, it always involves invoking evil spirits, which is why the Church forbids the practice of magic. We can all see why that’s wrong, though it is fun to imagine worlds where magic is not evil. So, one can easily see why a Catholic priest would be concerned, even though Fate/Stay Night’s magic is naturally of the fictional, morally ambivalent sort.

    As for experimentation on human embryonic stem cells, it’s obviously wrong. Human beings are being created for the purpose of scientific experimentation! And have we made any advances through the use of embryonic stem cells? No, all the medical advances which came through stem cells, have come through adult stem cells. So, even if experimentation on embryos was moral, why continue since adult stem cell research has been more fruitful?

    1. Yeah, like you, I’m against such research, though to be honest, I don’t know enough about stem cell research to really make any further comment. I’m pretty ignorant in this field. I really should read more about what’s going on.

      Thanks for the thoughts!

    2. I’ll be honest- most of what you’ve said is hihgly biased. You say that the practice of magic involves evil spirits, but that’s because your religion says it does, and you take it as such. Those who practice it would disagree with you entirely because their beliefs say differently. You can’t prove your side by anything but your religion (which is circular logic and therefore unprovable), and the same goes for them.

      The embryonic stem cell research does NOT create embryoes specifically for the purpse of experimentation. The lines that the US had were the leftovers from in-vitro clinics- who make an excess of embryos because they don’t always take the first time. Unfortunately, the extra that might not get used are left in storage, and – because in the end, we are just flesh and bone – they go bad like the meat in your freezer. Since they eventually go bad and must be destroyed regardless, they were taken and used for research. It was not their original purpose, but chance and circumstance happened.

  5. First off, like Marlin-sama said, what is morality? Every person has his or her own set of morals. I have no right to say one person’s morals are wrong. The Nazis (as mentioned many times in the comments) thought what they were doing was right. Or maybe moar specifically, Hitler. Most people find his behavior reprehensible. I do, but it is only “wrong” from our point of view. The contributions made by what we consider “monstrous” experiments brings up the question of “do the ends justify the means?” We humans tend to be short sighted. I’m all for the ends. If for example, we had the chance to cure cancer but it required the sacrifice of 100 people, would you do it? I would, however, I would use 100 criminals and other societal scum. Am I immoral for doing so? Perhaps, from one person’s point of view. Luckily (and in some–scratch that–many cases unfortunately) we live in societies that tell us what is “right” and “wrong,” which brings us to the next point.

    Countries and governments tell us what is acceptable. I find certain practices in Islamic culture and countries to be “wrong” but it doesn’t mean we (the U.S.) have any right to go in there and tell them what to do. However, Islam is a religion, and I personally believe that religion should play no part in determining policy. It’s tricky because in our country, there is a separation of church and state (although my uncle who is a pastor tells me otherwise), but as you put Charles, many politicians are of faith (Christianity mostly) which does influence their decisions. In order to circumvent this problem, I have always maintained that the ideas of stem cell research (in which I know a lot about since I studied advanced biotics and hail from a family of researchers and doctors) and abortions be determined by individuals, or I should say, the states. Let people make up their own damn mind in what they want, because as stated earlier, everyone has a different perspective on “right and wrong.”

    No offense to you at all Charles, but I have met wayyyyy too many Christians (I hail from the Bible Belt…) who preach tolerance, only to turn around and protest against stem cell research and abortions because “their” religion tells them it’s wrong. I’m sorry, but you don’t get to determine what is right or wrong.

    1. Judge, thanks for the comments. I’m looking for what you and others think without really giving my answer to the question. I’ll talk a little about it right now.

      Basically, I try (“try” is the operative word) to make my decisions by this idea: love God and love others, the two greatest commandments according to Jesus. The ideas of tolerance (<— this word has a lot of connotation that needs to be explored and defined), openness, etc. are, to me, options under this idea, which I'm sure you would say is up to each individual.

      Well, I agree. I'm obviously a Christian, but I don't think it's Christianity's place to be involved in policy making in the U.S. I don't think it's either biblical or fitting with the whole "love" thing I'm preaching. In the end, if I feel strongly about a topic relating to health or science, like abortion (which I do), I hope to influence others through prayer, reason, love, grace, and words, rather than through policy making or protest.

      So, yeah, I don't think we necessarily disagree here.

      The part in which we would disagree has to do with our definition of truth. I believe that Jesus Christ is the way, truth, and light. As such, I believe there is a "line." That "line" involves the value of life. And while I certainly believe in approaching others' ideas from a contextual standpoint involving their cultural, religious, social, and individual beliefs, I just don't believe that every viewpoint is valid. I just don't buy it. And I'm sorry, but there's something to humanity – something that makes us "human," which I think gives people the right to say in some situations, particularly those involving genocide, violence to children, and other reprehensible situations, "You're absolutely wrong."

      1. I definitely respect Christians and people of all religions. Everyone is free to believe what they want. My mother’s side of my family is very religious. A pastor, a grandmother who insists I marry a Christian, an aunt and uncle who homeschool their kids because they want to incorporate faith into studies, etc. So I’ve been exposed to a lot of that, I just don’t particularly believe, which is perfectly fine.

        I like the way you put how you react to topics about health or science. Influence. That is a good, strong word. Like I said, I have met too many who would rather choose the policy/protest route.

        As for the definition of truth, my uncle constantly talks about that (he has a “three pillars” approach as he calls it). He believes as you believe of course. However, we’re still human. While truth is obtained through Christ in your faith, my interpretation still maintains that we cannot comprehend that (truth) in life. We’re too imperfect. I believe you must approach every viewpoint with a blank slate. There are a million factors that cause a person to think the way they do, and some may seem so incomprehensible, but there is a reason, even those who claim they live life without reason (the Joker…movie reference). I don’t necessarily believe we have an attachment to other humans–our “humanity” as you put. I only care about those who affect me personally; that’s all that matters (as you put in my Fate/Zero Objection post, we can affect others close to us). Yes, it’s sad to see humans suffer (homeless here on the streets of NYC or starving children in Africa), but you know what’s really eye opening is that nearly everyone will say they’re saddened, only to go home at the end of the day and forget about it. That’s truly telling. We’re selfish beings, plain and simple.

        A really good friend of mine, a devout Christian, goes on countless mission trips each year. He’ll talk about his experiences, how sad of a situation some poor people around the world live in, but he even acknowledges that he’ll forget about it at the end of the day, or that it’s not as important as his family and loved ones. Is he wrong? No, he’s just human. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely not saying that genocide, children violence, or other things are right. But we’re so limited, so imperfect, that we can’t possibly point the finger and say with the utmost certainty, that you’re wrong. Thou shall not judge. It’s above our heads, and for Christians, these things can only be left up for God to decide. I may personally believe a person is wrong, but I cannot say, “You’re absolutely wrong.”

        Great conversation though. Kudos.

        1. Thanks for the thoughts and for sharing so much, Judge – about your own ideas and your background. I always enjoy the commentary on your site, and it’s no different with your words here. 🙂

Leave a Reply