This morning began very painfully for anyone who had the misfortune to catch Bishop Lee Rayfield of Swindon speak on the Today programme after the 7am news bulletin.
Today there will be a vote on ‘three-parent embryos’, namely MPs will be asked to vote on an amendment to the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act which would allow the DNA of a second mother to be used in order to correct an unborn child’s genetic faults. Or as this briefing from Right to Life states a procedure: “which would involve the destruction of embryonic human beings in order to engage in genetic manipulation that would produce children with three or four genetic parents, the first time in history where the human germline (the genetic inheritance of humanity) will be artificially altered without any way of tracking the long-term effects.”
Despite the fact that scientific experts from across the world have raised grave concerns about the UK ploughing ahead with this highly controversial legislation, the Today programme was determined to present this debate as a fight between reasonable progressive scientists with archaic church leaders in opposition.
To make matters worse, Bishop Rayfield seemed desperate to present the “reasonable” face of Christianity, falling over himself to find the smallest patch of common ground, rather than outlining the evidence-based reasons to oppose this move. Due to this fool-hardy approach, which translated as nothing short of pusillanimous, he was savagely devoured by his opponent, Professor Lisa Jardine, who was desperate to distance herself from the Church of England.
For those of you eager to learn how not to approach a broadcast debate, I would provide a link to one of the worse train-wrecks in radio history but it isn’t currently available. All there appears to be at present on the Radio 4 website is not one but two clips of a mother who is emotionally invested in this change in the law.
The Today programme should hang its head in shame this morning for simplifying a complex and crucial debate in such a way that shamelessly patronised the intelligence of its listeners while also suggesting that scientific evidence means that the reasonable majority will support this legislative move, adding a generous dollop of emotional blackmail for good measure.
Meanwhile, I hope the media team over at Church House will ensure that the next spokesperson they put forward is capable of forming and voicing an opinion.
Update: The full programme is now available here. You can tune in to the debate at 1 hour and 9 minutes in.