Pope warns on new eugenics based on beauty

Sat Feb 21, 2009 12:08pm EST
 
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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Saturday there were worrying signs of a new type of eugenics based on perfection and physical beauty.

"Certainly, the eugenistic and racial ideologies that in the past humiliated man and provoked immense suffering are not being proposed again, but a new mentality is creeping in that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity," the pope said in a speech to the Pontifical Academy for Life.

"So it tends to privilege the capacity to operate, efficiency, perfection and physical beauty at the expense of other types of existence considered unworthy."

Eugenics is a belief in the possibility of improving the human race by weeding out those with what are considered undesirable traits and encouraging procreation by those with desirable traits.

The pope also spoke out against reducing humans to an object of "experimental manipulation" and allowing biotechnology to "surrender to the will of the strongest."

Pope Benedict has condemned genetic engineering and other scientific practices that allow people to select so-called "designer babies" by screening them for defects.

The Vatican considers pre-implantation diagnosis of embryos to avoid genetic defects or select for qualities like gender morally unacceptable. It is also against genetic enhancement for purposes other than medical treatment.

(Writing by Deepa Babington; editing by Robert Woodward)

 
<p>Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to attend a ceremony to mark the World Day of the Sick in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, February 11, 2009. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico</p>