Religion and Science are Not Contradictory

Fr. Rob Allore, priest and scientist, came to the University of Toronto Mississauga on March 8th as part of the Theology on Tap on Tour series organized by Fontebonne Ministries’ Faith Connections program.

Fr. Rob spoke about two topics that he felt were particularly important and interesting: the creation of life and the cloning of humans. Fr. Rob, a Jesuit priest, works as a research scientist in molecular biology at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital where he conducts research on the genetic regulation of the nervous system.

Fr. Rob began his talk by quickly explaining the research that has gone into trying to create life. He mentioned that so far scientists have not managed to build a living organism, but that they have been able to construct the building blocks of a single-celled organism and then effectively “transfer” life from a living organism to the chemical matter that they created, thus bringing it to life. This research is the rudimentary beginnings of a “Frankenstein’s monster,” although any undertaking that complex is simply wishful thinking at this time.

Fr. Rob then moved on to talk about the cloning of humans. He went into the brief history of animal cloning, recanting the experiment of Dolly the sheep. This experiment involved taking an unfertilized egg from asheep, removing the nucleus and replacing it with a mammary cell nucleus from a second sheep. The cell underwent electric shocks to stimulate it to divide. The resulting blastocyst was then implanted into the uterus of a third sheep, where it grew into Dolly. Fr. Rob mentioned that this technology has created many mutant animals, which leads to the concern that if this technology is used on humans, it will undoubtedly create mutant humans, a worrisome concept.

In the discussion that followed Fr. Rob’s talk, the most desired question that we wanted answered was “how do you merge being a Catholic priest with being a molecular biologist?” Fr. Rob replied that it was easier than we thought. Most of the people he works with in the lab hold some sort ofreligious view, and he gets asked questions about different religious concepts and doctrines all the time.

Fr. Rob emphasized that religion and science are not contradictory and that they can and should work together.

Written by: Michelle Duklas, UTM student