22 April 2009

Hear the joke about the Vatican and the Science Ethics Prize?

A Eureka needs to be born again

The very cool Eureka Prizes are Australia's "Oscars of Science". Presented by the Australian Museum, the Eurekas celebrate outstanding work in many fields.

The Eureka Prize for Ethics Research is sponsored by the Vatican Australian Catholic University.
"Because the world of higher education constitutes for the universal church 'a privileged field for her work of evangelization and her presence in the cultural sphere,' the university's health is a matter of great concern to every pope.

"Of primary concern to the Vatican in all its interventions and initiatives in the sphere of education is the preservation and fostering of an institution's specifically Catholic identity."
- Michael J. Miller, Catholic Universities and their Catholic Identity, 2005

(Archbishop Miller is Secretary to the Congregation on Catholic Education at the Vatican. You might enjoy some of his thoughts on the Internet Padre's "Catholic Sexual Ethics" page. In 2007 the Australian Catholic University awarded him their highest honour.)
With so many problems on so many fronts, and capabilities in life sciences never before achievable, the $10,000 Eureka Ethics Research Prize should be both controversial and exciting, something that also enhances Australia's image around the globe as much as our overabundance of brilliant (and sometimes very brave) scientists. One would think the Ethics Prize must be the hardest to decide, given the competition of ethical issues confronting scientists. The 2008 winner was a corker, avoiding the obvious problems and going for the underlying cause of our world financial crisis: The scourge of selflessness and asceticism amongst the wealthy.

The 2008 winner of the Ethics Prize is Garrett Cullity, a "Philosopher of Religion".
"Cullity has won the ACU Eureka Prize for Ethics for a book in which he argues that the altruistic model of restricting one's life to aid another is flawed and that it is not morally wrong to live a life of rich personal fulfillment."
- "Eureka Prize wins for the good life", CN Cath News

If the current sponsors of the prize continue, perhaps we can look forward to these issues as future winners:
  • Hope vs. incarceration for perpetrators of extreme random violence
  • Improving the Lancet's scientific awareness
  • Publishing the miracle proofs from beatifications. Nature, the Lancet, or PLoS
  • Does indulgence abuse have a reverse effect in purgatory-time reduction?
It takes some saviours
"Australia waged the world's most effective war on AIDS by ignoring the Catholic Church."
— David Marr, "Pell rides papal bandwagon of death", Sydney Morning Herald, April 11, 2009

"If the Pope is right about condoms' effectiveness, surgeons will have to abandon latex gloves to reduce the likelihood of transmitting bugs. If latex won't work on a lone phallus, what chance does it have against 10 digits with nails on the tips?"
— Peter Robinson, letter, Sydney Morning Herald, April 20, 2009

"Church's condom stand based on religion not science"
— Professor Andrew Gulich, HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program, University of New South Wales, "First Word", Sydney Morning Herald, April 21, 2009

Australia's science fiction and fantasy community: Arise!
The Sydney Morning Herald community is doing its part, with its letters and stories. But the Holey See is taking up our turf, and we should claim it back. We're the fictionistas. We know the difference between science and fiction, reality and fantasy, and we play with it every day, stretching the boundaries of possibilities, but never breaking them (except for the sinful fun of it.) Many of us are scientists! And some of us wear rubber gloves, even the ones with only one finger.

If we can't help to save the Ethics Prize, we should sponsor a Rubber Glove for Ethics. If, however the Ethics Prize were to be reborn, the God industry should be excommunicated from any part of it, and the judges should include people such as Gulich, Robinson and Marr, a mixture of science professionals and people from the 'community' at large. Then this prize could mean something and not be such a joke.
One Eureka that's a joy foreveryone
The Science Photography Prize, sponsored by New Scientist. The winners and runners-up are always outstanding—beautiful, surprising and in the spirit of curiosity that is the basis of all science.
The Australian Museum runs a travelling exhibit, The Top 25 Science Snap-shots ('snap-shot' is a joke. These are masterpieces, many of which took considerable skill and time to set up.)
The 2008 winner is, literally, a Blast Wave, by Phred Petersen, RMIT University.


Lynda Kelly said...

Hi Anna, thanks for your post! We're always after new prize sponsors - don't know about the Rubber Glove for Ethics prize tho :)

Feel free to join us on Facebook or follow our tweets (eurekaprizes).

Anonymous said...

Anna: I just came here on the link from Shepard's blog. I didn't know you were back to blogging. Glad to see it. Hope you've been well.

Jeff Ford

anna tambour said...

Thanks, Jeff. Good to see you've not only never stopped, but are constantly adding to your great unpredictability.

anna tambour said...

I'm so sorry. Your comment should have appeared the moment you posted it. I only now found it. Instead, Blogger arbitrarily held it up and didn't even send me a message to say there was a comment. Thank you for responding. I'm a big fan of the rest of the Eurekas, and what this Prize could be. Now, if only sponsors grew on trees...

anna tambour said...

POSTSCRIPT: See this post by Kate Orman and the comments.

And for yesterday's joke, see the NY Times: Pope Deplores 'Ideological Manipulation'