Saturday, May 12, 2007

Papal samba

Talented journalists [of the Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein caliber] work like successful detectives. They acquire piles of fragmentary data, of all kinds, and then they attempt to fit it all together like the elements of a jigsaw puzzle. And finally, if they're lucky, a Big Picture emerges from their synthesis.

Great scientists too, in the Richard Dawkins and Brian Greene category, work at times like journalists and detectives. I thought of that comparison last night when I was watching an excellent BBC special on the Adelaide-born fellow named Howard Walter Florey who played a major role in the invention of the pharmaceutical technology behind the production of penicillin, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (along with Alexander Fleming and Florey's Oxford colleague Ernst Chain) in 1945.

Unfortunately, devout catholics in general, and popes in particular, don't operate that way. They concentrate all their attention on a tiny number of not-very-convincing speculations, often of a fanciful nature (akin to what ordinary folk would call magic), and they elevate these sundry things to dogma.

Take sex, for example. What the bloody hell (to talk like an Aussie creator of tourism publicity) gives this silly old guy the right to drop in on Brazil and tell the local folk that they must respect fidelity between spouses and chastity "both within and outside marriage"? Benedict XVI surely knows shit all about sex, marriage, fidelity, chastity, contraception, abortion, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, transsexuals, HIV, etc... just as I know nothing about the concepts of the so-called "Immaculate Conception" of Mary, the alleged virgin birth of Jesus and the incredibly mysterious notion of the Holy Trinity. Benedict, my boy, it's time to pull your finger out and admit that you should stick to your personal specialties, and not start to talk about things you ignore.

Or maybe, on the other hand, the pope should get stuck into studies of all kinds about sex, both theoretical and experimental, so that he could fit all the fragments together and provide us with an expert description of the Big Fucking Picture, in the style of a great journalist, detective or scientific researcher. Who knows? Maybe the Vatican laboratories could invent a powerful pharmaceutical product like penicillin (to be known by a short name such as "penis-kill") which would cause unchaste pricks to wither up and drop off.

But I must refrain from venting my irritation. Let me remain in the domain of facts. In the same Google news that tells us about Benedict XVI in Brazil, there's a serious medical article about possible links between oral sex and throat cancer. [Click here to see how Time magazine handles this subject.] I reckon that the Pope should look into this deep question and tell us how he feels about it.

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