Traditionally, Christians believe that a virgin gave birth to the salvation of mankind from sin. Now connect the dots and there might actually be a scientific basis for it.
First, the initial context: December being the traditional month of the greatest story ever told (i.e. the nativity), there is a very recent survey result released in the UK which measures the prevalence of belief in the religious story of Jesus being born of a virgin, Mary.
It’s a survey released by theology research company, Theos:
In the poll carried out by ComRes on behalf of Theos, 34 per cent of people agreed that the statement “Jesus was born to a virgin called Mary” was historically accurate, while only 32 per cent said they believed it was fictional.
We won’t get into any of the long-standing debate about whether the story is historically factual or not, but let’s proceed with the scientific basis of a “virgin birth” which is parthenogenesis. The chart illustration below from Tech Banyan will illustrate clearly the differences between a traditional fertilization from sexual reproduction, and the asexual reproduction through parthenogenesis:
Although to be clear, the parthenogesis described here is not of the human variety. Thus far, the virgin births that have been evidenced in the news relate to the animal kind, and very recently amongst sharks–see Virgin Shark Mother, #4 in the top 10 Oddball News Stories this year.
So how does this relate to the human race? Well as it turns out, parthenogenesis can have applications in human stem cell research. Dr. Aldrich of the International Stem Cell Corporation describes a process that uses parthenogenesis to extract stem cells:
Fortunately, there is a silver lining. “Through a procedure known as parthenogenesis, an unfertilized human egg can be chemically induced to form a tiny cluster of cells from which a stem cell line can be created, thereby solving the ethical problem of using fertilized human embryos,” explains Mr. Kenneth C. Aldrich, CEO of International Stem Cell Corporation, the only company to generate functional pluripotent stem cells, (that is, stem cells that have the ability to turn into any type of cell or tissue), through parthenogenesis.
This helps skid the ethical arguments that religious parties have had against stem cell research. As we all very well know, recently the Catholic Church condemned stem cell research as a mortal sin:
“(Within bioethics) there are areas where we absolutely must denounce some violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments and genetic manipulation whose outcome is difficult to predict and control,” he told the Vatican’s official newspaper on Sunday in an interview headlined “New Forms of Social Sin.”
The Roman Catholic Church has previously spoken out against stem cell research that requires the destruction of human embryos, believing that life begins at conception.
And the parthenogenesis process described by Aldrich may be the ethical solution to this.
Who says science and religion can’t get along?