Matters of Life and Death

Matters of Life and Death

In each episode of Matters of Life and Death, brought to you by Premier Unbelievable?, John Wyatt and his son Tim discuss issues in healthcare, ethics, technology, science, faith and more. John is a doctor, professor of ethics, and writer and speaker on many of these topics, while Tim is a religion and social affairs journalist. We talk about how Christians can better engage with a particular question of life, death or something else in between.

Episodes

May 15, 2024 42 mins
Science fiction has long been fascinated by the idea of humans becoming friends with computers. And the dream of an always-on digital companion you can talk to day or night is closer than ever before, thanks to advances in AI software in recent years. But research into one of the leading AI companion companies and its users has flagged concerns among those who are spending hours a day chatting to their personal AI friends. Is devel...
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What would contact with intelligent aliens mean for humanity? Will doctors ever be able to cure depression with a drug? Can we bestow personhood on animals? Nick Spencer, senior fellow at the religion and society think tank Theos, is the author of the recent book Playing God: Science, religion and the future of humanity. The book explores eight controversial questions thrown up by advances in science, including AI, aliens, gene ed...
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A new law has been proposed in the Scottish Parliament which would allow terminally ill people to request doctors assist them in committing suicide. This is the latest push in a growing campaign across the UK and more widely in the Western world to legislate for assisted dying and euthanasia. In this episode we look through the bill to discuss its myriad flaws and how it would very likely send Scotland careering down the infamous s...
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Society has been on a long and slow journey in recent decades into a richer and more sympathetic understanding of how abuse and coercion work within relationships. We are much better at both identifying and prosecuting this kind of abuse, and at being more attuned to the needs of victims and understanding why they find it difficult to just walk away. But domestic violence and controlling behaviour are also prevalent, sadly, within ...
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Our first topic in this Q&A episode is a recent study which found that in 2023, the first full calendar year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and the constitutional right to an abortion, total abortions actually increased. Despite 21 states enacting full or partial abortion bans, more women not fewer are ending their pregnancies. How can this have happened, and what might it tell the pro-life movement about its tactics...
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the faster growing mental health diagnoses of our age. More and more people, including those well into adulthood, are seeking out and being diagnosed with ADHD. And the typical treatment plan involves taking powerful amphetamine-based stimulant medication, effectively turbocharging parts of the brain’s cognitive capacity. In this episode, we’re joined by Christian psychiatri...
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We’re both away for our Easter breaks, so this week we’re bringing you a classic episode from the MOLAD archive, when we were joined by the former leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron to discuss social media and politics. Research suggests UK members of parliament like Tim get sent thousands of offensive tweets every single day. Why have social networks become such toxic, hateful places? Is this a technology problem to be sol...
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A new wave of anti-obesity drugs led by Wegovy (also known as Ozempic) are causing huge ripples in the medical world and popular culture. Astonishingly successful at helping people lose weight, these drugs both offer a tantalising solution to the obesity epidemic and its associated public health crisis, and have also made the pharma companies which own them staggeringly rich as demand rockets ever upwards. But ‘curing’ obesity with...
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As is probably obvious from previous episodes, John is extremely interested in generative AI and thinks it will be the next transformative technology to entirely up-end how society works. Tim, however, is much more sceptical and thinks a lot of the rhetoric around AI is overblown. So, prompted by Tim sharing an AI-sceptical blog, in this episode we talk through the anatomy of a tech hype bubble, looking at previous cases such as th...
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Alabama’s Supreme Court has ruled that embryos in deep freeze, stored as part of IVF treatment, can be considered as legally children. This unexpected judgement has prompted many clinics to shut their doors, fearing lawsuits, as the storage and eventual destruction of surplus embryos is standard practice in IVF. In this episode we reflect on how anti-abortion language written into Alabama law has unintentionally led to this current...
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This week we’re bringing you a classic episode from the MOLAD vault. Medical Assistance in Dying is Canada’s euthanasia programme. It started in 2016 with a Supreme Court decision but has since rapidly expanded and liberalised. The latest battleground is over mental health. The government has committed to changing its laws so that people suffering solely from mental health conditions can request doctors end their lives, but in Janu...
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Culture is increasingly interested in psychedelic drugs. Whether it’s Silicon Valley execs micro-dosing LSD to turbocharge their meetings, Americans doing ayahuasca weekends in Mexico, or rafts of studies suggesting ketamine can really help in treating depression, we’re all taking drugs much more seriously than any time since the 1960s counterculture. But what does this all mean? Should we welcome this as simply another frontier in...
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A listener has emailed in his dilemma off the back of our recent series of episodes: His small evangelical church teaches a traditional Christian message on relationships and marriage, yet offers single members like him no opportunities to meet like-minded women. Is it OK for him to turn to dating apps to fish in a deeper pool, or are the apps unavoidably commodifying his sisters in Christ and conforming him to secular cultural eth...
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Our four-part series on the deeper narrative of the Bible comes to an end with New Creation. Just as with the beginning of the story, this final chapter is often overlooked in many churches and the Christian narrative is compressed simply to fall and redemption. But losing sight of our future hope and where the story ends is hugely detrimental to our ability to think through ethical issues well. So what do we believe about resurrec...
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A listener has emailed in two excellent questions in response to our recent episode looking at egg freezing. What happens to the leftover eggs which are frozen but never reimplanted, and can Christians be relaxed about this intrinsic wastefulness of the process? And also, if the whole problem stems from sexual activity beginning in your mid-teens but nobody wanting children until they are 30, should the state be investing more in b...
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One major response to our conversation on egg freezing was the idea that for many single Christian women it is a sensible choice given the difficulty in finding a partner/husband. For years it has been often said that the church is disproportionately made up of women, which means it is much harder for female believers to find husbands than the other way around. But is this statistic actually true? In this episode we look at what ev...
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Some more listener questions: what kind of line is crossed once a country legalises euthanasia and how can a state simultaneously fund suicide prevention for some while offering state-sanctioned and facilitated assisting dying for others? Will this contradictory worldview eventually collapse under the weight of its own incoherence? Then, we respond to a listener who has been struggling to know where to find news which seems uncon...
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Increasing numbers of women are choosing to freeze their eggs in the hope that years down the line they can use these younger, healthier eggs to have children once their relationship, personal, financial or work circumstances are right. And fertility clinics and employers are increasingly pushing women to consider this option as a ‘normal’ part of life, while a culture war backlash from the political and social right is also well u...
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A final classic episode to see us through the Christmas and New Year break. Today we’re returning to an interview with NHS geneticist Melody Redman. Each of us carries around in our cells about 20,000 different genes – a unique set of biological code which shapes how our bodies develop. As scientists better understand genes and how they work, genetics is becoming a more and more important field of modern medicine, particularly in d...
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Today we’re returning to a classic episode from our back catalogue, with special guest Sophie Guthrie-Kummer from Choices, a Christian crisis pregnancy centre in London. Abortion is a flashpoint issue in both the church and wider culture, with the very language you choose used as a cudgel for either side. So how does Choices juggle the theological and social hot potatoes here, and how can we respond to abortion in a way which cools...
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