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

July 17, 2024 34 mins
In recent weeks we have discussed how to keep modern technology at arms-length (smartphones in the home) and our excitement at how humans may be about to untap God’s blessing in creation through technology (the solar energy revolution). Today we ask the question: can we really hold these positions simultaneously? Can we be neo-Luddites when it comes to smartphones and yet boosters when it comes to solar panels? What should an authe...
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Even sober-minded experts are getting excited about solar power. Respectable estimates suggest the price of energy derived from sunlight will continue to drop spectacularly as the number of panels installed worldwide continues to explode exponentially. In the relatively near future we may move into an era of energy abundance, where we have not just decarbonised our existing energy sources but are also able to cheaply generate ten o...
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The controversial hacker and activist (and maybe journalist?) Julian Assange was suddenly freed for five years in a British jail last month, after he reached a surprise deal with the US authorities over classified military files he published online more than ten years ago. Some see this as a victory for free speech and crusading journalism, but others would decry Assange as an irresponsible blowhard and Russian stooge. Is Assange a...
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Despite reams of research debunking the myth and countless examples of pioneering Christian researchers, many people still believe intuitively that somehow science and religion are in constant conflict. There are even those within the church who, perhaps subconsciously, buy into a narrative that what happens in labs around the world has no relevance for believers. This week we interview Richard Cheetham, a recently retired Church o...
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Tim’s been away this last week on holiday so we’re bringing you an episode from the Matters of Life and Death vault today. There is a looming ‘demographic timebomb’ – a growing mass of elderly and increasingly chronically ill people in many developed nations, expected to place huge strain on public resources. The policy debates around this issue often emphasise the importance of not ‘being a burden’ on others, with some even sugges...
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This week we interview the writer Andy Crouch on a question which has been everywhere in recent months: are smartphones damaging our children? A growing number of writers and thinkers are arguing that our digital technology, most notably social media and smartphones, are responsible for rocketing rates of mental illness and epidemics of bullying among young people. Andy has written three recent books exploring how Christian familie...
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In the first half of this episode we explore new research into public opinion around polygenic embryo screening. This technology allows people undergoing IVF to see what genes each potential embryo has and then choose to reimplant the one with the ‘best’ genetic make-up. But is it wise or healthy for parents to be able to effectively choose their child’s hair colour, height, psychological attributes or propensity for certain diseas...
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We in the UK have been startled by the sudden announcement from the prime minister that our general election, due at the end of the year, would actually be held in six weeks’ time in early July. In this episode we reflect on why Christians are so politically engaged in Britain, with research suggesting they are much more likely to vote, join a party, and campaign than the general public. Why has modern Christianity become so thorou...
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May 23, 2024 61 mins
Diagnosis rates for autism have been steadily rising for decades now, and as the condition has become more prevalent there has been a growing debate within the community and wider society about what autism is. Some prefer to talk about neurodiversity rather than think of it as a developmental condition, and others go as far as calling it a superpower. How should we as Christians engage in this important conversation? And should we ...
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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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