On Good Science and Good Ethics

Interview With Deputy Editor of MercatorNet

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ROME, MARCH 6, 2007 ( Zenit.org).- Good science and good public policy always support the Church's positions, says Carolyn Moynihan, deputy editor of MercatorNet.



Two-year-old MercatorNet is an English-language Internet magazine and resource with editorial headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, and an editorial team spread out in New Zealand, Canada and Uganda.

Moynihan, a New Zealand journalist, also edits Family Edge, a weekly update on family news provided by MercatorNet. While in Rome for a conference, Moynihan spoke with ZENIT about MercatorNet.

Q: MercatorNet is idealistic. To quote your Web site, "It speaks to everyone who believes that ethics is more than opinions." Could you explain this a little more?

Moynihan: It is true that we are idealistic. Our ambition is to put a sound vision of the human person at the center of politics, education, social policy and culture.

By this we mean an ethical vision which is solidly -- that is, objectively -- grounded and not subject to majority views or the views of experts or pressure groups that can vary their ethics according to their desires or pragmatic goals.

Having said that, we welcome a diverse range of opinions on exactly how particular ideals can be pursued within politics, economics and other fields of public life.

We don't expect everyone to agree with our writers at this level, but only to consider the merits of what they say and, if they are so inclined, to enter into dialogue on the subject.

I might add here that we are redesigning our Web site to make this kind of interaction possible.

Q: Is MercatorNet a Catholic site?

Moynihan: MercatorNet is not a Catholic Web site in the sense that it represents the Church or deals with institutional issues.

The editors are Catholics and are inspired by Catholic ideals, but we are trying to communicate those ideals to the widest possible public in terms that can appeal to non-Catholics and even nonreligious people.

You might say that we work with a Catholic heart and a secular head.

However, we are not shy about defending the Church when it needs defending, or showing our affection for the Church when it's appropriate, and have done so on a number of occasions.

These include times when the teaching on contraception in relation to AIDS has been under attack, and the Holy Father's visit to Germany for World Youth Day.

We are also keen to show that problems which are often seen as "Catholic" concerns are, in fact, human concerns. The most obvious example is abortion.

We see our task as giving evidence-based arguments for "Catholic ethics" which, in fact, is simply good science.

We believe that good science and good public policy always support the Church's position. Good science is good ethics, too.

Q: Have you had much success in affecting public opinion with this approach?

Moynihan: Sometimes we call it "evidence-based ethics." I've found that the media is open to good values when they are presented in a fresh, up-to-date way.

Some of our articles have been reprinted in mainstream newspapers and magazines in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the U.K., and even as far afield as Israel.

There's a real hunger among readers of all persuasions -- and none at all -- for material that defies the conventional wisdoms and challenges political correctness. That's what we are trying to provide.

Q: Family issues seem to be the core of your service. Are you going to open it to other themes such as social issues or cultural affairs?

Moynihan: We certainly have a particular concern for the family but we are interested in everything.

Already we have quite a diversity in the subjects we cover. Before there was MercatorNet there were two newsletters: BioEdge, a well-established and respected weekly update on bioethics, and Family Edge.

When our redesigned Web site is launched BioEdge will come directly under the MercatorNet umbrella.

Articles on our front page over the past two weeks have ranged over politics -- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the referendum on abortion in Portugal, population control in China and Africa; same-sex adoption moves in Britain -- to fashion, film and book reviews.

We are still growing and we have to work from our strengths, which happen to be at present mainly in the fields of bioethics and family.

Q: You support single-sex schooling. Why?

Moynihan: One section of our Web site is devoted to background articles on current issues, written by people who have expertise in particular fields.

The aim is to provide people with a summary of the facts and debate on issues that keep cropping up, and to update these articles as significant new material comes to light.

One of these articles gives the arguments for single-sex schooling, something that we would support editorially on the basis of personal experience as well as evidence that is coming to light from many quarters, showing that girls and boys do have different social and educational needs.

Other topics range from utilitarianism to women's fashion, from cyber safety to stem cell research.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

Moynihan: The most popular place on the Internet these days is the social networking site MySpace. As we know, there are problems with the way some young people use this site, but MercatorNet wants to emulate it in a certain way -- by having blogs and other kinds of interactivity. We would like to see MercatorNet becoming something of a portal for people on the Net. We also want to increase the range and quality of our articles.

We are very optimistic about the potential of the Internet for spreading sound ideals and arguments for them amongst an ever-expanding public.

There are dangers in the Internet, it's true, but these are outweighed by the enormous opportunity it represents.

We want to use all the resources that this medium has to offer to make our Catholic ideals appealing and effective in society.