A Breakthrough in Growing Embryos

Scientists are excited about their findings after leaving embryos to grow past the normal moment they’d be implanted into a womb. There is a legal limit on how long you can allow an embryo to develop outside the womb, 14 days, but even that might soon change as scientists argue it should be extended so they can discover more.

It used to be up to a week that scientists would study a fertilised egg before it was implanted into the womb, but with the extra days scientists have discovered many things about the early stage of development which often results in developmental defects and failure to implant. So all this extra information that they’ve been able to glean should help them reduce infertility in the future.

embryo -a new organism in the earliest stage of development. In humans this is defined as the developing organism from the fourth day after fertilization to the end of the eighth week. 

foetus – a prenatal human (before birth) which is between its embryonic state and its birth.

Remember that at 24 weeks of pregnancy in England a foetus can no longer be aborted. Meanwhile Catholics believe that from the moment of conception a new life has been created and Muslims think that even though abortion is wrong if the mother’s life is at risk then up to 120 days the mother’s life has more value than the foetus.


A song called Agape

Coming from the London pub/folk scene like Noah and the Whale and Laura Marling, Bear’s Den have an interesting array of songs on their album Islands.

bear's den

First up is Agape and here’s the lead singer and songwriter Davie explaining what the song is about:

“Agape is a word that has been taken and used by Christianity to mean something it didn’t originally mean and I guess I kinda did the same. Agape, to me, is about being open with people and not hiding anything from the people you care about. As a word, strange as this sounds, Agape to me sounds like a book opening and we were looking for a song that had that kind of feel to it for the first song on the album. We were also listening to ‘About Today’ by The National a lot and lyrically I wanted this song to come from a similar place.”

So they’ve taken some poetic licence by calling their song Agape when it actually means: the highest form of love, especially brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.

Next song with an RE link is Isaac  which tells the tale of Isaac nearly being sacrificed by his dad Abraham from the Old Testament. Davie explains:

“There is a biblical story called The Binding of Isaac that I’ve always found really interesting. I was reading Wilfred Owen’s war poetry and stumbled across a poem about the binding of Isaac in relation to war. After I read that and really thought about the story I found the whole thing very confusing. I started wondering what Isaac’s life would have been like after his father nearly sacrificed him and how it would have felt from his perspective. Whether I could have understood it or not. The song is imagined from the perspective of a friend of Isaac’s.”

Maybe I won’t need to use the Bob Dylan song Highway 61 in the Year 8 lesson on the Binding of Isaac anymore!

The final very folky song from Bear’s Den is Magdalene which is about what happened to Irish unmarried women who got pregnant in the 20th century. Here’s Davie again:

“I was really shocked when I first heard about Magdalene laundries and the stories that have emerged about them. They were designed as institutions for “fallen” women who were sent there in order to repent for their sin in the pursuit of becoming pure again. In reality many of these institutions essentially practised slavery on these women. A lot of the reasons why women were sent there in the first place were ridiculous and were often through no fault of their own. I watched Philomena after writing this song and my feelings are similar to Steve Coogan’s character in the movie. The song allowed me to vent my anger, frustration and sadness for all those who needlessly suffered.”

Perhaps you’ve seen the film Philomena with Steve Coogan and Judie Dench in it which tells the tale of these women being forced to repent their sins and lose contact with their birth children.


Useful films to watch for GCSE RS

Here are just a selection of films Year 11 might try to watch over the holidays to help them think about topics in our RS GCSE.


Cider House Rules Honored with two Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor, Michael Caine, and Best Adapted Screenplay, John Irving, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES tells a heartwarming story about how far a young man must travel to find the place where he truly belongs! Homer Wells (Tobey Macguire) has lived nearly his entire life within the walls of St. Cloud’s Orphanage in rural Maine. Though groomed by its proprietor, Dr. Larch, to be his successor, Homer nonetheless feels the need to strike out on his own and experience the world outside. Then, while working at an apple orchard, Homer falls for the beautiful Candy (Charlize Theron) and learns some powerful lessons about love.

Vera Drake In 1950, in London, Vera Drake is a simple woman of a low-class but happy family. She works cleaning upper-class houses; her beloved husband is a mechanic and works with his brother in a repair shop; her son is a tailor; and her daughter tests and packs electric lamps. The helpful Vera is a very good and cooperative woman, helping her sick mother, a handicapped neighbor and whoever needs her. She also induces miscarriages in women who do not want to have children, for no payment. When a woman has complications with her intervention and goes to the hospital, the police investigate the occurrence…

Juno A whip-smart teen confronts an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate.


I can’t find a decent quality trailer  so this will have to do for The Life of David Gale When anti-death penalty activist David Gale is convicted and condemned to death for the murder of a colleague, reporter Bitsey Bloom sets out to learn the story behind Gale’s crime. What she finds challenges her belief in Gale’s guilt and, finally, in the justice system.

Dead Man Walking A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim’s families. Here’s also the Reconciliation scene near the end of the film.


This 2004 film The Future of Food can be watched in its entirety on YouTube; offering an investigation of genetically engineered food which is in the shops without you realising it. I’m squeezing in these TV programmes incase the thought of watching a whole documentary is just too much to stomach: Horizon: Goats with Spider Silk and a very short trailer for Genetic Engineering Intelligent Babies.


Hotel Rwanda Nominated for 3 Oscars, including for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Don Cheadle) and Best Original Screenplay. Hotel Rwanda is  based on real life events in 1994 Rwanda, when hotelier Paul Rusesabagina attempted to save his fellow citizens from the ravages of the Rwandan Genocide. The film, which has been called an African Schindler’s List, documents Rusesabagina’s acts to save the lives of his family and more than a thousand other refugees, by granting them shelter in the besieged Hôtel des Mille Collines. Hotel Rwanda explores genocide, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence.

Fog of War A film about the former US Secretary of Defense and the various difficult lessons he learned about the nature and conduct of modern war.

The Unknown Known This time about the former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Interpreter Political intrigue and deception unfold inside the United Nations, where a U.S. Secret Service agent is assigned to investigate an interpreter who overhears an assassination plot.


Northern Ireland laws on abortion don’t respect Human Rights

Up until now it has been really difficult to be allowed an abortion in Northern Ireland. Whereas the 1967 Abortion Act allows women to get an abortion in the rest of the UK, in Northern Ireland you would only be allowed an abortion for double effect – if the mother’s life is at risk if she continues with the pregnancy. This is in line with Catholic teachings on abortion.

Today though, in a momentous court decision, a high court judge has said Northern Ireland’s almost outright ban on abortion stops women and girls receiving their human rights. It recommends that women who become pregnant from rape and incest or that the unborn baby has fatal abnormalities (which will lead to its death) should in future be allowed to have an abortion in Northern Ireland. The newspaper article continues to explain how the Northern Irish government is unhappy about this ruling and may try to stop it coming into force.

Ever heard of Mother Teresa?

Mother Teresa is such a famous nun there’s even an animation about her, watch the trailer:

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia, on August 26, 1910. Her family was of Albanian descent. At the age of twelve, she felt strongly the call of God. She knew she had to be a missionary to spread the love of Christ.

At the age of eighteen she left her parental home in Skopje and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. After a few months’ training in Dublin she was sent to India, where on May 24, 1931, she took her initial vows as a nun. From 1931 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta, but the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that in 1948 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Although she had no funds, she depended on God’s power, and started an open-air school for slum children. Soon she was joined by voluntary helpers, and financial support soon came. This made it possible for her to extend the reach of her work.

On October 7, 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Pope to start her own order, “The Missionaries of Charity”, whose primary task was to love and care for those people nobody was prepared to look after. In 1965 the Society became an International Religious Family by order of Pope Paul VI. The Missionaries of Charity throughout the world are aided and assisted by Co-Workers who became an official International Association on March 29, 1969. By the 1990s there were over one million Co-Workers in more than 40 countries.

In 1969, a documentary about her work with the poor catapulted her to global celebrity. Mother Teresa’s work has been recognised and celebrated throughout the world and she has received a number of awards and distinctions, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971), the Nehru Prize for her promotion of international peace and understanding (1972) and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mother Teresa was also controversial, in her Nobel acceptance speech, she described abortion as “the greatest destroyer of peace today”.

She died on 5 September 1997, her name attached to some 60 centres worldwide, and India honoured her with a state funeral. Her seven homes for the poor and destitute of Calcutta, however, are her lasting monument. However in 2005 and undercover reporter saw, “children with their mouths gagged open to be given medicine, their hands flaying in distress, visible testimony to the pain they were in. Tiny babies were bound with cloths at feeding time. Rough hands wrenched heads into position for feeding.’


In 2009 a TV programme debated whether Mother Teresa deserved a sainthood or not:

Now Mother Teresa is in the news again, as her orphanages in India stop adoptions due to liberal reforms in the country which let divorced and single people adopt. The estimates of how many orphans there are in India range from 16 to 30 million; last year only about 2,500 orphans were adopted. In response to this the Indian government are relaxing rules on who can adopt to try and increase the number of orphans who find families. However the Missionaries of Charity (founded by Mother Teresa) refuse to participate.

“We have already shut our adoption services because we believe our children may not receive real love,” said Sister Amala at Nirmala Shishu Bhawan, a Delhi orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity. She added: “We do not wish to give children to single parents or divorced people. It is not a religious rule but a human rule. Children need both parents, male and female.”

Is this morally right or wrong?

Baby Buell makes it to one year old

An amazing good news story is being reported in different newspapers today about a little America boy called Jaxon who’s defied the odds and made it to his first birthday.

Jaxon Buell1

He was born with part of his brain and skull missing which meant the doctors said it was likely he wouldn’t survive. The Daily Mail says that his parents had been told during the pregnancy about their son’s illness and small chance of survival but being strong Christians meant they chose not to abort the baby (foetus).


“Who are we to decide? We were given a child, we are given a chance and we have to be his voice.” His parents said in the interview. In the last year he has become a minor social media sensation, attracting over 100,000 likes on his page “Jaxon Strong” and has raised over $57,000 (£37,500) through his GoFundMe page to pay for his ongoing medical care.

A short clip on YouTube shows the little boy talking and starting to walk…

Abortion Laws are not the same round the world

In class we’ve discussed how countries like Ireland and the USA have very different ideas on whether abortion should be legal and how long into a pregnancy a woman can still opt for an abortion.

Now Spain is debating whether it should change its abortion laws…

Abortion laws debated in Spain