Bring on the Clones
Freethoughts reviewed by Joan Harris
These thoughts are, by the admission of the frontispiece, "selected egotistically from the Freethinker". Barbara Smoker is, therefore the first to admit that a collection of article spanning 30 years is an egotistical exercise. But what an ego! Delving with wit and waspishness into religion, bio-ethics, multiculturalism, education, defying clerical thoughts and irrational nostrums.
Miss Smoker's specialities are the Catholic Church and bio-ethics. As an ex-Catholic she understands the history and mechanics of that institution. She looked deeply into the scandal of the murder of 'God's banker', Signor Roberto Calvi, whose bank had close ties with the Vatican.
She observed several Popes come and go and makes hay with the comments on the suddenness of the death of John Paul I, and analysed the dangers of Pope John Paul II from his healthy beginnings to his ailing days. She seems a little unsympathetic to that clerical ailment of arthritic knees, developed from too much kneeling. Not surprisingly she is scathing about the Turin Shroud for which she claims there is "No Shroud of Evidence" and far from reverent towards that "Holy Cow", Mother Teresa.
Her critique of Catholicism coincides with her interest in bio-ethics: contraception, in vitro fertilisation, abortion are all covered with incisiveness. Summing up her attitude in many of these areas is the phrase "Eggs are not People". Although most of these articles have a high seriousness, she can also bring in humour either in headlines such as 'Bring on the Clones', or in items such as her account of a lesbian who gave birth after artificial insemination a virgin birth.
In an account of a debate she had with His Grace Hare Krishna Das, she is described as Her Logic Miss Barbara Smoker: long may her logic prevail.
Joan Harris is a historian of ideas
Freethoughts is available from Amazon UK.