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Pro-Gay Rights Scientist Appointed to High Vatican Commission

by Steve Weinstein
Contributor
Friday Jan 14, 2011
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An appointment to something called the Pontifical Academy of Sciences would not normally raise eyebrows. After all, the Vatican is not generally known as being in the forefront of scientific avant-garde thinking. (Galileo, anyone?)

But when Dr. Miguel Nicolelis was appointed to the Vatican study group, ultra-traditionalist Catholic website Lifesite news broke the news, it was to point out that the Brazilian neuroscientist "is an open defender of the pro-abortion and homosexualist ideology of Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff."

Nicolelis lives in the United States, where he teaches at Duke University’s Department of Neurobiology in North Carolina. His specialty is neurologically controlled robotics, which would seem to be sexual-orientation (and abortion) neutral.

What made Nicolelis anathema to conservative Catholics is his outrage, as expressed in an article in a Brazilian magazine in which he raged against the "hysterical right>" He defended Rousseff’s platform of civil unions.

Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences are nominated by present academy members and then appointed by the pope.

Nicolelis is best known for his work with primate thinking patterns. He has implanted electrode arrays into a monkey’s brain that detected the monkey’s motor intent and thus was able to control movements performed by a robotic arm. This has implications for people with prosthetic limbs, among other uses.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early ’80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).

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