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Genetics & Ethics: Topics Index

New knowledge gained from genetics research is raising a host of challenging ethical questions. These ethical questions are prompting intense theological reflection. The dramatic scale of the biomedical challenges throws us back upon first principles, back to questions about human nature, about our relationship to ourselves and to our divine source, God. In the popular press the issue is put this way: are we playing God? Another, and perhaps more instructive, way to phrase the question is: how might theological reflection on the frontier of genetic research guide and direct ethical deliberation?HGI has been criticized because (1) as ‘big science’ with top down administration it seems to squeeze out local initiative by smaller laboratories and (2) the large financial investment in genome...

Some of our farsighted religious leaders have entered into serious conversation with conscientious scientists so that cooperative thinking about our response and responsibility for the future can be anticipated.Hast-ings Center Report, 19:4 (July-August, 1989) 46.  It is worth noting that virtually all Roman Catholics and Protestants who take up the challenge of the new genetic knowledge seem to agree on a handful of theological axioms. First, they affirm that God is the creator of the world and, further, that God’s creative work is ongoing.See: Ann Lammers and Ted Peters, "Genethics: Implications of the Human Genome Project," The Christian Century, 107:27 (October 3, 1990) 868-872; Genethics: The Clash Between The New Genetics... Second, the human race is created in God’s image. In this context, the divine image in humanity is tied to creativity. God creates. So do we. With surprising frequency, we humans are described by theologians as “co-creators” with God, making our contribution to the evolutionary process."Genetic discrimination is defined as discrimination against an individual or against members of that individual’s family solely because of real or perceived differences from the normal genome...Third, religious documents place a high value on human dignity.

By “dignity” they mean what philosopher Immanuel Kant meant, namely, that we treat each human being as an end, not merely as a means to some further end. The United Church of Canada eloquently voices the dominant view: “In non-theological terms it [dignity] means that every human being is a person of ultimate worth, to be treated always as an end and not as a means to someone else’s ends. When we acknowledge and live by that principle our relationship to all others changes.”See: Thomas H. Murray, "Ethical Issues in Human Genome Research," FASEB Journal 5 (January 1991) 55-60.As church leaders respond responsibly to new developments in genetics, we can confidently forecast one thing: this affirmation of dignity will become decisive for thinking through the ethical implications of genetic engineering.

Yet there is more. The theology of co-creation leads Ronald Cole-Turner to a beneficent vision: “For the church, it is not enough to avoid the risks. Genetic engineering must contribute in a positive way to make the world a more just and more ecologically sustainable, and it must contribute to the health and nutrition of all humanity.”Mitchel L. Zoler, "Genetic Tests," Medical World News (January 1991) 1-4. "It is clear that unfair and discriminatory uses of genetic data already occur under current conditions. Enacted...

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Ted Peters

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions CD-ROM Preview...
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.