November 5, 2007

Biotechnology and the Human Good: Book Review

As human life and dignity continues to face unrelenting assault from the influences of secularism in our culture, I am thankful to know that this book is available. Biotechnology and the Human Good brings biotechnology where it belongs - in the realm of worldview and philosophy.

Biotechnology and the Human Good (BHG) is coauthored by experts in the field of bioethics: C. Ben Mitchell, Edmund Pellegrino, Jean Bethke Elshtain, John F. Kilner, and Scott Rae. BHG provides discussion on the philosophical framework that structures the dominant worldviews in the bioethics arena: Christian theism, Philosophical Naturalism and Environmentalist Biocentrism. It then moves into a discussion on human dignity in relationship to biotechnology, considering various views in light of the critical assessment criteria comprehensiveness, consistency, and credibility. Comprehensiveness addresses the application of the concept of human dignity, that it "covers all people to whom the term appropriately applies." (p. 65). Consistency refers to the concept of human dignity being able to "withstand the critiques it levels at other approaches." (p. 65). Credibility speaks to the plausibility of the concept, that it "accords with what we know about the present and what we hope about the future." (p. 65).

Near the end of the book there lists presuppositions for engagement. They are:

1. We must begin with the affirmation of a creator of everything.
2. We also affirm that the biblical account is the best guide to understanding the nature, problems, and ends of human life.
3. As all human beings-regardless of age or level of development, health, disability, or status-are God's imagers, each is worthy of respect and protection.
4. Human beings are also distinct from human tissues.
5. Human beings were created for community and communion, with God and with one another.
6. The fundamental problem of humankind is not physical or mental inadequacy, but sin.

Finally, I want to share this quote from chapter seven as I believe it addresses a larger problem.
The challenges presented by advancing technologies, particularly biotechnologies, are growing almost exponentially. Yet...we are theologically ill equipped to address these challenges wither individually or collectively. One of the major deficiencies lies in the fact that theology has too often become an arcane, academic discipline. We have forgotten...the Puritans, who understood that for theology to have meaning, it must permeate every aspect of life...The theological community must take up the issues we raise in this book and lift its sights from its own intradisciplinary conversations to an interdisciplinary engagement with medicine, philosophy, law, science, industry, and the lay community. For only in the context of a robust, practical theology of living can a workable theology of technology and biotechnology be developed.
As members of the Christian community, we are barely having the conversation about biotechnology or bioethics in general in an intradisciplinary manner. As members of the Church, we need to educate and equip believers on these issues so that they are prepared to give an answer when they least expect they will need one. This is an excellent resource for the Church and for college/seminary students as they consider how to minister in contemporary culture.

Georgetown University Press, Washington D.C.
ISBN: 1589011384

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