Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Views of Orthodox Theology on Bioethical Issues (4 of 6)

...continued from part three.

5. Biotechnology and the Environment

1) The universe was created by God and He is the Lord of the world. The one who creates something also has power over it. The Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, created the angels first, then the material creation, and finally man, who is made up of spiritual and material elements (soul and body), and is the microcosm of the entire universe. The kingdom was created, and then the king was created to enter it.

2) Human beings reign over creation; they are rulers of creation by God’s command. They cultivate creation and manage it with God’s special permission and authorization, so they are not able to appropriate it for themselves. Although they manage it they must not usurp it. This means that their jurisdiction is limited and they cannot behave as God, but as God’s stewards and managers who have been authorized by Him. Arrogance has consequences both for human beings themselves and for nature.

3) God’s energies exist in creation. God created the world from nothing and directs it by His uncreated energies, not by created means. The creation does not bear fruit automatically, and reproduction is not a characteristic of the creation, but it is God’s energy that brings it about. Precisely for this reason, those who are in contact with God, the saints, love and respect creation. This also means that it is not vitamins and calories that nourish human beings, but God Who keeps them alive by means of food, vitamins and calories.

4) With the fall of man corruption entered irrational creation as well, so nature groans and suffers together. The creation does not have a moral will and it cannot do evil, but it was changed by the fall of man. Because man is the microcosm of the entire universe and the connecting link that holds creation together, his fall had devastating consequences for the whole creation, as he dragged it down with him into corruption. At the same time, however, the regeneration of creation will come about by the regeneration of human beings through God’s grace.

5) Human passions have consequences for creation as well. Overconsumption of food, due to the passion of self-indulgence, creates the need for overproduction, and this leads to the violation of nature. Thus nature suffers violence from rebellious, arrogant and presumptuous human beings. It is significant, however, that violated nature takes revenge on humankind, from the point of view that the modification of natural foodstuffs that people eat has terrible effects on their health and physical constitution.

6) Many of the efforts made by geneticists can be regarded as a violation of nature. By means of recombinant DNA from different organisms and plants, using a process different from natural reproduction – introducing animal and human genes into plants – they seek to intervene in nature. This has serious consequences.

7) We do not, of course, reject every attempt to improve the resources and products of the earth and created things. However, we must not reach the point where these created things are changed, resulting in genetic contamination of the environment and a crisis in eco-systems, which may give rise to unforeseen consequences for human health and life.

8) The argument that the phenomenon of hunger on our planet will be dealt with by means of such methods of recombining the DNA of organisms and plants is invalid from the biotheological point of view. Hunger is dealt with by ensuring that just social and economic systems prevail, so that wealth is not concentrated in the hands of a small number of people. It is also countered by reducing armaments and space research. Nor is the argument that foodstuffs should be improved valid from the point of view of Orthodox bioethics, because it is the passions of love of money, acquisitiveness, ambition and self-indulgence that pollute nature through overproduction and overconsumption. People’s health does not depend only on eating, but most of all on their lives having meaning. In the same way, illness is not only the result of external factors, but originates, on the one hand, from the corruptibility and mortality inherited by human beings, and, on the other hand, from existential problems that preoccupy them and remain unsolved. A doctor used to say that we do not fall sick from the things we eat but from the things that ‘eat’ us.

Finally, many such efforts reveal that man wants to become immortal, or feel immortal by his own abilities, as though he were a little God, and he wants to live in an eternal and healthy world, ignoring the fact of mortality and corruptibility, overlooking the “new heavens and new earth” that will come after the Second Coming of Christ, and not waiting for the arrival of the eschatological Kingdom of God, which can be sampled from now by living in the Orthodox Tradition.