Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Views of Orthodox Theology on Bioethical Issues (5 of 6)

...continued from part four.

6. Biomedical and Medical Research

1) From the views of various scientists, researchers and specialists in biomedical and medical research connected with patents, biobanks and clinical trials, it is clear that all research is implicated in different forms of interdependence with corporations and research centers. These things are not as natural as some people claim. Apart from some well-disposed researchers motivated by an interest in dealing with problems afflicting humankind, there are others who place all research in the context of vested interests and commercial gain. There is a difference between scientists in the past and those of recent times, because corporations and universities complicate the issues.

One way or another research continues and it requires sources of funding and capital. Some people claim that without funding by corporations there would be no progress in medical science or in the discovery of drugs. It should be emphasized, however, that we must not go so far as to accept the principle that “the end justifies the means”; nor should timeless ethical, cultural, social and theological principles be infringed. It is in this sense that we ought to investigate these issues, and not in the sense that we are against scientific research and the contribution that corporations make to it by.

2) Orthodox theology regards the science of biotechnology and biomedical research as human sciences that ought to be concerned with the human body and the illnesses that afflict it. They are unable, however, to give life meaning or to overcome death. It is wrong for human research to replace God and man’s relationship with Him, and to evolve into an autonomous religion of its own.

3) The attempt by some researchers to replace God or to be a substitute for Him is arrogance – ‘hubris’ in its ancient sense of insolently overstepping human limits. It is like building a Tower of Babel. Human beings can cultivate the earth. They can even carry out research on the human body in order to improve their health and treat various illnesses. But they cannot feel as though they were God on earth. In any case, they are unable to create something out of nothing; only God can do that. The uncreated existence-bestowing and life-giving energy of God is present in the whole of creation.

4) It is possible that an attempt could be made through modern biotechnology to arrive at the philosophical concept of the superman, as formulated by Nietzsche. Human beings want to feel that they have many capabilities, so as to impose themselves on other people and on the environment. This desire, however, expresses the passions of self-indulgence, love of glory, and love of money. In Orthodox theology, by contrast, the concept of the superman is fulfilled in the best possible way by the empirical experience of deification. We do not speak about supermen in Orthodox theology, but about the deified. By the energy of God human beings even overcome death and become gods according to grace.

5) Orthodox theology cannot accept a eugenic mentality, according to which new human beings can be constructed to high specifications, and, by extension, others who do not have the same specifications can be destroyed. This would result in the development in modern societies of a sort of racism, or a strange and erratic Caeadas ravine, like the one into which Spartans flung ‘unfit’ individuals.

6) Modern biomedical research may help people to be delivered or find relief from various illnesses and the pain they cause. When, however, this research proceeds unchecked, it violates nature and the human organism with unforeseen consequences, as we have stated repeatedly. Human beings cannot be regarded either as supermen or as laboratory animals.

With regard to biomedical research, not only should the framework set by modern bioethical science be taken seriously into account, but also the principles of Orthodox theology. Bioethics itself must be imbued with biotheology.