Where Are the Boundaries?
Keywords:technology, GM, nature, Creation
Problems associated with our use of technology have multiplied as the technologies themselves have become ever more powerful and particularly since we can now manipulate life itself. Genetical manipulation encapsulates for many the questions, fears and confusions raised by technological advances. The Prince of Wales’s criticisms of GM have been useful in crystallizing these. Some of the issues he has raised are due to misapprehension (such as the claim that the transfer of genes can only occur ‘naturally’ between organisms that interbreed; this is factually incorrect) but others highlight important topics about the relation between mankind and his environment.
A persisting problem is that this relationship is distorted for us by the dominance of the Enlightenment enterprise that revealed so much about the natural world and its mechanisms. Crucially, this obscures the reality that we are more than mere apes—we are individuals created in God’s image—and that the apparently limitless opportunities that emerge from modern knowledge bring with them enormous responsibilities as well as enormous privileges—responsibilities to others, to our world, and to God. Lacking omniscience, we must accept the discipline of the ‘precautionary principle’ and the inter-dependence of scientific advance and social cohesion. We need wisdom as well as knowledge. In this respect, we can learn hugely from the history of the land which the Creator entrusted to humankind and the treatment of which is described in the older Testament. It teaches us about the limits of any one approach by itself—whether we espouse naturalism (or scientism), regulation, altruism or societal controls. Failure to look beyond ourselves and our own interests is likely to get us no further than an unstable modern version of the Tower of Babel.
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