Science in Christian Perspective



Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation
A Statement by the Guelph Chapter
l2th October 1983

From: JASA 36 (March 1984): 39

The second half of the twentieth century has seen an explosion of biological knowledge, including knowledge of the structure and function of genes (genetics), of the molecular basis of living processes (molecular biology), of the control of reproduction and of the molecular basis of some disease processes. The result is that humans have developed the power to manipulate their lives and those of other living organisms to an undreamed of extent. Biotechnology is the name given to the application of the newer manipulative and invasive techniques to biological systems, and it includes genetic engineering which is involved in altering the genetic composition of organisms.

The use of biotechnology raises many ethical questions which need to be carefully considered since humans do not have complete understanding and control over life, and cannot predict all the consequences of their manipulations.

A group of scientists on the Guelph campus has been discussing some of the issues, particularly those affecting human life, from a Christian perspective, and has drafted the following statement.

As Christians, we look to the Bible for God's communication with us and His guidance for living in this world. There we read that God is Creator of the universe, that human beings are a special creation by God with a spiritual need and awareness, and that every individual is unique, and precious in the sight of God.

God has provided for the needs of all His children through giving them a capacity to love Him and to love and relate to one another through friendship and mutual support, and particularly in the bond of marriage and family relationships. Men and women are called to love God and their fellow human beings with the love He gives us.

God has also provided for our needs by giving us the capacity to wonder, to explore and to begin to understand the created universe. The knowledge which humans assemble is also a gift of God. We are called to be responsible stewards of creation and to use knowledge for the good of all mankind.

Based on the preceding principles, and in the present state of our knowledge, we hold the following:

Concerning Society

a) It is right that knowledge should be pursued.

b) It is right that humans should use this knowledge to care for and develop the earth's resources for the benefit of mankind, including future generations.

c) It is right that humans should use this knowledge to continue to relieve the physical and mental suffering of their own kind as well as others of God's creatures.

d) It is right that public policy and resource allocations, especially in the development of biotechnology, should take into consideration the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs of all people universally.

Concerning Human Life

Human life begins at conception and is a gift from God. Each human being is sacred and created in God's image. Furthermore,

a) It is wrong to terminate life at any stage except under highly special circumstances, when, for example, a pregnancy may be clearly life-threatening to the mother.

b) It is wrong to conduct invasive experiments on human beings after birth unless they volunteer and give informed consent.

c) It is wrong to perform experiments on a living human embryo when they are being done only to obtain new knowledge or to benefit other human beings.

d) To treat a living embryo in order to improve the quality of his/her future life as a human being is justifiable in theory. Whether it is justifiable in practice depends on whether the practitioner has prior informed consent, and also sufficient knowledge and proper advice to predict the possible consequences with a reasonable degree of assurance.

Concerning Human Relationships

The bonding between humans is nurtured in love and trust, and in respect of people for one another as creations of God. One very important focus of human relationships is the family. The biological techniques of artificial insemination by donor sperm, in vitro fertilization by donor sperm, and surrogate motherhood should not be used when they violate the exclusive bond of a Christian marriage.

Concerning Human Uniqueness

The manipulation of human genetic material by techniques such as gene splicing or embryo cloning (by nuclear transplantation or other means) should not be performed when it may lead to the birth of new human beings whose potential uniqueness has been distorted.

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding the above statement, please send them to Dr. Gary Partlow, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario. NIG 2W1