Theology and Genetic Engineering: New incarnation of the old conflict?

In Ulf Görman, Willem B. Drees & Hubert Meisinger (eds.), Studies in Science and Theology, vol. 9(2003–2004), Lunds Universitet, Lund. pp. 127–143 (2004)
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Abstract

It is widely acknowledged among science˗and˗theology thinkers – or at least desired – that we have left behind the era of conflict between science and religion. An approach which avoids conflict by pointing out that science and religion employ two different methodologies and therefore occupy two separate magisteria, is, however, unsatisfactory for both – the advocates of a fruitful dialogue between these two realms of human activity as well as the most vigorous opponents of possible conciliation, and the latter still speak of unavoidable conflict. One of the most widely known examples of a conflict between science and religion is the Galileo's case. It can be shown that in the clash between Galileo and the theologians of the time, the latter were right from the point of view of scientific methodology while they were wrong as far as their theological views are concerned. Does this lesson from the history imply any solutions in contemporary disputes over certain scientific achievements? Is it – for instance – a theological fault to impose some constraints on scientific research in genetic engineering? The ‘typology’ of errors committed in the Galileo’s case, offered in the paper, serve as a basis for answering these questions. In the paper it is suggested that a meta-theoretical approach to the interdisciplinary research, which shows the difference between the merits of given disciplines (in this case: science and theology) and the worldview they contribute to together, allows the acknowledgement that contemporary reservations with regard to genetic engineering and techniques are not in danger of committing a 'Galileo case type' error. It is suggested, that such reservations may stem from other than purely ethical opinions, which opens up an interesting field for discussion between those who do not share the same ethics, by leaving ethical arguments aside in discussions about biotechnology.

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