Science and Engineering Ethics 2 (3):335-344 (1996)
Religion, defined as ‘the idea of a state that transcends ourselves and our world and the working out of the consequences of that idea’, may influence the ethical thinking of scientists and engineers in two ways. The first is at the level of the individual and how personal beliefs affect the choice of research, design or development projects, relationships with other researchers and the understandings of the consequences of research on other aspects of life. The second level is that of the social and cultural setting in which scientists and engineers work; how society decides which research to sponsor, how to apply the results of scientific discovery and which technology it chooses to develop and for what purposes. In neither of these areas is religious belief a necessary condition for scientists and engineers to pursue one course of action rather than another. The existence of religious belief within the individual and society is, though, part of the ethical framework in which scientist and engineers work and therefore something to which attention should be paid. Religion provides a particular perspective on what should be. Conversely science and technology provide information on the nature of the person and the universe in which we live, which must be taken into account when theologians and religious moralists apply their ethical norms and principles.
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