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The Peril and Promise of Medical Technology

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D. Gareth Jones

Medical technology is one of the most powerful forces in the modern world, with enormous opportunities for good. For many in affluent countries, the expectations of what constitutes the good life have been transformed, as neonatal mortality rates have declined, life expectancy has increased, and one disease after another has been defeated. However, it is not an unalloyed blessing, as social patterns have been transformed, family structures have been challenged, and ordinary people as well as health professionals and scientists confront novel ethical dilemmas.
Gareth Jones writes not only as a scientist and bioethicist but also as a Christian. His aim is to make sense of some of the myriad issues encountered in a world dominated by medical technology. These include manipulation at the earliest stages of embryonic human life, through to ageing and attempts at bringing about physical immortality. The perceived power of genes is critically examined, as are claims that morality can be enhanced using technology. The centrality of the brain for making us what we are is sympathetically examined, against the backdrop of the ongoing debate on dualism and physicalism. Acknowledging our ever-increasing dependence upon medical technology, the author explores ways in which we can live in hope rather than fear.

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Chapter 9 Pitfalls and hope in a technological world

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Science, hope and values Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) is said to have claimed that in his astronomical research he was merely ‘thinking God’s thoughts after Him’. It is far from clear whether Kepler did in fact make this claim, in spite of its frequent attributions to him. Notwithstanding this uncertainty, the statement has long been an important one for Christians in their work as scientists. They are indulging in an activity that is worthy of their calling as Christians and that enhances our appreciation of the extraordinary world created by God and which we experience everyday as human beings. Kepler is said to have wanted to become a theologian, but for vari- ous reasons did not do so. In a letter written in 1595 to Michael Meastlin: ‘I wanted to become a theologian; for a long time I was unhappy. Now, behold, God is praised by my work even in astronomy’.1 While not in any way moving away from theology, Kepler recognized that as a scientist he had a great deal he could contribute to knowledge of God and his ways. He recognized the legitimacy of his science in providing accurate knowl- edge of the world, knowledge that had to be taken account of if one was to gain a working understanding of the universe and glimpses into the mind of the creator. This resonates with me as a scientist deeply interested in and motivated by Christian imperatives. Throughout this book I have sought to base my thinking firmly in...

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