The chips are down. Americans have taken to gambling in a big way. In 1998, legalized gambling grossed more than the music industry, the motion picture industry, and theme parks combined ($50 billion).1 Gambling problems have increased rapidly in the wake of these trends. Of greatest social concern is “pathological gambling,” a diagnosis established in 1980 by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III).
From requests for childfree restaurants to a preference for childfree worship, it seems that American society has a strange relationship toward the young. Innovative human relations experts recommend bowls of candy, Nerf basketball, and company birthday parties so that employees can recreate with other adults during the ever-expanding workday. Thus enjoying their productivity, adults may avoid contact with the next generation, while perpetuating their own youth. A post-modern church “experience” offers some congregants a similarly comfortable setting.
The life of bioethics is in theology. As theology goes, so goes bioethics. But theological reflection has fallen on hard times of late. To be sure, this has much to do with the perception (often warranted) that career theologians—those whose craft is to reflect theologically on Holy Writ—hide away in ivory towers speaking in abstract discourse, irrelevant to the vicissitudes of contemporary life. Theology at its best, however, is faith seeking understanding. Theology is canonical faith seekingpractical understanding.
"What is bioethics?" Friends, family, acquaintances, and even complete strangers posed this question as my wife and I told people that we were moving so that I could attend school and study bioethics. In fact, the more people we told, the more obvious it became that very few people understood the term. Of course, it is one thing to be familiar with a specific, technical term and another to be knowledgeable of its underlying issues.
One of the most fundamental questions that is increasingly facing bioethicists and society alike is the question, "What does it mean to be human?" "In what consists the act of being human?" "Is my humanity a 'bodily' humanity?" In every area of philosophical concern we are always thrown back to these basic questions.
Bioethical--and especially biotechnological--developments are both so urgent and have come so quickly upon us that there has been little time for Christian bioethicists to reflect upon or develop a coherent methodological approach.
Should a mother consent to having her child immunized with a vaccine that was developed many years ago from aborted fetal tissue? Should a physician who believes abortion is immoral sign the authorization form required by an HMO for his patient to be referred for an elective abortion, a "covered service" under the patient's contract? Should a medical student use an anatomy atlas that includes drawings that likely used hundreds of dissected cadavers from the Nazi death camps as models?
Debates over bioethical issues necessarily involve people from diverse circles. Scientists, health care professionals, lawyers, clergy, and representatives from other disciplines join formally trained bioethicists in assessing the appropriateness of various forays within medicine and biotechnology. It is my hypothesis that the way scientists think is often so fundamentally different that the "answers" to bioethical issues offered by the non-scientific community are perceived as (at best) only minimally relevant by those who are actually pursuing the research in question.
Does God Need Our Help? Cloning, Assisted Suicide, & Other Challenges in Bioethics
By John F. Kilner and C. Ben Mitchell
(Wheaton IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2002)
Cutting Edge Bioethics: A Christian Exploration of Technologies and Trends
Edited by John F. Kilner, C. Christopher Hook, and Diann B. Uustal
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002)
Table of Contents
Introduction: John F. Kilner, C. Christopher Hook, and Diann B. Uustal