Monday, October 26, 2015

"A technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power": Laudato Si', 131-136

In the excerpts below, Francis applies his earlier comments on creativity and human power to the topic of biotechnology, praising man's innate ingenuity and the way it can be used to solve real human problems, while also cautioning about potential dangers that new biotechnologies may pose to the environment or our fellow man.

New biological technologies

131. ...The Church values the benefits which result "from the study and applications of molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics, and its technological application in agriculture and industry".[110] But [John Paul II] also pointed out that this should not lead to "indiscriminate genetic manipulation"[111] which ignores the negative effects of such interventions. Human creativity cannot be suppressed. If an artist cannot be stopped from using his or her creativity, neither should those who possess particular gifts for the advancement of science and technology be prevented from using their God-given talents for the service of others. We need constantly to rethink the goals, effects, overall context and ethical limits of this human activity, which is a form of power involving considerable risks.

132. ...The respect owed by faith to reason calls for close attention to what the biological sciences... can teach us about biological structures, their possibilities and their mutations. Any legitimate intervention will act on nature only in order "to favour its development in its own line, that of creation, as intended by God".[112]

133. It is difficult to make a general judgement about genetic modification, whether vegetable or animal, medical or agricultural, since these vary greatly among themselves and call for specific considerations. The risks involved are not always due to the techniques used, but rather to their improper or excessive application. Genetic mutations, in fact, have often been, and continue to be, caused by nature itself. Nor are mutations caused by human intervention a modern phenomenon. The domestication of animals, the crossbreeding of species and other older and universally accepted practices can be mentioned as examples.... In nature, however, this process is slow and cannot be compared to the fast pace induced by contemporary technological advances....

136. On the other hand, it is troubling that, when some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be imposed on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development. In the same way, when technology disregards the great ethical principles, it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit. As we have seen in this chapter, a technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power.


[110] Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (3 October 1981), 3.

[111] Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 7.

[112] JOHN PAUL II, Address to the 35th General Assembly of the World Medical Association (29 October 1983), 6.

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