[Paleopsych] CBC: Nigel M. de S. Cameron: How we Lost "Bioethics" and How We Can Win it Back
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Thu Aug 4 22:44:04 UTC 2005
Nigel M. de S. Cameron: How we Lost "Bioethics" and How We Can Win it Back
The Weekly Newsletter of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network
(from tothesource.com) continued from
last week. America is blessed with more than one hundred
serious-minded, accredited, four-year Christian (basically
evangelical) colleges - as well as many Catholic institutions. Back in
the early 90s, I shared a luncheon presentation to the presidents of
these evangelical schools with my friend, former Surgeon-General, C.
Everett Koop. At that time not one evangelical school offered even a
minor in bioethics - though almost all of them have pre-med students;
and not one evangelical school had developed a grad program in the
field. We pleaded with the presidents to prepare their students for
the extraordinary opportunities of leadership in this emerging
discussion of human life - especially those who were planning to go to
med school. Now, more than a decade later, things have changed - but
not much. One school has a minor. One school has a grad program. It
just happens to be the school ( Trinity International University)
where I taught back in the 90s and was able to press for these
programs. In the world of evangelical higher education, no-one else
has taken up the challenge.
Of course, this was really the challenge of the 70s. That's when
"bioethics" got off the ground, and the secularists were wide awake to
their opportunities. Yet, three decades later, the evangelical
community is still so focused on the symptom (abortion) that it can
hardly spare a thought for the disease process (a secular bioethics,
pushing secular assumptions about what it means to be human) that has
led our culture to think in terms of human life in post-Christian
terms. That may not sound so bad - but only if you are unconcerned
about euthanasia, have never heard of stem cell research that destroys
embryos, and have not been following the new technologies - which some
people plan to use to remake human nature itself!
[A] second example is equally telling. In Washington, DC, where so
much is decided, there are many think-tanks that devise policy and
prepare people to shape the future of government in our land. There
are liberal groups and conservative groups, and they and their staffs
have far more influence on the future of this nation than most
Americans know. Guess what! Among them all, there is not one whose
chief concern is to focus Christian thinking on bioethics and the
future of human nature. Not one. We have groups that share these
concerns (like Wilberforce Forum and Family Research Council), and we
have pro-life advocacy groups (chiefly the National Right to Life
Committee). But a think tank? A center looking at the huge range of
biopolicy issues? Not a sign.
There are plenty of other discouraging examples. Back in 1983 I
started the first serious Christian bioethics journal (Ethics and
Medicine), and more than two decades later it is still the only
bioethics journal that takes a clear Christian view. A few years
later, in my book The New Medicine: Life and Death after Hippocrates,
I offered a model to Christians - to use the originally pagan
Hippocratic Oath, which is still held in high esteem in medicine, as
the basis for a public translation of Christian bioethics
distinctives. Despite high praise from C. Everett Koop, Chuck Colson,
Harold O.J. Brown, and Richard John Neuhaus, and a review in the
prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, it has hardly been a best
In truth, we have abandoned the battlefield. Way back in the early
70s, Paul Ramsey, Princeton professor and profound Christian thinker,
sought to set the tone for the emerging bioethics agenda. Very few
Christians have followed. The field of serious intellectual inquiry
and policy making has been abandoned to the likes of Art Caplan. So we
should hardly be surprised when we hear television "bioethicists"
prating their contempt for the sanctity of life, when every effort the
President makes to raise serious moral concerns on stem cells and
cloning is dismissed as the work of the "religious right," and when we
are comprehensively out-maneuvered by the secular elite in every
These issues will define our future, and that of the race. They will
dominate the moral agenda of the 21st century. Who lost bioethics?
Well, we did. Time to go get it back!
And the way to begin is with the churches. This is where we have vast
reservoirs of untapped resources; MDs, nurses, researchers, teachers -
and pastors whose leadership will be the key to turning around a
generation of neglect.
Just a few days ago I was invited to spend the day at Rick Warren's
"purpose-driven" Saddleback Community Church, in southern California.
In the morning, the Center for Bioethics and Culture had arranged
their latest "pastors' briefing" to update church leaders on this vast
agenda. In the evening, Saddleback pulled in hundreds of their people
for one of the most stimulating meetings I can remember. Once I
finished speaking, the questions had to be cut off after an hour and a
half - incisive, engaged, on everything from embryos to living wills
and nanotechnology. My message had been clear: God has called us to be
21st century Christians. We don't need to politicize the church, just
to teach people that as patients or relatives or citizens we will all
engage these issues - and that this follows from our discipleship as
night follows day.
read the complete article
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What is "the human future?" What does it mean? When there are enough
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Well, because as Dr. Cameron so poignantly pointed out above, the
issues related to the taking, making, and faking of human life are the
issues that will dominate the 21st Century. These are not
philosophical in nature. These issues are at the forefront of the
scientific communities' agenda and have the potential for doing much
good and much harm. Much good, by relieving human suffering, and much
harm by devaluing the inherent dignity of all human beings.
Unfortunately, if you have been following the news lately you will see
how a utilitarian based science has dominated the discussion.
These articles on Eugenics, Euthanasia, Stem Cell
Research, and Egg Donation are only a few to show you that much is
at stake for "The Human Future."
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