Personhood and genetic interventions

  1. Lemma
  2. Το πρόσωπο και οι γενετικές παρεμβάσεις
  3. Greek, Modern (1453-)
  4. Koutalis, Vangelis
  5. Ethics - Orthodox Anthropology - Scientific theories and disciplines > Biology:evolution - Scientific theories and disciplines > Biology - Scientific theories and disciplines > Biology:artificial life - Complementarity
  6. 23-5-2017
  7. Zizioulas, (Metropolitan) John [Author]. Personhood and genetic interventions
  8. Ενατενίσεις
  9. clones - Personality - human personhood - biotechnology - organ transplantation
  10. Ενατενίσεις, τεύχος 8
    1. <p>Zizioulas, J. [Ζηζιούλας, Ι.] (2009). Το πρόσωπο και οι γενετικές παρεμβάσεις. <em>Ενατενίσεις</em>, <em>8</em>, 32-37.</p>
    1. The question of genetic interventions, according to Zizioulas, entails the question of human freedom. Deifying its own self, the human being forsook God and idolized nature. In the long run though, the worship of nature evolved into its opposite: eventually, nature was subjugated to the human being. The actual relationship between nature and the human being is a master-servant relationship in which there is a mutual role-shifting. The ecological crisis is an expression of precisely this peculiar relationship. In the wake of this crisis, new radical problems arise which go far beyond classical ethics. Instead of asking ourselves whether nature is good or bad, now we must ask ourselves whether nature will survive or not. The same holds also for the problems raised by biotechnology: after cloning, the crucial question is not whether we will have a good or a bad human being, but whether we will have a human being or not. The Church still treats these issues within the limits of the traditional ethics. Theological discourse, therefore, must open up new paths leading beyond. To enforce the prohibition of genetic interventions through legal measures would be pointless. Cloning has become an actually existing possibility and its repression will not negate this very fact.

      The ability of the human being to intervene in natural processes is a manifestation of the freedom with which God endowed humanity. From a theological point of view, the problem raised in this connection concerns the point at which human intervention ceases to be admissible. The proper answer is that we can intervene in natural processes only in so far as our interventions do not outplace or overrule the will of God. The diversity of species is clearly something willed by God. The difference between Darwinism and the theological approach does not lie in the fact of evolution as such, but in the fact that in Darwinism the diversity of species is regarded as the mere outcome of the species struggle for existence, as the accidental symptom of the whole process of evolution. Likewise, the multiplicity of beings and the singularity of each particular being also stem from God’s desire. In the case of transplantation, theologically there is nothing objectionable when bodily parts are transplanted. On the other hand, when transplantations involve genetic material, then there is intervention in the creative will of God which requires the biological differentiation between the species.

      With regard to cloning, the author believes that the most serious problem, theologically, has to do with the annulment of the uniqueness of a particular species, as an absolute and irreplaceable existence, through the creation of indistinguishable copies. Perhaps, this does not apply to the animals, since they do not have soul, in the sense of an absolute personal identity which not even death can extinguish. This does apply to human beings as well. The cloning of human beings will annul the absolute, non-identical, unique and irreplaceable existence of the human person. The human being is not free, unless it is irreplaceable. Personhood, however, is not a biological category, but a unique, absolute and irreplaceable identity, which, nevertheless, may indeed be annulled biologically. At all costs, theology must defend the uniqueness of each person. If genetic interventions manage to eliminate uniqueness biologically, it does not automatically follow that personal uniqueness will be eliminated too. The development of biotechnology may lead us to a better understanding of personhood, and of the difference between personhood and nature. The Church cannot halt biological research. Nevertheless it can actualize, experience and testify, in all directions, the view that the natural characteristics are not of decisive importance as for the uniqueness of the human person.