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About Religion & Human Biotechnology

Religious perspectives on human biotechnologies vary widely, depending in part on the specific technology or application.

Most religious leaders are in step with public sentiment in opposing human reproductive cloning and inheritable genetic modification. They recognize social and ethical as well as theological reasons that the use of these technologies would run counter to fundamental tenets of their faiths.

In 1983 a leadership coalition representing a wide spectrum of theological beliefs issued a letter to the U.S. Congress calling for a ban on inheritable genetic modification (changing the genes we pass on to our children). The Theological Letter Concerning the Moral Arguments argued that this practice would pose "a fundamental threat to the preservation of the human species as we know it, and should be opposed with the same courage and conviction as we now oppose the threat of nuclear extinction."

Religious communities are far more divided about other human biotechnologies, particularly embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Some conservative Christian denominations oppose ESCR because of their objections to any activity that destroys a human embryo. This has been a major theme in the ongoing debate about stem cell policy. Many other communities of faith support ESCR. Still others support ESCR that uses embryos created but not needed for infertility treatment, but oppose the creation of embryos specifically for research purposes.

Ethics of Gene Editing[with CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Betty RollinKQED Religion & Ethics NewsweeklyJuly 2nd, 2015Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society discusses possible consequences of human germline gene editing for future generations.
Gene Editingby EditorialNature July 1st, 2015Legislators in the US House of Representatives are asserting themselves in the human genetic modification debate, but as public awareness grows this much-needed ethical discussion will take root in broader society.
Will Pope Francis’s Climate Message Break Through Where Others Have Failed?by Marianne LavelleScienceJune 18th, 2015The letter—184 pages long in its English version—also goes far beyond climate issues, touching on biodiversity conservation, genetically modified crops, and other issues.
Ancient American Genome Rekindles Legal Rowby Ewen CallawayNature NewsJune 18th, 2015The finding seems likely to rekindle a legal dispute between Native American tribes and the researchers who want to keep studying the 8,500-year-old skeleton.
Journalist Tells Sad History of NC Eugenics Programby John DrescherNews & ObserverApril 17th, 2015For years the sterilization program was considered a forward-thinking approach to prevent those who were institutionalized or on welfare from having children.
Why Racism is not Backed by Scienceby Adam RutherfordThe Guardian March 1st, 2015As we harvest ever more human genomes one fact remains unshakeable: race does not exist.
Genetic Testing and Tribal Identityby Rose EvelethThe AtlanticJanuary 26th, 2015The question of genetic testing, and particularly genetic testing to determine ancestral origins, is controversial for many Native Americans.
A Manifesto for Playing God with Human Evolutionby Carl ElliottNew ScientistSeptember 8th, 2014Fancy living forever, or uploading your mind to the net? The Proactionary Imperative embraces transhumanist dreams, but reminds why we need medical ethics.
Jordan’s Stem-Cell Law Can Guide The Middle Eastby Rana DajaniNatureJune 11th, 2014The law bans payment for donations of stem cells and eggs, and says that modified and manipulated cells are not to be used for human reproduction.
Searching Chromosomes for the Legacy of Traumaby Josie Glausiusz NatureJune 11th, 2014The daughter of a Holocaust survivor narrates her own participation in a study of epigenetic inheritance.
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