10.5 Bioethics and Religion | Introduction to Life Science | University of Tokyo


10.5Bioethics and Religion

It is not surprising that bioethics has developed in Europe and the United States, where cutting-edge research on life science is actively pursued. Since these countries are the places of origin of Christian beliefs, the influence of such beliefs on bioethics is significant. In these regions, a debate over ethics and values primarily begins with two concepts: fact and value. Being independent of value, nature will be judged only in the context of a separate value system when it comes to the question of which value it corresponds to. In brief, this attitude towards nature is uniform with Christian beliefs, which take a deductive approach in interpreting nature based on the Bible and Holy Scriptures. In fact, a debate on the life and death of human beings draws attention to thoroughly observed facts of the process from the rise of life to death, defines the characteristics of human beings such as rational reactions and the ability to feel pain, and develops into the stage where individual cases are discussed and concrete judgments are made.
Modern Christian beliefs, in particular, have formed an exhaustively doctrinaire interpretation of the rise of life. Since the birth of the first baby conceived through in vitro fertilization in 1978, there have been various political discussions on reproductive technologies in the European society, and in the 1990s, some European countries such as Austria and Switzerland (see Column Section 8 of Chapter 10) have established laws on assisted reproductive techniques, which are reflected by Christian values.
The Koran, on the other hand, describes that the human being is something equal to water during the first three months of gestation. With this idea, it is still unknown how the Islamic world will handle reproductive techniques in the near future. Yet, it is somewhat probable that the Islamic world will treat issues such as reproductive technologies and tests for hereditary diseases in a manner different from that of other cultures, because of the restrictions on marriage specified by the Islamic law.
Buddhism and Confucianism, historically, have not had much of a full-frontal confrontation with science and technology. Unlike Christian beliefs, these beliefs have never served as a societal function dealing with the issues of bioethics. In the non-Christian world, influential factors for such issues are rather its social culture and traditional values. For instance, Taiwanese society attaches much importance to the prosperity of its family and intergenerational order. As such, the society has its own way of debating issues such as sperm egg transfer or surrogate motherhood. For Japan to establish its own values, one option could be by comparing its values with those of neighboring societies.

Top of Page