Today, at the turn of the 21st century, genetic revolution has transformed the nature of our biological research and it is opening a new and unprecedented progress in various disciplines of life sciences. However, while the transformative potential of biotechnology has acquired an unbelievable eminence in biology and medicine, it has, perhaps, more than any other area of scientific and technological research, raised some of the most profound bioethical questions that humanity has ever faced. With serious implications for our health, the environment, the future of agriculture, the relationship between human societies and the rest of the nature, and the meaning and purpose of life, these genetic technologies have aroused worldwide attention. Fields such as stem research, cloning, euthanasia, abortion, gene therapy and so on have already become the subjects of heated public debate. Touching the latest biotechnologies from cloning to highly debatable stem cell research, the author, Dr. T. D. Singh, in this volume, summarizes the biotechnological revolutions, reviews some of the important bioethical questions raised by them and seeks possible guidance from Vedanta, the topmost scientific and philosophical treatise of Indian spiritual and cultural heritage to help resolve some of these issues. We hope these words by Dr. Singh, who himself witnessed biotechnological revolution in the last few decades, will provide stimulating insights into what has now become one of the most extraordinarily revealing arena of our times.
Dr. T. D. Singh (His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami) has a unique background. He is a scientist with a Ph.D. in Physical Organic Chemistry from the University of California, Irvine, USA, as well as a spiritualist in the Bhakti-Vedanta tradition of India. He has authored and edited a number of books on science and religion, including his famous dialogue with Prof. Roger Penrose: Science, Spirituality and the Nature of Reality. He is the Founder Director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute and has been one of the pioneers in advancing the dialogue between science and religion over the past three decades.
n this new millennium, rapid advancements of biotechnology and genetic engineering have raised some of the most profound bioethical questions that humanity has ever faced. In the name of scientific advancement, these new technologies could be the causes of serious implications for our health, the environment, the future of agriculture, and the relationship between human societies and the rest of the nature. Fields such as stem cell research, cloning, euthanasia, abortion, gene therapy and so on have already become the subjects of heated public debate.
There are many important bioethical questions in biotechnology and bioengineering such as, does the embryo have the right to develop into a mature adult? Does embryonic stem cell research encourage the killing of potential embryos? Will genetic modification or engineering of plants and animals be the cause of some unknown and dangerous diseases? Should the right to die be allowed? There will be many more questions that will arise in the future as biotechnology advances. All of these bioethical implications cannot be ignored. To what extent should we be playing God?
All these debates have brought us back to the same age-old fundamental question - What is life, its meaning and purpose? More than sixty years ago, the well-known quantum physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, although not a biologist, wrote the classic book, What is Life? Today, many scientists, spiritualists and thoughtful people are asking the same question. The magazine New Scientist has made a list of the top 10 contemporary questions of life and one of them is: 'What is life?'' Undoubtedly, understanding 'what is life' holds the key to solving many of the bioethical questions we face today.
Vedanta, the ancient Hindu theological and metaphysical treatise on human life, proclaims that life and matter are two distinct categories of reality. According to this treatise, the primeval being, God, is the origin of both. Matter is the insentient energy whereas life is the sentient or conscious energy of God. However, they can interact under the influence of time, resulting in what we call embodied or biological life. In developed living beings such as humans and others, this interaction starts from the very moment of conception, and biological and ethical issues also begin from this point on. Vedanta strictly deals with life from a spiritual perspective and gives preeminence to life over non-sentient matter.
In this volume, we will first briefly discuss some of the recent biotechnological advancements, followed by various bioethical issues born from these advancements. We will then reflect on seeking possible guidance from the Vedantic wisdom to help resolve some of these issues.
**Contents and Sample Pages**