Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Ecotheology 11.1 March 2006

Fabricated Nature: Where are the Boundaries?

R.J. Berry
Issued Date: 24 Feb 2007


Problems associated with our use of technology have multiplied as the
technologies themselves have become ever more powerful and particularly
since we can now manipulate life itself. Genetical manipulation encapsulates
for many the questions, fears and confusions raised by technological
advances. The Prince of Wales’s criticisms of GM have been useful in
crystallizing these. Some of the issues he has raised are due to misapprehension
(such as the claim that the transfer of genes can only occur ‘naturally’
between organisms that interbreed; this is factually incorrect) but
others highlight important topics about the relation between mankind and
his environment.
A persisting problem is that this relationship is distorted for us by the
dominance of the Enlightenment enterprise that revealed so much about
the natural world and its mechanisms. Crucially, this obscures the reality
that we are more than mere apes—we are individuals created in God’s
image—and that the apparently limitless opportunities that emerge from
modern knowledge bring with them enormous responsibilities as well as
enormous privileges—responsibilities to others, to our world, and to God.
Lacking omniscience, we must accept the discipline of the ‘precautionary
principle’ and the inter-dependence of scientific advance and social cohesion.
We need wisdom as well as knowledge. In this respect, we can learn
hugely from the history of the land which the Creator entrusted to humankind
and the treatment of which is described in the older Testament. It
teaches us about the limits of any one approach by itself—whether we
espouse naturalism (or scientism), regulation, altruism or societal controls.
Failure to look beyond ourselves and our own interests is likely to get us
no further than an unstable modern version of the Tower of Babel.

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DOI: 10.1558/ecot.2006.11.1.9


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