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Biotechnology, Benefits and Perils: The Need for Spiritual Perspective in Achieving Harmony of Science and Religion

Jul 15, 2018
Biotechnology, Benefits and Perils: The Need for Spiritual Perspective in Achieving Harmony of Science and Religion

Momentous advancement in the past century and a half in molecular biology of the gene has spurred a scientific and medical revolution, accompanied at once with undreamt of possibilities as well as considerable moral and ethical implications. Such developments include: breakthrough in the structure of the DNA molecule, the carrier of the genetic information in all living things; the mapping and decoding of the entire human genome; and the technology for editing and modifying the gene. The rapidly advancing technology of gene editing, bearing the acronym CRISPER, is acquiring increasing refinements, enhanced possibilities and wider applications.

Other biotechnologies, such as recombinant DNA, gene cloning, and stem cell research, are among numerous other advances which hold prospects for the welfare of humankind, but can also portend harmful outcomes. Among the significant benefits are: identification of the genetic base of disease, eradication of deadly diseases, development of drugs and therapies, prolongation of human life and much more. Among the adverse implications are: eugenics, human cloning, generation of biohazards and their release into the environment.

Such technological advances bring to the forefront the benefits but also the perils of biotechnology, recalling the dystopian predictions in the “Brave New World” of Aldous Huxley.

Followers of traditional religions may adopt a stance against such technologies, which they believe tamper with the gene and trespass into the realm of God’s creation. The sacred writings of the Bahá’í Faith, however, inculcate the importance of scientific investigation and knowledge. Hence Bahá’í scientists will likely choose to promote progress in scientific learning toward “the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, … to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 204) while at the same time remaining vigilant of their harmful implications.



Jena Khadem Khodadad

Jena Khadem Khodadad is a fourth generation Iranian Bahá’í. The major part of her life was spent in the United States of America where she received her Ph.D. degree from Northwestern University in Biological Sciences (with focus on cellular and molecular Biology), followed with postdoctoral studies and faculty positions in medical and graduate schools. Her academic career in medical and graduate programs entailed teaching and research. Jena’s scientific publications are in journals and academic books. Aside from her scientific research and publications, Jena is deeply interested in studies centered on Bahá’í history, the fundamental principles of the Bahá’í Faith, such as the harmony of science and religion, and specifically the application of scientific principles to an appreciation and understanding of the Bahá’í worldview. In this respect, her book “Scientific Principles at Work in the Worldwide Advancement of Bahá’í Faith” (George Ronald, Publishers) explores scientific principles in respect to the growth of the Bahá’í  Faith and the dynamism and vitality of the Bahá’í community. Jena continues to contribute to public discourse and dialogues on some of the challenges of our times. Furthermore, Jena is committed to enhancement of interfaith understanding and has organized, presented, and contributed to numerous interfaith forums.

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