Book and film reviews

Farewell to stone age morality

By Johannes Huber (Editor)

Styria Verlag, Graz 2001, ISBN 3-222-12863-4.

(Published in GralsWelt 22/2001)

A team of authors who cover a wide spectrum from medicine to natural sciences to philosophy and theology has tackled one of the hot topics of our time: the question of ethics and morality in an era in which genetic engineering, cloning, research with embryonic stem cells, etc. Make the headlines. Here the convictions of natural scientists and theologians sometimes clash violently, and the demand for “contemporary ethics” that is accepted worldwide becomes unmistakable in the age of globalization.

So it should z. B be out of the question for genetic researchers if, on the one hand, “Christian ethics” would like to prevent any kind of genetic research on humans; z. B. on the grounds that around 1870 a Pope proclaimed that with conception every human being would be given life by God, and therefore inviolable (or not his property), while on the other hand such research, for example in Israel, was not a problem according to rabbinical teaching, human life only begins at birth.

The authors of this book take the standpoint of evolutionary biology. They consider the Ten Commandments to be the expression of mankind's many years of experience with the coexistence of groups in the Stone Age or Bronze Age environment, they also do not believe in a universal morality based on overarching insights or God's laws:
“Instead of constantly hoping for the 'new person' and tinkering with various utopias, we are therefore well advised to take a closer look at the 'old' first. And that offers a wonderful kaleidoscope of characteristics, behaviors that mock the expectation of every moral rigorist, but cannot simply be blown away, but must be taken into account in ethics. " (P. 140).

And the conclusion of the book is accordingly:
“If ethics are not universal, not objective and certainly not absolutely justifiable, then the dissent also loses a lot of potential for aggression. If you are morally indignant, you are no longer obliged to pick up the shotgun, but to take a cognac. " (P. 149).

These views, which distance themselves from religiosity - as it is often understood today - and above all from any fundamentalism, will hardly find unreserved approval. But it is well worth the effort to read this book. It provides a good overview of the most important of the pending questions on the use of genetic engineering on humans, and familiarizes with the convictions that lead natural scientists to reject the theologically justified bans on genetic engineering on humans.