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Most religious people find reproductive techs ‘immoral’

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Washington: When asked about the use of RGTs to prevent disease, 23 percent of evangelicals said this technology was morally wrong, compared with 9 percent of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains and 8 percent of Jews.

As new and more effective human reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs) develop, religious people are likelier to disapprove of these tools than nonreligious people, a new Rice University study found. Evangelical Christians are the most likely of any religious group to stand in opposition, the researchers found.

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The study examined how religious and nonreligious people felt about RGTs that could reveal qualities of an unborn child, such as whether the child had a disease (“disease technologies”), and those that allowed parents to select qualities for a child, such as gender, hair colour and eye colour (“enhancement technologies”).

It included a general population survey of more than 10,000 people and 270 qualitative interviews with individuals living in the Midwest and South from a variety of religious traditions.

Lead author Elaine Howard Ecklund found over the course of her research that feelings about the use of RGTs vary not only between religious and nonreligious persons but also among religious groups.

When asked about the use of RGTs to prevent disease, 23 percent of evangelicals said this technology was morally wrong, compared with 9 percent of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains and 8 percent of Jews. Only 4 percent of agnostics and atheists said this technology was “morally wrong.”

Religious groups had a much stronger negative reaction about the morality of using RGTs to select qualities such as gender, hair colour and eye colour. Eighty percent of evangelicals said that this type of technology was morally wrong, compared with 66 percent of Jews and 57 percent of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains. Just over half – 55 percent – of agnostics and atheists said this type of technology was morally wrong.

“A large proportion of religious and nonreligious people feel morally uncomfortable with enhancement technologies,” Ecklund said. During her in-depth interviews with study participants, Ecklund found that the “Creator Schema,” which emphasizes God’s control and God’s purposes and plans in human suffering, predominated among Evangelical Christians and at times mainline Protestants and Muslims.

More than half of all groups surveyed – including nonreligious groups – disagreed with the use of enhancement RGTs, and many feared that enhancement RGTs might be used for “unwise ends,” the authors said.

“They often opposed enhancement RGTs because they saw this as related to eugenics, fearing that people would actively select or preference embryos with certain characteristics,” said co-author Jared Peifer.

However, the religious individuals who supported enhancement RGTs mostly did so by considering these technologies within the abilities that God provides to humans, thereby drawing on the Co-Creator Schema.