The Common Good
November 2004

Responsible Know-How

by Rev. John A. Mills | November 2004

Responsible Know-

Responsible Know-How

I read Bob Smietana’s commentary "Playing Doctor, Playing God" (September 2004). His quandary is real and frustrating. My brother also suffers from multiple sclerosis, my mother from Alzheimer’s, my sister from rheumatoid arthritis, and myself from polymyositis—all autoimmune conditions. I believe that God does not give us scientific know-how just to say "don’t use it." God has given us this emerging know-how to use for healing, as the scientists suggest.

But God also calls us to responsible stewardship so as not to slip into the objectifying, dehumanizing abyss that Amy Laura Hall describes. God expects us to regulate our efforts, to embrace the gray area of a delicate balance between the born and the unborn. The United Kingdom, at the advice of such lights as John Polkinghorne, has established guidelines governing stem cell research. For example, a woman can never be hired to conceive and abort for research; only after a woman has reached that difficult decision for other reasons can she be asked to donate the embryos.

No doubt these guidelines are imperfect, but they are a faithful response to God’s gift of science. Banning the research denies God’s gift and drives the work underground; faithfully stewarding the work celebrates God’s love and gift of free will.

Rev. John A. Mills
Fanwood, New Jersey

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