Re: [asa] What is life?

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon Aug 20 2007 - 11:31:45 EDT

I agree with George (and Ted Peters) here. It seems natural to me that if
part of the imago Dei is creativity -- the ability to create -- then there
is nothing inherently wrong with creating (or, more accurately, engineering)
"life." Indeed, we do this whenever we procreate. Problems arise when our
power to create comes unmoored from ethical considerations about whether we
*ought* to create some particular thing. It's one thing to genetically
engineer a microbe so that it efficiently digests waste oil, but it might
be quite another, say, to clone a thing/being from human DNA in order to
harvest its organs or stem cells.

On 8/20/07, George Murphy <> wrote:
> Ted Peters specially has emphasized that the phrase "playing God" is not
> very helpful. To quote him:
> It will be my position that the phrase "playing God?" has very little
> cognitive value when looked at from the perspective of a theologian. Its
> primary role is that of a warning, such as the word "stop." In common
> parlance it has come to mean just that: stop. Within the gene myth it
> means that we should stop trying to engineer DNA. Theologically, however,
> there is at best only minimum warrant for using this phrase in such a
> conservative and categorical way.[i]
> ------------------------------
> [i]. Ted Peters, *Playing God? Genetic Determinism and Human Freedom*(Routledge, New York, 1997),
> p.2.
> (By "the gene myth" he means the idea that we are completely defined by
> our genes.)
> I would add -
> 1) Although the phrase is certainly less than ideal, there is a sense in
> which we are *supposed* to "play God." I.e., as Gen.1:28 (& also Ps.115:16)
> indicate, we are to represent God in caring for creation.
> 2) It's essential to understand what God we are to "play." Patterning
> our activity on that of Christ - & that of the human race on the Trinity -
> is very different from playing the Cosmic President for Life who is the
> popular notion of God.
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Christine Smith" <
> To: <>
> Sent: Monday, August 20, 2007 9:01 AM
> Subject: [asa] What is life?
> I found this article
> (
> in the Houston Chronicle very interesting,
> particularly some of the following quotes:
> "We are doing things which were thought to be the
> province, in some quarters, of God - like making new
> forms of life," Bedau said in a phone interview from
> Venice. "Life is very powerful, and if we can get it
> to do what we want ... there are all kinds of good
> things that can be done."
> On its face, this seems to me to be
> unethical--creating new life forms so we can make it
> do what we want? Sounds like we're on a power trip?
> Isn't the value of life not found in its utility
> (although every lifeform does something useful), but
> in its very being/existence?
> "Playing God is a good thing to do as long as you're
> doing it responsibly," he said."
> Is it? And if so, can humans conceivably be trusted to
> do it "responsibly", given our belief that humanity is
> sinful by nature? Should we avoid pushing this
> envelope of R & D until our wisdom and/or laws has a
> chance to catch up with our knowledge?
> Just some questions off the top of my head--back to
> work for me!
> In Christ,
> Christine
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Received on Mon Aug 20 11:32:34 2007

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