Ethics of Science: Researchers Join Theologians to Discuss Gene Editing Tools

The cornerstone of medical science and faith-based groups aims to alleviate human suffering, but the development of new gene-editing tools raises many ethical questions.  Bioethicists, scientists, and theologians from across the country will meet in Salt Lake City to begin a dialog around this complex topic in creative and meaningful ways.

The conference, A Faith and Science Workshop on Ethical Issues in Human Germ-line Editing, will be held at the Episcopal Conference Center on October 6 - 7. Registration is full.

A video of the event will be made available after the conference. To receive a copy, click here.

“Christian theology is not in opposition to science,” said Reverend David Nichols, pastor of Mount Tabor Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City and co-organizer of the event. “The exploration of science is the fulfillment of the vocation of people of faith who are scientists.” 

Saturday morning sessions will examine the current science of gene-editing tools (CRISPR Cas-9) and the ethical issues that result from application of this technology from a theological perspective. In the afternoon, participants can focus on specific components of the discussion during four, simultaneous break-out sessions.

  • Margaret P. Battin, PhD, distinguished professor of Philosophy at U of U Health, will facilitate a discussion on the role of faith-based counseling to guide a family or individual when considering gene-editing tools.
  • James Tabery, PhD, associate professor of Philosophy at U of U Health, will facilitate a discussion on genetic enhancement of children.
  • Jill Sweney, MD, assistant professor of Pediatric Critical Care at Primary Children’s Hospital, will facilitate a discussion on the future availability and access to gene-editing technologies.
  • Marc Williams, MD, director of the Genomic Medicine Institute, Geisinger Health System, will facilitate a discussion around the safety of germ-line editing.

“The university has many strengths ¾ scientific expertise, a division in medical ethics and a center for genetics,” said Jeffrey Botkin, MD, professor in Pediatrics at U of U Health. “We have the resources and now the opportunity to foster a public dialog on this issue.”

Other speakers from University of Utah Health include Dana Carroll, PhD (Biochemistry), David Grunwald, PhD (Human Genetics), C. Matthew Petersen (Obstetrics and Gynecology). Jeffrey Botkin, MD (Pediatrics) and John Carey, MD (Pediatrics) are co-organizers of the conference.

The event is sponsored by U of U Health Department of Pediatrics, Division of Medical Genetics and Medical Ethics and Humanities, University of Utah Center for Excellence in ELSI (Ethical, Legal, Social Implications) Research, The Rocky Mountain Synod and Utah Conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Mount Tabor Lutheran Church of Salt Lake, the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, and Lineagen.

Related links:

Salt Lake Tribune: Commentary: Gene editing in Humans? Proceed with caution

Scope Radio: Should We Genetically Modify Humans?


About the Author:

Stacy W. KishScience Writer