Gareth Jones qualified in medicine at University College London (UCL), following which he undertook research in neuroscience in the Department of Anatomy at UCL. Following a few years in the University of Western Australia, he joined the University of Otago as Professor of Anatomy and was head of that department until 2003. From 2004-2009 he was Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International), and then Director of the Bioethics Centre for three years. He served on the New Zealand Government’s Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology for six years. Research interests include human anatomy and ethics, including uses of human cadavers and tissues; neuroethics; stem cell technology, including induced pluripotent stem cells; artificial reproductive technologies, including developmental issues; enhancement and therapy; bioethics and theology. Professor Jones has authored many articles and books, among them: The Peril and Promise of Medical Technology (Peter Lang, 2013); Speaking for the Dead: The Human Body in Biology and Medicine (with Maja Whitaker, Ashgate, 2009); Bioethics: When the Challenges of Life Become too Difficult (ATF Press, 2007); Designers of the Future: Who Should Make the Decisions? (Monarch Books, 2005), and with John Elford two edited volumes on the relationship between Medicine and Theology: A Tangled Web (Peter Lang, 2009) and A Glass Darkly (Peter Lang, 2010).
Description: The relationship between science and theology in the biomedical domain poses major challenges in certain areas. For some Christian theologians, tinkering with the genome, interfering with reproduction, and modifying embryos raise theological concerns, on the ground that intrusions of this nature challenge God-ordained parameters of human existence. In contrast, biomedical achievements are welcomed when diseases are cured, life-saving surgery is undertaken, and aggravating conditions are controlled by drug regimes. These countervailing responses present enormous challenges for biomedical scientists seeking to contribute to ground breaking laboratory and clinical research, as faithful stewards of God’s revelation of his purposes in this world. My aim in this presentation is to delineate three dimensions of the challenges. First, it is necessary to determine to what extent, if any, scientific insights and technological developments can legitimately contribute to theological perceptions based upon the wisdom of the biblical writers and theological scholars. Is science a means of appreciating more fully God’s action in the world of biomedicine, or is it a fateful distraction? Second, in light of these considerations, how can Christian organisations and churches best contribute to public debate over contentious biomedical questions involving issues far removed from the experience of the biblical writers? Implicit within this challenge is lack of agreement within the Christian community, and the apparent need to adapt certain long-held theological positions if one is to interact productively with prevailing secular world-views. Third, the practical outworking of these challenges will be illustrated by the present and potential future applications of gene therapy in a range of conditions including cancer treatment, cystic fibrosis, and epidermolysis bullosa. I shall argue that Christians should be far more positive about biomedical possibilities at the beginning of human life than is frequently the case.