Thursday, January 12, 2006

Science and religion must go hand in hand

By Michael Gonsalves, Pune: A science-religion dialogue is key to the future shape of the cosmos and in addressing sensitive issues like cloning and genetic engineering, say scientists attending a global meeting near here.

"Whether cloning, biotechnology, genetic engineering and genome research will lead to a boom or will spell doom is the million dollar question confronting humanity," Job Kozhamthadam, president of the Indian Institute of Science and Religion (IISR) here, told IANS.

Kozhamthadam said therapeutic cloning was good for humanity but reproductive cloning - to create super human beings with distinct features like blue eyes or possessing super intelligence by sequencing genes - would create immense problems.

"By tinkering with the genetic structure, it is possible today to create a distinct clan of people," he said, pointing out that a company had cloned a cow with a human egg.

"In some behaviour, the transgenic animal will be a cow and a human being as well," Kozhamthadam said on the sidelines of an international symposium on "Science: Religion Dialogue and Cosmic Future" organised by IISR at Lonavla near Pune.

The meeting, being attended by 16 Indian and foreign scientists and various religious thinkers, is to end Friday. IISR, launched five years ago, is an institute to promote constructive and creative interaction between science and religion in India.

Quoting Albert Einstein who said "science without religion is blind and religion without science is lame", Kuruvilla Pandikattu, associate president of IISR, said the world's problems were so gigantic that science and religion had to work hand in hand for the betterment of humanity.

He said science alone could not solve problems, and the values and vision provided by religion were needed to give direction to the future of mankind.

Kozhamthadam, author of "Modern Science, Religion and The Quest For Unity", said in principle anything was possible in genetic engineering. But some experiments could lead to abuses.

On the other hand, the beneficial side of biotechnology was also evident.

For instance, metal-eating and oil-eating bacteria developed by biotechnology had been effective in cleaning the ocean bed and even recovering oil, said A.G. Bansode, a biotechnology scientist.

"Science gives technology and enables us to move forward but it does not give us a vision or direction. Therefore, while science is the means, it does not know the end that has to be provided by religion," he said.

"But religion alone cannot take us to our goal either," said Pandikattu, author of the book "Bliss of Being Human".

Since cosmic destiny is inextricably interlinked with human destiny, Kozhamthadam said, the science-religion dialogue could play a key role in giving shape to the future of the cosmos.

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