STRETCHING BOUNDARIES : A SIKH PERSPECTIVE ON EMERGING ISSUES IN BIOETHICS

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Development & Ethical Boundaries:

Human Conditioning to Learn from Afterthought

BACKGROUND

The Nuffield Council is working to identify and define ethical and moral issues in the ongoing and future biological and medical research using gene alteration for purpose of added food production, alternate energy sources, environmental control, treatments for hereditary diseases through gene alteration and regenerative therapies. Preferred methodology suggested is to examine, with the help of imagined future scenarios, if any specific social responsibility guidelines should be drawn up for the scientists and the governments involved. They have asked for faith perspectives on the issues that are inherent in this emerging and controversial field.

A related interest of the Council is about who should be involved in these discussions and setting of policy for research and human applications of genome editing at global level. This part seems to have been answered for faith groups by being asked to offer their input after some rethought.

INTRODUCTORY

Being a faith based perspective this brief note draws upon precepts, praxis, experience and world view of Sikhi as understood by [SMS]/author[s]. The perspective therefore need not be read as an authoritative Sikh position or view.

Further this brief note does not specifically look at issues involved in various aspects of genome editing but instead attempts to present a broad Sikh overview of ethical as well as moral precepts that may be helpful when searching to find answers to the vast variety of ethical issues that may get thrown up as a consequence of rapid changes the societies world over are in throes of as they develop and/or adopt new technologies in the pursuit of their development needs.

After this theological search we would look at some of the experiences and see what are the type of lessons these throw up. As such we would be using afterthought as a guide to commend areas for forethought.

SEARCHING SIKHI BASIS

A Positive Note

Sikhi commends belief in one, shared, supreme divine reality from which all that can be termed as created, has emanated. Sikh thought on creation – its process, stages and continuance – has resonance with theories of creation offered by scientific community that believes in a Creator.

Thus it is not a mere coincidence that Sikhs as a faith group are not seen as intensely opposed to or obsessed with reservations on most of the scientific or technological advances. Historically, they took their time when over a century back the question of electrification of the holy precinct of the famous Golden Temple got raised. The issue however was decided in favour of the change after extensive deliberations and since then Sikhs have shown resilience of thought and relative freedom from orthodoxy in addressing the complex ethical and conservation issues that have come up. If at all they have exhibited a penchant for the innovative that partially may explain some of the robustness or so called chardi kala – an inbred optimistic, buoyant characteristic associated with them that may have made them move too fast and ahead of the rest of the community.

To understand this character, let us look briefly at their related core beliefs, the way these find expression in their praxis and the culture of scientific mind that it tends to have promoted as evidenced by their historical experience.

Envisioning Divine Play:

Sikhs believe in nirgun [transcendent] and sargun [immanent] divine co-existing. The sargun pervades creation and merges back into nirgun per divine will.

The creation came into being and is managed through Hukam – expression for known or unknown immutable divine laws and discretionary divine interventions. Hukam is a one way command, wish, blessing by Creator for the created.

The macro balance in creation is through forces ethically symbolized by compassion, contentment and total devotion to duty.

These principles have kept the universe in a state of conflict free, successful operation from beginning of time.

The sense of divine awe sublimates into love – fountainhead of non discrimination in giving and caring for well being of all.

At the micro level a multiplicity of life forms exist. All life forms have a purpose and role in divine play.

Humans are given primacy over other species but God likes and watches over creation as brought into being by hukam.

Good and bad, virtue and vice, pious and profane, beautiful and ugly – all and those in between are created by the Creator

What our choices may have been doing to the macro system is only now beginning to be a subject of concern.

The created can connect with the Creator through Naam – catchall concept for divine immanence presence and individual & collective ethical, moral and spiritual human orientation commended by the Gurus.

Diversity

There is evidence of evolution in nature. The process can be cataclysmic but generally is a slow, self correcting, time tested, graduated change.

Its underlying character of natural processes is coming together of the created within broad tolerance limits even where huge numbers are involved.

This causes diversity to come into being on a continuing basis and provides identity to each of the created, while retaining its intended role and purpose.

Naturalness therefore has been identified as path of divinity [sehaj]. It obviously is not rigorously prescriptive and allows sufficient room for personal choices brought together into a divinely acceptable whole.

The guiding principle has been that short of interfering with the divine purpose as understood by the faith groups, the changes were intended to serve the purpose of ruling elite and/or well being of one and all – the two purposes often in conflict.

There is no concept of rights in Sikhi except the right to serve, surrender and plead. All that we receive is divine gift, benediction, recompense for good done – and we are judged not by our professions but by our deeds.

We therefore have to hone our abilities to make choices in consonance with the divine purpose. The stages in this development starting from received wisdom that guides us in forming our sense of dharma – duty – we try and learn [gian] from various sources of knowledge to improve quality of our choices. That is not enough because nothing in fact happens by itself, in isolation, for there are interdependencies that link all that one does with the rest and true harmony only is possible if holistic view guides one’s choices [state of saram]. Further spiritual development may result in bestowal of nadr – divine glance of grace – when in addition to interconnected, one is able to discern the divine in the other – when altruism and love bursting forth, as associated with the invincible, the heroic – a state of karam [blessing/mercy]. The apex of choice quality is reached when truth dawns – one is past choices, past coming and going.

Human Journey

This predictability in the short run has enabled development of knowledge that led to most of the improvement in human condition over the millennia.

In more recent past however the rate of change has accelerated driven by innovation and hunger for more by the more complex ruling elite mix in new societies.

There thus have been a lot of cases where second thoughts have become strong drivers to counter the unintended effects of hurriedly introduced changes. There are many examples:

  1. Vast range of defence technologies, WMD, Minefields —‘
  2. Preventive health care leading to massive population increases preceding political, economic and other developments
  3. Food production through intensive cultivation to meet food needs but resulting in ecological disasters in some parts of world
  4. Climate change and related well known issues
  5. Curative drugs, longevity, skewed demographics and resultant global tensions
  6. Rising clout of State strictures asserting their autonomies in an increasingly mobile world
  7. Machines replacing men, paradox of higher productivity with longer hours of work

Et al.

Peep into Future

The crazy possibilities of DNA & Genetic modelling and so many other facets of human search that is expected to impinge upon the nature and quality of human trajectory.

Relevance of Divine Principles & how to use to set guidelines for ethical and moral issues, emerging and/or even unenvisioned at the moment

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http://nuffieldbioethics.org/wp-content/uploads/NCOB_GenomeEditing-CallForEvidence1.pdf

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My sense was and remains after looking at the labored text you have diligently

reformatted that I would much rather stay clear of the research nitty gritty and limit any submission to the Sikh position as it emerges from the revealed vision of the Creator-creation relation as Guru’s explicated, the extent and vitality of human role within that paradigm in relation to the divine and the diversity mix in nature as envisioned by the Guru’s for a peaceful, enduring and holistic life and an empathetic, progressive society.

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Dhharath Suhaavarree Aakaas Suhandhaa Japandhiaa Har Naao – The earth is beauteous, and the sky is lovely, chanting the Name of the Lord – Sarang M V, p. 1247

Jaa Thoo Maerai Val Hai Thaa Kiaa Muhashhandhaa || Thudhh Sabh Kishh Maino Soupiaa Jaa Thaeraa Bandhaa – When You are on my side, Lord, what do I need to worry about? You entrusted everything to me, when I became Your slave – Maroo M V, p. 1096

Jagath jalandhaa raakh lae apnee kirpaa dhhaar  jith dwaarae ubhrae thithhae laee ubhaar – to solve the overarching problems confronting humanity we should not be constrained by any school of thought.

Pehlaan paanee jeeo hai jith haraeaa sabh koe – sterile environ does not let life grow, so think before you discard what seems polluted.

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The new population bomb: This time it is depopulation that will seal the fate of nations

March 14, 2016, 7:00 AM IST Ruchir Sharma in TOI Edit Page |

Though the global recovery is in its eighth year, there is not a single major region where economic growth has returned to its pre-crisis average.

The slowdown in working-age population growth is dampening economic growth everywhere. Until recently population decline was concentrated in the developed world, but now, it is starting to hit even in big emerging countries.

Worldwide, growth in the working-age population has collapsed, from an annual average of about 2% before 2005 to an annual average post-war low of around 1% this year. This one percentage point drop in population growth is likely to take a roughly equal chunk out of potential economic growth.

The world as a whole should probably expect long-term GDP growth more in the range of 2.5% than the post-war average of 3.5%, and emerging economies should expect average growth more in the range of 3% than 4%. In China working age population is shrinking.

Even where the population is growing faster than 2%, including smaller economies like Kenya and Bangladesh, population growth pays off only if political leaders create the conditions necessary to attract investments and generate jobs.

China introduced its one-child policy its fertility rate drop from 3.9 in 1978 to 1.5 today .That is well below the “replacement rate“ of 2.1­ the rate required to keep the population stable.

In three of the top 20 emerging countries, Poland, Russia and China, the working-age population is already contracting. In 2015, the working age population shrank in China for the first time since the UN began keeping records in 1950.

Population decline is thus high on the list of reasons, alongside rising debts that amount to nearly 300% of GDP and a massive investment binge, to doubt that China can sustain rapid GDP growth.Beijing knows this, which is why it rescinded the one-child policy last year.

It is, however, too late to defuse the depopulation bomb. Countries with shrinking populations rarely post strong economic growth. Looking at nearly 200 countries since 1960, there are 698 cases in which data for both population growth and GDP growth is available for a full decade. Of these cases, there were 38 in which the working-age population was shrinking, and the average annual GDP growth rate for these countries was just 1.5%.

The Lord is calling you to his Mansion; He is the Lover of His devotees. Following Guru’s Teachings, your mind shall be delighted, and your body shall be fulfilled. Conquer and subdue your mind, love the Shabad, reform yourself, and realize the Lord of the three worlds. Your mind shall not  wander anywhere else, when you comes to know your Husband Lord. You are my only Support, You are my Lord and Master. You are my strength and anchor. She is forever truthful and pure, O Nanak; conflicts are resolved through the Guru’s Shabad – Mehal Bulaaeirreeeae Bhagath Sanaehee Raam ||Guramath Man Rehasee Seejhas Dhaehee Raam ||Man Maar Reejhai Sabadh Seejhai Thrai Lok Naathh Pashhaaneae ||Man Ddeeg Ddol N Jaae Kath Hee Aapanaa Pir Jaaneae ||Mai Aadhhaar Thaeraa Thoo Khasam Maeraa Mai Thaan Thakeeaa Thaerou || Saach Soochaa Sadhaa Naanak Gur Sabadh Jhagar Nibaerou – Bilaval M IV, p. 844

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