Religious Studies | Religion, Ethics and Medicine
R373 | 16545 | Sideris, L.


This course deals with questions regarding the appropriate role of
humans vis-à-vis “nature” and natural processes on the one hand, and
conceptions of “God” on the other. Debates in medicine and bioethics
often draw on religious motifs such as the notion that humans are
created in God’s image, are attempting to “play God,” or are “co-
creators” with God in the task of making and remaking ourselves and
our world. Attempts to refashion ourselves and our world (and future
generations and their world) may take the form of intervention in,
or enhancement and improvement of, “natural” processes. Such
attempts, in turn, raise difficult questions about human nature,
human finitude and the meaning of suffering—such as when and whether
we ought to exercise restraint in using the technology now available
to us; whether humans should always strive to remove or transcend
natural limitations including disease and death itself; how to
define disease, what constitutes “treatment,” and where, if
anywhere, the line exists between the natural and the artificial;
whether there is something inherently valuable about the biological
limitations humans encounter, something bound up with what it means
to be human. With these questions in mind, this course will examine
a subset of current issues in medicine and bioethics, including
genetic testing (pre- and post-natal), transhumanism (use of medical
technology to transcend disease, aging and death), enhancement
technologies (pharmaceutical and genetic), human cloning, organ
transplantation, and death and dying issues. While much of our
discussion of religion will draw upon the Judeo-Christian tradition,
we will also have the opportunity to examine constructions of
illness and applications of medical technology cross-culturally and
from the standpoint of various world religions. Requirements include
exams, short papers, occasional quizzes and class participation.