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Re:"genetic engineering" and religion

From: Venkat Nagarajan (NAGARAVE_at_fin.gov.on.ca)
Date: Tue Feb 08 2000 - 14:31:05 PST

Dear Sri. Sampath/Bhagavatas,

Sri. Sampath Vedanta is not a religion.  Vedanta is a holistic, systematic,
and rational exposition on the nature of reality.  (I have already stated
this on several occasions, most recently during discussions with you.) 
Given, this, the Vedantin has a rational answer for each one of your
questions, based on the Vedantic conception of reality.  I will not attempt
to answer each of your questions, but only a couple to illustrate.  
I will first address your conluding statement.

Sri. Sampath writes:

Religion must wake up to these new realities and begin
to formulate its own responses to such difficult
questions of faith and moral conundrums.

1. Sri. Sampath what is your rational for  the above statement?   
2. Sri. Sampath, have you identified any key elements of 
Vedanta philosophy that have been dismissed by the 
advancement in cloning?  I ask you this question   
mainly because your statement is profound.

An attempt to Respond to Sri. Sampath's Questions:

(1) What is stand of the Vedic religion to human
cloning? Is the clone also a "baddha-jeeva"?

Response:
The Vedantin would not view cloning as a positive.  
Advances such as cloning can only further the delusion 
of baddha jiva's by giving them a false notion of control 
over outcomes.  The Vedantin's oppostion is based on 
his or her rational conception of reality and not on a code 
of morality deviod of a metaphysical subtratum.  The clone is 
most definitely a baddha jiva, since it will not be in a state of bliss.

Why is the Vedantin's oppostion not ethical in nature?  
Cloning only modifies the properties of the body 
(container.) Brahman can either find a jiva with 
suitable karma to be enclosed in the modified container.  
Or, if a choice of jiva to be enclosed is predetermined, 
Brahman can appropriately modify the sanctioning of outcomes
in order to ensure that jiva's level of material enjoyment
is in line with prarabdha karma.  

(2)  If the human soul can be said to be 'cloned' then
isn't such cloning a bit like "srushti" or creation
itself? Has Man finally become God?

Response:

No.  The term god implies omnipotence and all-knowing knowledge; man
is not omnipotent now nor will he be if and when he perfects cloning. 
Ability to modify some (not all) attributes of matter is not sufficient to
confer the title god to human beings.   Man cannot even define a straight
line, but wants to present himself with the title of God:] Funny.

-One will realize the limitations of empirical science only when one gains
a proper understanding of the nature and structure of theory. 

(3) A human clone represents an exact biological
replica of the original. Is it a "spiritual-replica"
too? Does it have the "same" atomic soul ("aatmA")
too? Or is the clone to be treated as insentient... a
"jada"?

Response:

-Your question is not worded properly.  
The manner in which you have worded 
your questions makes it seem as though
the advancement of cloning authenticates 
the meterialist premise that matter is sentient 
(i.e, makes it an an irrefutable fact.) 
Any theory of reality (vedantic, meterialistic 
or other) is based on premises.  
The Vedantin accepts the premise that 
matter is not sentient; the metrialist accepts the 
opposite premise.  Since both are rational, the 
choice of one will have to be based on belief.   
The answer to this question will differ across
individuals; if one accepts the premise that 
matter is not sentient, then a clone 
will have an Atman.  

ramanuja dasan,
Venkat