What is presented as discussions on religious faith in relation to science is often as much a podium for disagreements within religious traditions. As an example, in the United States controversies over evolution are primarily controversies among various attitudes within American protestant Christianity. In this context, ‘evolution’ has become a symbolic issue, with various steps removed from the science involved. When anti-evolution attitudes migrate to other contexts, also among Muslims, the symbolic issues may be different even if the same examples are used.

Attitudes regarding modern technology and medicine have a similar ‘symbolic’ dimension. Understanding attitudes with respect to bioethics and modern medicine may be served by paying attention to this symbolic dimension. As a contrast to medical technologies I Intend to discuss also some positions on “Islam and ecology”, drawing on works of a graduate student, A.M. Schwencke. Her study has illustrated the internal diversity in this field. However, by and large ‘religion and ecology’ tends to present a positive view of the natural world, which strengthens an alliance of secular and religious environmentalists.

In contrast, biotechnology and modern medicine may be seen as efforts to “improve nature”. Values that support an alliance in the environmentalist area might put positive collaboration of scientists, doctors and religious thinkers under pressure. In various traditions, religious authorities have dismissed modern technological options as hubris, as “playing God”. In contrast, scientists, doctors and other believers have spoken of a moral obligation to care for humans in need, and for that purpose the obligation to use the best techniques available.

Differences between technophobe attitudes and technophile attitudes are not merely a matter of different moral orientations, but often correlate with different orientations within religious traditions. Some emphasize “creation” as a God given, normative order. This often corresponds with an inclination to self-restraint with respect to medical and other technologies. For others, the religious call to serve God and hence the obligation to help people in need, strengthens a positive engagement with technology. Whereas the one might take the form of a “natural theology”, the moral stance seems to require a “theology of nature”.


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  • Accepted: 23 June 2012
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