Bioethics as Technology Education
- Peter A. Sy.
Department of Philosophy, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES
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This paper offers a rationale for the inclusion of bioethics in technology education. While both multi-disciplinary pursuits have emerged in the 1960s (at least in the English-speaking countries) as a response to sustained introduction and utilization of advanced technologies in societies, they have since diverged into relatively independent paths, with practitioners from either field discussing only their specialized topics and speaking their own professional, if not esoteric, languages. In varying levels, both fields have thrived well, despite their separate development from each other. Bioethicists are often consulted by governments and professional organizations, and the media-savvy among them often land in newspaper headlines and occasional television interviews. Technology educators have succeeded in instituting “science, technology and society” (STS) courses in North American, West European, Australian, and Asian colleges and universities as well as in influencing educational programs and other professional organizations. A case, however, can be made for the unity of both academic pursuits by revisiting some fundamental questions (like the meaning and value of pervasive technological applications in the spheres of life, work, education, society, and culture) that, in the first place, gave rise to issues both bioethicists and technology educators now tendt o grapple separately. Such case for intellectual unity and harmony is compelling, especially in the context of many diverse Asian cultures relatively less affected by professional academic specializations and rivalries.
Aristotle's threefold concept (episteme, techne, and phronesis) of intellectual virtue is also offered in this paper as a perspective useful in advancing bioethics as technology education as well as in imbibing bioethical principles in technology education. Special attention is given to phronesis as a virtue associated with ethics. It is focused on the deliberation over values for the purpose of determining how technology should be applied in medicine, education, and society.
Sivakami: The application of the technology and not the technology itself is questionable, though from country to country, case to case, person to person, can be different.
Sy: I’m not sure whether I got you right, but are you suggesting that technology is neutral? I’m not sure what you mean.
Sivakami: I don’t mean that technology is neutral, the application of technology, as you said technology is neutral…
Sy: I didn’t say that.
Sivakami: It discriminates between man and woman, that’s what you suggested. Technology itself, you can not find fault with the technology.
Sy: I’m not sure whether I agree with that. Because a seemingly innocent introduction of a technology can change the life of a people; for example, a classic example would be the introduction of a piping system to a village. It seems to improve the life of the villagers but it also alters the social pattern of the village. The well is the place where people gathered, a place to exchange news about the community, etc… So in introducing the piping system into the village, the effect is the separation of people. It is different when you say that there is no effect; that it is neutral, and when you say that there might be effects that we are not aware of.
Sivakami: I meant that if you want to operate on patients you shouldn’t make organ transplants a common feature.
Sy: Ok. I was going to tell a story about my niece. We have been teasing her about her weight because she has been eating a lot lately. And she tells us, “ It’s ok. My mom just had a liposuction and I can have that too.” Anyway, I think that we should be thinking along those lines whether we should be using technology.
. p. 637 in Macer, DRJ., ed., "Challenges for Bioethics from Asia" (Eubios Ethics Institute, 2004).