Category Archives: Bioethics/Biotech


Spirituality and Cancer: Christian Encounters

I’m looking forward to the book launch next week of “Spirituality and Cancer: Christian Encounters”, edited by my friends and colleagues Caroline Blyth (University of Auckland) and Tim Meadowcroft (Laidlaw College). The book is a collection of papers delivered at a ‘Spirituality, Theology and Cancer’ Laidlaw/University of Auckland symposium held at the University of Auckland in February 2014.

Cancer disturbs most lives at some point. The contributors to this book all seek to find meaning within that experience, as carers, sufferers, medical professionals, pastors, theologians, and scientists. They offer no easy answers, but speak with an honesty that reveals the anguish and hope that arises from the presence of cancer in our world. The result is a rich reflection on the spiritual and theological meaning of cancer.

Book Contents

  • Caroline Blyth: Introduction

Part I: Personal Responses

  • Catriona Gorton: Public Faith and Private Pain: A Quest for Authenticity
  • Alistair McBride: Dancing with Cancer: A Different Metaphor
  • Brian Brandon: A Healer in Need of Healing

Part II: Practical and Public Responses

  • David Nuualiitia: The Practice of Presence in a Hospice Context
  • Hannah Walker: Soul Nursing in Palliative Care: Spiritual Care of the Dying
  • Caroline Blyth: A Pilgrim’s Progress: Learning to Journey with the Dying Patient
  • Briar Peat: The Physician, Cancer, and Spirituality
  • Stephen Garner: Jesus Heals? Faith Claims in the Public Square

Part III:Theological and Theoretical Responses

  • Jeffery Tallon: Physics, Free Will, and Cancer
  • Tim Meadowcroft: Eternity and Dust? Considering Humanity, Cancer, and God
  • T. Mark McConnell: The Disruptive Power of Christian Hope: Suffering, Cancer, and Theological Meaning
  • Sue Patterson: Fruitful Dominion or Hubris? Creation, Vocation, and Cancer
  • Nicola Hoggard Creegan: A Whole New Life: Hope in the Face of Evil
  • Bob Robinson: “Cancer is Not a Disease. It is a Phenomenon”: Finding God in a Cancer-Strewn World


  • Richard Egan: Spirituality and Cancer: “Not a Saccharine Additive”
  • Tim Meadowcroft: Finding Hope and Yearning for Love

For those in the Auckland area, this Spirituality and Cancer volume will have it’s official launch on 13 November. The invitation is below and consider yourselves all warmly welcomed. RSVP to Accent Publications (e-mail included below)


The book will be available at the event and later through the Accent Publications web site:

Transhuman Films

The blog’s been pretty quiet while I’ve been concentrating on other things. One of those other things is a research project looking at post- and transhumanism in popular culture, and particularly in film.

One of those projects has been the development of a couple of blogs to track that. The first of these is underway now and can be found at:

Screenshot 2015-09-11 21.38.44

So far I’ve added two films in the last couple of days, but will be adding to that as write up films I’ve already watched, and get around to watching some more.

Biotech and bioethics resources for schools and young people

Hat tip to New Life From Old for this link through to the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s resources for schools and young people, including Stem cells – science and ethics – BBSRC.

The other week I was looking for this sort of thing for a homework project one of my children was doing so I’ll bookmark it for future referencing.

Could also be a useful set of materials for next year’s ethics class – looking at how ethical issues around stem cells are framed in educative settings.

Until Cryonics Do Us Part

It’s been a while since I looked at anything related to cryonics, having been more preoccupied lately with things related to religion, popular culture and/or new media, so I was interested to see this article on cryonics in the NY Times. Discussion about cryonics has tended to get subsumed in the hype about super-longevity research or bypassed stories of potential cybernetic immortality, but it apparently still continues to function as both a though experiment and a business.

Anyway, the article Until Cryonics Do Us Part – comments on how the partners of cryonics proponents are not always as keen on the idea as the proponents. In the article, one of the interviewees comments:

“Cryonics,” Robin says, “has the problem of looking like you’re buying a one-way ticket to a foreign land.” To spend a family fortune in the quest to defeat cancer is not taken, in the American context, to be an act of selfishness. But to plan to be rocketed into the future — a future your family either has no interest in seeing, or believes we’ll never see anyway — is to begin to plot a life in which your current relationships have little meaning. Those who seek immortality are plotting an act of leaving, an act, as Robin puts it, “of betrayal and abandonment.”

One of the things I look at in my research is how the stories of technological salvation parallel those of religious salvation, and that comment above could equally applied to families of those who have a member ‘convert’ to a religion or ideology.

Related link: Greenflame · Death as an engineering problem – which has a number of links to documentaries on super-longevity.

Terry Pratchett on ‘assisted death’

Terry Pratchett on why ‘assisted death’ should be seriously considered – see Terry Pratchett: my case for a euthanasia tribunal | Society | The Guardian.

Of all the topics in ethics class last year, this one was the one most hotly debated by the students. Touches nerves on so many levels, I think, and not just theologically or spiritually.

Back from Christchurch

Quick visit to Christchurch for an ICBC meeting. Main item on the agenda was discussion of the following:

ERMA200223 – Application to develop in containment genetically modified goats, sheep and cows to produce human therapeutic proteins, or with altered levels of endogenous proteins for the study of gene function, milk composition and disease resistance

You can find all the relevant documents (which are all quite an interesting read) at the ERMA web site here (scroll down to ERMA200223).

Life, death and the genetic selection

Recent article in the NZ Listener gives some food for thought. It’s now available in full on their web site. See Feature: Life, death and the genetic selection by Joanne Black | New Zealand Listener

See also: