I routinely will myself toward optimism. It is easy to be pessimistic, not just lately but chronically. Recently, however, as an ethicist, I find it difficult to speak with any hope of being persuasive. For instance, in a Spectrum Sabbath School post in December , I was buzzing along writing about "character" in relation to the story of Job. “Lying,” I wrote, “was something that everyone knew was wrong and that eventually liars are marginalized in human society.” I stopped myself mid-sentence.
"There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits…." – so said Milton Friedman, an influential interpreter of Adam Smith for American capitalism.i Although Friedman has now died, his influence in American business culture is ubiquitous.
The second goal of the recent national meeting of SDA bioethicists was to “explore the potential for future cooperation in bioethics across the Adventist health systems.” I am excited at the possibilities but see two challenges to this idea within Adventist healthcare in the United States.
I cannot write a column about bioethics, Adventism, and Adventist healthcare this week without referring to the massacre in Orlando, Florida. I have often said I can find an ethics issue behind every bush. It is not hard to find one here. Fear and hatred appear to have taken hold in my United States in ways that I do not recall as a youngster. The demonization of Others is so prevalent and acceptable that national leaders gain followers by appealing to it. The embrace of violence in American culture combines with a supposed liberty to own any gun we wish, to deadly effect.
In my initial Spectrum Column I asserted that there is no Seventh-day Adventist ethic. But there are certainly Seventh-day Adventist ethicists and, more specific yet, Adventist bioethicists exist in disproportionately high numbers. This fact is surely due to our traditional emphasis on healthcare as an essential element of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Despite learning a great deal from Stephen Hawking and co-author Leonard Mlodinow in their recent book The Grand Design, in the end I was disappointed.
It’s not that their book lacked clarity. In the introduction they do say that their explicit purpose is to explore “Not only how the universe behaves but why.” They posit three framing questions for their rather short book (188 pages from Bantam books for around $14.00 on Amazon): “Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? and Why this particular set of laws and not some other?” (p. 9-10)