India Reconciles Hindu Values and Biotechnology

August 21, 2005

Source: The New York Times

On August 21, 2005 The New York Times reported, "In 2001, President Bush restricted federal financing for stem cell research. The decision, which was shaped at least partly by the Republican Party's evangelical Christian base, and which disappointed many American scientists and businessmen, provoked joy in India... a 'new pot of gold' for Indian science and businesses... American scientists and businessmen note enviously that religious and moral considerations do not seem to inhibit Indian biotechnologists. But this indifference to ethical issues would have certainly appalled Gandhi, father of the Indian nation... His vegetarianism and belief in nonviolence were derived from Indian traditions, mainly Hinduism, which is also the faith, though loosely defined, of most Indian scientists and businessmen... But the religions and traditions we know as Hinduism are less monolithic and more diverse than Islam and Christianity; they can yield contradictory arguments. Early in 'The Mahabharata,' there is a story about how the hundred Kaurava brothers came into being. Their mother had produced a mass of flesh after two years of pregnancy. But then a sage divided the flesh into 100 parts, which were treated with herbs and ghee, and kept in pots for two years - from which the Kaurava brothers emerged. Indian proponents of stem-cell research often offer this story as an early instance of human cloning through stem cells extracted from human embryos." The article went on to further examine more Hindu perspectives on biotechnology.