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Conservative ethics and the role of religion

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I am now thinking about what is "conservative bioethics" in Japan. In the US this term means a kind of ethics that seeks to protect the value of human life, particularly that of fetuses and fertilized eggs, and this ethics is strongly endorsed by Christian circles. In Japan, the ratio of Christians is lower than 1% of the whole population. Christianity does not have enough political power to influence the country's social policies.

In the 1960s and 70s, the Japanese government (led by the Liberal Democratic Party) sought to reduce women's right to abortion (abortion has been considered legal since 1948). The Diet members who emphasized the dignity of fetuses and respect for human life were those who elected by the support of Seichou no Ie, a new religion of Shintoism. In this sense, during this period, we could say Japanese conservative bioethics was supported by Shintoism. Shintoism played a similar role to that of Christianity in the US.

However, we witness a completely different political stuation concerning therapeutic human cloning in the 1990s. While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party sought to approve the production of a cloned human embryo for therapeutic purposes, the opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, objected to the production of such an embryo because a human embryo is the "sprout of human life," and we should respect human embryos as much as possible. Here we encounter the reversal of the situation. Respect for human embryos was not proposed by the ruling conservative party, but proposed by the opposition "left-wing" party (Of course we have a variety of discussions over whether the Democratic Party of Japan is "left-wing"). The main reason why the Liberal Democratic Party supported therapeutic human cloning was that it serves Japan's national interests. Religions did not play an important role here. (See The Ethics of Human Cloning and the Sprout of Human Life)

We might say that "money" played an important role here, and for the Japanese money has become a new "religion." Contemporary Japanese conservative bioethics is motivated by the pursuit of "money." Making money and creating an economically strong nation might be the most important value in Japanese conservative circles.

Related post: Bioethics & Politics: The Future of Bioethics in a Divided Democracy

Photo: Restaurant Hokkyokusei, Osaka.

    -- M.Morioka  www.lifestudies.org

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