The Ecological Model in Genetics and Religion (pp. 99-122)
Authors: (Stephen M. Modell, Sharon L.R. Kardia, Toby Citrin, Susan B. King, Department of Health Management and Policy, Department of Epidemiology, Life Sciences & Society Program, University of Michigan School of Public Health, USA)
Abstract: In the biological domain the relation between science and religion is often defined by the restorative or healing powers that religious practices can bring to bear in needy subjects. Arguments for admitting religion into health decisions have to date tended to be introspective – focusing on the scope of legitimate religious interventions for this purpose, and in what physical contexts the measured health changes can be considered valid. In our contribution to the science–religion dialogue we adopt an outward-looking approach, establishing an overarching framework – the ecological model – that circumscribes both physical phenomena and religious practice, then apply that framework to genetic decision making. Originally entrenched in epidemiologic investigation, ecologic models demonstrate the relation between two variables cross-sectionally, through a variety of geographies and typologies. More recently the Institute of
Medicine and World Health Organization have integrated biological, behavioral, and environmental schemas into ecological models that portray the various determinants of health. A closer examination shows that religious practices have an impact on both the central biological and surrounding cultural and community milieu, as demonstrated by the immune and cardiovascular changes they can induce, as well as the variety of community-based programs that engage churches in the management of chronic diseases that show a gene-environment interaction (e.g., cancer, diabetes, heart disease). Interventions for genetically-associated conditions such as familial breast cancer and cystic fibrosis also frequently require family member assessment of both the state of technology and personal religious values, which can be explored with clergy and by seeking community support. The practice of linking community perspectives and actions with individual decision making can help to make competing values more transparent and diffuse the tensions that exist between scientific and religious perspectives on the value of life at critical stages. The ecological framework provides a conceptual roadmap to merging scientific knowledge with religious values and resources.
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