ARCHDIOCESAN ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY (AACST) ESTABLISHED
Achilles G. Adamantiades, PhD, Executive Secretary Introduction. As the world grows more complex and globalized, science and technology, as was the case in the past, play a more pervasive and rapidly spreading role in everyday life. The traditional boundaries between disciplines are fading away, even more now than ever before, and a given subject is likely to be looked at from a variety of angles and perspectives. As an example of this trend, in universities throughout the world, interdisciplinary courses are spreading and specialists from different disciplines work together on teaching and research. This means that few subjects and realms can be said to be exclusively or narrowly the domain of a given specialty or discipline, or can be said to be strictly "religious", "social", "technological", or any other characterization. Physics and metaphysics touch each other as we approach "limiting" or "frontier" situations (e.g., the beginning and the end of the world, the beginning and the end of life, etc.). In this light, the vocabularies of science and technology on one hand and that of religion, on the other, often converge or even coincide. A need for constructive dialogue. In light of the above remarks, a need is perceived for the clergy to be better informed on scientific and technological advances, and for the laity who are engaged in science and technology to understand the broader implications (ethical, sociological, and religious) of science and technology and the concerns that are generated by rapid and radical advances. Many of us thought that a dialogue and interaction on the relevant issues is called for. Benefits. Such interaction would be beneficial first for the clergy, because it would (a) alert them to important, often dramatic changes in individual and collective life styles; these may have wide and profound effects on the life of the faithful flock; (b) it would enable the clergy to address the people in a language that is contemporary and relevant to our times and hence make the message directly comprehensive and effective; and (c) help the Church leaders to avoid misstatements (errors in fact) that could undermine their credibility with the faithful. On the other hand, scientists and engineers would also benefit from understanding better the Church's positions and the holistic the salvation mission of the Church would be highlighted and enhanced. Proposal and Formation of the Committee. With these thoughts in mind, a small number of scientists and engineers, who are close to the Church, approached his Eminence to share with him their fervent intention to assist the Church in this respect any way they can. The Archbishop responded warmly and encouraged us in our initiative. After listening to the Group, and having already perused our written Proposal, his Eminence gave his full approval and support. His Principal admonitions were that the effort should be undertaken seriously, planned carefully, executed quietly and without undue visibility, and realized in progressive and sure steps. We appreciate deeply his approval and paternal blessing and advice and formed an Ad Hoc Committee to pursue the initiative until its formal creation. Committee Membership. The first steps were to enlist members who are suitable to the purpose of the Committee and to begin to identify the issues to be examined. The selection of the Committee members was done on the basis of the following criteria: i. recognized excellence in the respective field of scientific or technological endeavor; ii. equally important, proven active involvement in Church life, a certain level of familiarity with Orthodox theology, and avowed love of the Church; and iii.willingness and readiness to devote the necessary time and effort to the work of the Committee. The membership of the Committee has been continuously enriched with new members as more persons who fulfill the above criteria are nominated. The Committee strives to have a good geographic representation covering the entire United States and the variety of relevant disciplines. We have also recruited Orhodox members from other Orthodox jurisdictions because we endeavor to give the Committee a Pan-Orthodox character. Since similar activities are being conducted in Greece under the auspices of the Church of Greece, especially by its Committee on Bioethics, we have also enlisted a few scientists and engineers from Greece as corresponding members of the Committee; some of them have already made significant contributions to the work of our Committee. Membership could be for a two- year term, with the first members serving for longer terms to allow for an eventual change-over of one third of the members every two years. Interdisciplinary aspects. Our discussions have led us to the conclusion that the involvement of other, non-technical disciplines such as theology, the humanities, law and education, are needed in the Committee.This point is valid in view of the fading boundaries among disciplines and of the need for cross-field "fertilization" in the discussion.This view has been taken into accountin the selection of members and the composition of the subcommittees. Wider participation will be necessary and steps in this direction are being taken. It has been emphasized that the Committee should not become an exclusive club. That is to say, that anyone who expresses a strong desire to contribute to the effort in earnest and has the requisite qualifications should be welcome, in principle. Vetting of the Committee. His Eminence presented the proposal for the formation of the Committee to the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which has given its whole-hearted consent and welcome. Also, the initiative was presented to the Archdiocesan Council, which has also granted its positive vote and agreement. These actions give the Committee the necessary support and encouragement to proceed with its work. Committee and Subcommittee Organization. Following preparatory work, a Coordinating Committee of 8 members was formed under the direction of the Archbishop, to spearhead the work required. One of the first tasks was to determine the structure of the Subcommittees, which were consolidated in the following 3 mission areas: Ø Subcommittee on Bioethics and Medical Issues; Ø Subcommittee on Energy, Environment, and Economics; and Ø Subcommittee on Physical Sciences and Advanced Technologies. How the Committee and Subcommittees will operate. In broad terms, the Committee would serve as advisor to the Archbishop and the Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church of America on matters of scientific and technological import (including medical matters), but in a context of Church life.The Chairmanship of the overall Committee is held by his Eminence the Archbishop. The Coordinating Committee will act as catalyst for developments and as liaison with the Office of the Archbishop who has designated Rev. Nektarios Morrow as his liaison to the Committee. The Subcommittees will be under the leadership of respective Coordinators; each Subcommittee is empowered to organize its work freely and independently. The latter will include recruiting additional members, assign individual work, organize meetings, consultations, position paper preparation, presentations and the like. The modalities of this advisory function and interaction with the Church would include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following: (a) Convening once or twice a year for about one or two days, for a series of presentations on current scientific and technological advances by leaders in their respective fields of specialization. (b) Preparing occasional position papers, at the request of Church leadership, on matters that affect Church life. These papers could present the variety of views held by members. (c) Assisting in drafting speeches for the Archbishop or assisting in his preparation for national and/or international meetings and conferences in which scientific and technical issues are expected to be discussed. Similarly, members of the Committee could represent the Church in conferences dealing with matters of their competence. (d) Assisting with the curriculum of the Hellenic College in matters of science and technology. (e) Assisting the Archbishop and the metropolitans, upon request, on science and technology questions. (f) The Committee also hopes to be able to provide assistance to His All-Holiness Patriarch Vartholomeos, who, as we know, is very active in , among other issues, important efforts for environmental conservation and preservation. It is strongly felt, that the Committee and Subcommittees should not hung up in empty formalities and procedural matters. The "charge" githe Archbishop gives the Committee flexibility, informality, and freedom of movement to work quickly, responsively, and effectively. Above all, the Committee should be an example of authentic ecclesiastical life, exhibiting harmony, humility, simplicity, selflessness, and a spirit of Christian "diakonia". As to Plans for the future, it has been agreed that a Plenary session of all appointed members should be convened in the near future to afford an opportunity to members to meet the Archbishop and the Hierarchy, other participating Clergy, and each other. Each Subcommittee Coordinator will present a summary of the respective Subcommittee's list of issues, priorities and organization goals. Conclusion. The Committee is grateful for the support it has received from the Archbishop, the Holy Synod and the Archdiocesan Council. We have also been surprised and gratified with the original enthusiasm and spiritual fervor with which our colleagues responded to our invitation; the love and devotion to the Church we have found has surpassed our expectations. The issues and challenges posed by the rapid developments in science and technology are urgent and we need to move with dispatch. Certain developments such as cloning of humans, an issue knocking on the door, if allowed to proceed thoughtlessly, may wreak havoc to life on earth. The depletion of resources and environmental pollution and degradation of nature may be one of the reasons rch and the faithful to steer through the storms in these difficult times. The support of the entire Archdiocese of the Church of America and of the entire faithful flock is vital to the success of the task.
(Presented at the Clergy Laity Congress, June 30-July 4, 2002)