Theology of WorkConfronting Big Issues in the STEM Professions:Globalization and Ethics
For this session, we will discuss only brieflytwo major issues for Christians engaged inthe STEM professions. They are:GlobalizationEthics
“Globalization can . . . be defined as the intensification ofworldwide social relations which link distant localities insuch a way that local happenings are shaped by eventsoccurring many miles away and visa versa.” (Don Lewis).Examples of these are: International Development philosophies formed by such organizationsas the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund Weaponry and war technology Informational technology, the internet, cable TV International pop culture, i.e. MTV, commercial products
More and more, urban societies are becoming homogenized into ageneric world culture aided by . . .o Travel from everywhere to everywhereo Urbanization, and its pull towards homogenizationo Global economyo International job transferso Freedom and access of informationo English as the trade/scientific languageo The globalization of violence
The effects of Economic Globalization are felt in variousways:1. The global dominance of the market economyrather that state economies2. The global interchange of goods, services andscientific know how3. The phenomenon of doing business multinationally4. The global spread of capitalism and scientific andtechnological advance
How would you grade it? Is it . . .Salvific?Helpful?Neutral?Damaging?Demonic?
There are some benefits in increased internationaltrade and technological advance:1. Greater productivity2. Cheaper consumer products3. Greater employment for many4. Increased economic welfare5. Improved quality of life for many
On the other hand, there are adverse effects of increasedinternational trade and technological advance:1. Loss of employment in both industrialized and lessindustrialized countries.2. Damage to the biosphere3. Loss of community4. Increased labor concerns, poor conditions and terms of work5. Cultural identity issues6. International competition for technological breakthroughs oradvance without moral constraints
“The decisive question for the West is its capacityto direct and discipline capitalism with an ethicstrong enough to do so. I myself don’t believethe West can do it.” (Singapore economist)“Originally the menace of unrestrained economicimpulse was held in check by the Protestantethic---people worked in response to theircalling. But now, with this ethic dissolved,including its moral attitudes toward hard workand saving, only hedonism remains.” (The Call,134-5)
“Capitalism, having defeated all challenges,such as socialism, now faces its greatestchallenge----itself, because it devours thevery virtues it needs to thrive.” (The Call,135)
Reviewing what has been learned thus far, and applying it toglobalization, we can say. . .1. The mission starts with God himself2. God is on a “global” mission3. God invites humankind to cooperate with Him in thetransformation of the world. We become “world-makers”4. Being on the mission involves two characteristics---relinquishment (giving up securities), and movement (out ofcomfort zones)5. God’s global mission is not the homogenization of the world,but rather, the blessings of all nations.
6. God’s mission is global, but nothomogenization into a single world culture,or economy or language.7. The danger of globalization is that it relivesthe Tower of Babel in homogenous arrogantautonomy. The alternative is found inPentecost in its unity in diversity alsoexpressed in the New Jerusalem ininternational, inter-racial community
Capitalism and Globalization are “powers”.Originally created good by Christ (Col 1:15ff), goodstructures and spiritual realities were formed toprovide an ordered cosmos for us to live. However,they have taken on a life of their own and havebecome corrupted, fallen.Christ disarmed the powers and showed their punystrength by his death on the cross (Col 2:13-15).We grapple with the powers according to their reality,critique them against the Word and call them toaccountability before God.
Is God in Globalization? Yes and No!1. In some sense, those nations most profoundlyinfluenced by Christianity have led the way intoGlobalization based on some fundamental Christiantheological ethics.2. Globalization may be part of the apocalyptic visionof Christ in providing the means by which allpeoples hear or experience the benefits of theGospel.3. However, Globalization is not the coming of theKingdom of God, nor does it produce it.
However, Globalization is an opportunity towork and serve towards the vision of the NewJerusalem through fellowship, propheticdiscernment, in proclamation.“Christ is bringing these principalities,authorities and dominions under the laws ofGod for the purposes of God as part of themercy of God, and . . . All believers are calledto be agents of this reconciliation process forthe glory of God (John Stackhouse)
Why do we work?1. For survival: provision for one’s needs2. For identity and meaning: expression of gifts andtalents3. For love: towards family, dependents, and others inneed4. For service: contributing to neighbors, serving theKingdom of God5. For joy: in that experiencing the creation or discovery ofthat which is new, brings a human sense of elation6. For growth: for spiritual formation and sanctification7. For the Kingdom: that will last forever8. For God
These ten foundational business practices aregiven in greater detail in your Materials section:The STEM professions have similar purposes asdoes Business. They strive to be profitable andsustainable in the long run.1. Strives for excellence, operates with integrityand has a system of accountability.2. Has a Kingdom motivation, purpose and planthat is shared and embraced with the seniormanagement and owners.
4. Aims at holistic transformation of individuals andcommunities in ways that are spirit-enhancing.5. Seeks the holistic welfare of employees6. Seeks to maximize the kingdom impact of itsfinancial and non-financial resources7. Models Christ-like servant leadership, and developsit in others.8. Intentionally implements ethical Christ-honoringpractice that does not conflict with the gospel.
9. Is pro-active in intercession and seeks theprayer support of others.10. Seeks to harness the power of networkingwith like-minded organizations.In your work context, how many of thesepractices are conscientiously followed asethical principles?
1. To create for personal gain or power2. To create that which demeans, destroys the humanspirit or the human community3. To create that which is shoddy or inferior4. To create out of a spirit of relentless competition,just to best an opponent5. To steal research, ideas, material, in violation ofinternationally accepted laws6. To create at the expense of the natural environment
7. To create intolerable work environments obsessed byaccomplishments8. To create only to earn profit from those who pay the highest,ignoring the needs of the masses9. To create meaningless gadgets that contribute little or nothingto the human spirit10. To improvise data or theories to justify dishonest conclusions11. To obsess on secrecy when not needed, or to expose ontransparency for short-term gain12. To justify the means in favor of its ends
In general the STEM professions are guarded frommany ethical issues by the following:1. The nature of the scientific rules of inquiry andself examination.2. Peer review boards3. Scrutiny of the marketplace4. A spirit of humility that recognizes thatdiscovery and creation is only tentative andleads to further refinement or advances
1. Our technological advances outstrip our ethicaljudgments.2. Marketplace demands often push decisions beyondan understanding of unintended consequences.3. There are competing ethical principles andconstituencies that confuse the question of “what isthe common good?”4. Just because something appears “good”, does notnecessarily make it so, in the long run.5. The constant tension between quality and quantity
6. Limited perspectives, in that one advance inscience or technology may deter progress inother areas.7. National or company hubris (pride) may trumpobjective reasoning.8. Changing market conditions dictate changingtechnologies with the risk of great loss ordisplacement.9. Technology becomes an end in itself or is seenas the means of transcendence.
1. In a spirit of humility and cautiousness2. Seeking guidance from “ethical panels” andknowledgeable Christian and religious resources3. Creating and implementing agreed and practical “codesof ethics”, coherent with the mission and visionstatements of the workplace4. Using the position of an ombudsman who appropriatelyraises ethical questions and issues.5. Officialize an appropriate feedback system that allowsfor orderly complaint for those who question thepractices of the workplace
6. Respect the minority or individual position of an employee whobelieves that an action or attitude violates their own conscience.7. Compare the company’s code of ethics with those parallel companies’positions in order to evaluate and critique one’s own.8. Enlist the directors’, management and stockholders’ support forethical positions.9. Consider that the ethical position of the workplace covers not only theinternal dealings of the company, but also its “social responsibility”outside.10. Allow employees to engage in community betterment by their use ofmatching contributions, volunteer workdays, and an environment ofjoy.
1. Is it against the rules and professionalvalues of your organization? 2. Does it feel good, correct in doing this? 3. Is it legal, not contrary to any law? 4. Can it reflect negatively on you or yourorganization? 5. Who would most suffer as a consequenceof your action?
6. Would you feel shame if others becameaware of your course of action? 7. Is there an alternative action that wouldnot have caused such an ethical conflict? 8. How would your action have looked if ithad been described in a newspaper? 9. What would a reasonable person think ofyour action?10. Are you able to sleep contentedly if youwere to do this deed?
The STEM professions lead the marketplace ininnovation and creation and so have anextraordinary responsibility to look as long-termconsequences in terms of the processes andeffects of globalization and of their ethicalpositions. Technology run rampant without theseconcerns, return us to the setting of the Tower ofBabel with its rush to be “god-like”, resulting inconfusion, the breakdown of community andcommunication, and the destruction of the God-given human spirit.
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