Bioethics in India: Proceedings of the International Bioethics Workshop in Madras: Biomanagement of Biogeoresources, 16-19 Jan. 1997, University of Madras; Editors: Jayapaul Azariah, Hilda Azariah, & Darryl R.J. Macer, Copyright Eubios Ethics Institute 1997.

109. Bioethics and Educational Conflict:

An In-depth Analysis of the Stumbling Blocks of Progressive Society

A.G. Bansode & E.R. Martin
Department Of Zoology, Ahmednagar College, Ahmednagar 414001, Maharashtra


Today people are in conflict with themselves because of their rational reasoning and ethical values. The conflict arises right in the roots of our education. Education aims at inculcating dogmas, religions, political, ethical or scientific. Fresh relays of martyrs are really necessary for steps of human progress. These dogmas have fueled socio-cultural and political issues. The paper discusses some of the genesis of this conflict in our educational roots in our teens.


The growth of knowledge and the frightening rise in population on our globe has set an explosive reaction and sent splinter out of it on the moon. The most conflicting issue had been with biology for centuries. Biology is the study of living things. It includes plants, animals and humans. A significant and phenomenal growth of knowledge can be traced to the revival of Greek science in Western Europe in the 12th century. This with its slow initial pace expanded greatly after the 15th century and endowed humanity with increasing success in understanding the secrets of nature and applying the new knowledge to human affairs. The enormous progress was made by physical sciences which was debated with the religion then in the West. In the wider view of science as a discipline and a temper enables us to class as scientific, the study of the facts of the inner world which religion has set to itself for inquiry (Ranganathananda,1995 ).

A similar situation happened in the science of biology. In the last century it was sure about pronouncements. By a study of the different aspects of the phenomenon of life, biology arrived at the great theory of evolution, from which it drew some conclusions influenced by the mechanistic materialism of contemporary physics.

Higher Education

The Indian education system is the largest in the world. It has taken rapid strides in the post independent era. In the 1950-51, the first five year plan, India had 28 universities, 695 colleges and 1,074,000 students. Today India has more than 200 universities,7000 colleges and nearly 5 million students and every year about 200 colleges are added (Anonymous, 1995). The vast growth in education must be curbed. In this system, the prominent part is constituted by the undergraduate which is 80% of the total education system in conducted and affiliated colleges. The majority of students study Arts, Science and Commerce and a very few students enroll for medicine , engineering, technology and law, the percentages being 1.1% ; 4.9% and 5.3%, respectively.

The positive outcome of large development of higher education must help the country by the necessary manpower in economic, political and social development. Yet the goal of achieving self reliance has been evaded. These is because the quantitative expansion was accompanied by qualitative deterioration facilities in Institutes.

The aim of higher education must be related to welfare of the society and national strength. Every university must fulfill three functions: (i) it must be nursery of national leaders, (ii) the repository of its culture, and (iii) the spherehead of its advance. In other words , it must train citizens and leaders to encourage learning and scholarship and promote scientific and technological research. However, these functions of universities remain unfulfilled or its policies are in drift.

The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the State Board of Higher Education devise and regulate the teaching syllabi and methodologies up to the 10+2 level. NCERT has maintained the standard by updating the syllabi to ensure broad based training. In contrast, an excessive specialization in college and university, without emphasizing the basic tenets of science education has lead to the production of workforce loaded with information but without integration (Modak,1996). It has been observed that many students opt for medical or physical branches of science. A recent survey showed 7 out of 10 opted out of science stream. This is basically due to outdated syllabus, fast changing global changes in the science and technology, which the present syllabus is useful to prepare them to accept the challenges. The recently revised syllabus of zoology, University of Pune for F.Y.B.Sc and S.Y.B.Sc is also diluted and disappointing. An alarming situation in India as a muted National Science University was proposed, and recently a proposal for science education is mooted for M.Sc. courses in the life science (Modak,1996 ).

Diversity of Subjects and Fields

One of the main determinants in professional learning is the diversity of subjects. The students have to study the course which is either very technical oriented and elude the students from their leisure. This diversity in professional courses occurs at the time when an independent decision for the course is not made by the student. It is in most cases determined by their parents. The determining aspect to be the generous devotion to poor and needy who require medical care or towards the life of an individual. The physical science, devotion to the materialistic aspects needed for good living. It has been found that the dissection of vertebrates, makes a long lasting impact in the decision to opt for medical science/biology as a subject . Medical graduates have a soft feeling when they dissect cadaver or study human anatomy on cadaver.

Ethical Issues In Learning Biology / Medicine

Moral issues are cultivated among people in childhood. Every child understands what is right and what is wrong. The truth or wrong doing is decided for convenience at a particular time. Among the people it is noted that there are a large number of biologists who do not like dissection and a group who like dissection. The dissection provides a very deep insight into the structural and anatomical aspects of animals under study. There is an argument that modern science demands better awareness and insight and is not only obligatory but important for the knowledge. The knowledge of these influences human understandings. Humans have always wondered and had perceived the world in which they lived in modern times, this wonder has stimulated behavioural, biological and medical scientists to take up a systematic study of perception. Ethical consideration in respect to animal and wildlife not only contributes to human survival and physical comfort. It also provides recreation, inspiration and spiritual solace. This conviction, that all creatures have the right to exist and that human should not cause the extinction of other living things is known as deep ecology. The basic tenet of deep ecology is not new, the belief in the sacredness of life held by eastern religions such as Buddhism and Taoism is similar to that of deep ecology (Raven et al.1993).

There are number of ethical issues arising out of practice of Medically Assisted Reproductive Techniques (MART). These has been extensively debated in the western world. In India there are no guidelines available with the advent of MARTs, a child may in theory have five parents - the egg donor, the sperm donor , the surrogate mother who bears the child and the couple which raises the child. The potential ramification may be deep and troubling. The child may be left grappling with words like `genetic mother', `natural mother' and at the end of it all may be left to ask "whose child am I?" (Kalyan and Kumar, 1995).

Science and Religion

Science and religion are becoming more and more important to people in the modern age. They are two great disciplines which in light of Indian wisdom, reveal that when relied on separately can be counter-productive, in the long run, but when combined harmoniously can bring all round expression of human genius and total fulfillment. But unfortunately, for the last few centuries their relations have not been quite happy. We live in an era of modern science. When we study science from close quarters we come across two aspect of this discipline. The first is pure science, which tries earnestly to understand the truth of nature through dispassionate inquiry; and the second is applied science in which the truth discovered by pure science follows as technical inventions for enhancement and enrichment of human life. These two sciences as lucifera and science as fruitifera, science as light and as fruit are intimately related. Knowledge leads to power and power leads to control and manipulations of the force of nature enabling man to condition his life and environment with deliberation.

Education, which enables students to achieve a fraction of synthesis of spirituality and science, contemplation and action. It is the science of spirituality, para-vidya, the supreme science that fosters in people ethical aesthetic, and spiritual values including the moral values associated with pure science. The harmony of all these values and intrinsic harmony between science and religion has always upheld Vedanta.

Wisdom can accompany and enliven and actually stimulate, knowledge at any level - primary or secondary, undergraduate or postgraduate. Without a little wisdom, knowledge at any levels can become in the long run not a blessing but a curse to oneself and to a society a breeding ground of pride, selfishness, exploitation and violence on the one hand and alienation, and psychic breakdowns on the other hand. These have affected society and civilizations in the past and led them to decay and death. And modern western civilization is also facing that challenge today.

Interaction in Society

Humans cannot advance on the long road of spiritual growth, or psycho-social evolution without disciplining our urge for organic satisfaction. Indian concept of Dharma or ethical sense, is inseparable from any ordered human society; Bereft of it, humans become reduced to a beast says Indian wisdom; Dharma, as the principle of integration between man and man society does not mean religion in the sense of creed, doctrine or ritual nor any scheme of an other worldly salvation. A mere aggregation of individuals does not constitute a society. As an individual he or she is a genetically limited entity, confined to his /her own likes and dislikes. But when you become person you expand and able to enter into the life of other people and also get response from other people. That is the difference between individuality and personality. Individuals are compared to billiard balls by the late British thinker and humanist Bertrand Russell. A billiard ball knows only how to collide with other billiard balls. Similarly man as individual can not cooperate with other individual, but will more often collide with them. At the level of individuality, teachers and teachers, and teachers and students collide with each other. As soon as one becomes person we develop the capacity to enter other's hearts capable of working as a team. This from individuality to personality transformation growth is spiritual growth. Sir Julian Huxley defined person and personality as "person are individuals who transcend their organic individuality in conscious social participation" (Ranganathananda,1989).

Unrest, Psychological and Political

The religion, which follow the concept of ahimsa forbids the killing of living creatures in all respects, which favours the right of living. In a society where different groups of people are living together in a democratic or federal system, no one law could refrain an individual from killing any animals. This attitude and failure of legal system to patch this up resulted in a fragile society. Whether killing of animal for or its products or not does the religion permits the consumption in society has taken over question of killing. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian in recent past have argued for and against its utilization. The same trend had also entered into academic curriculum where, students refrain themselves from dissection on the question of cruelty to the animal on religious reasons. The influence of strong opposition by animal rights for the welfare of animal is an another issue which has given rise to educational conflict with religion and society. This is one of the issues responsible for the rise of fundamental forces backed with political will and has made their impact on the education.

1. Anonymous (1995). A proposal on quality audit of higher education, University of Pune, Pune .
2. Kalyan B. & Kumar T. (1995) "Social and ethical issues in medically assisted reproduction technologies", Curr. Sci. 64(4), 383-385.
3. Modak S.P.(1996) "Science education in Indian Universities: proposal for a 5-year integrated M.Sc. course in life science", Curr. Sci. 71(12) 960-966.
4. Ranganathananda Swami (1995) Science and religion, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta.
5. Ranganathananda Swami (1989) Role and responsibilities of teachers in building up modern India, Rashtriya Press, New Delhi.
6. Raven P.H., Berg L.R. & Johnson G.B.(1993) Environment, Saunders College Publishing.

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