The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) has announced its recipients for the Lilly Theological Research Grants for 2012-2013. Professor Tracy Trothen will receive a Theological Scholars Grants for her project entitled "Sport, Techno-science, and Religion: The Enhancement Debate Reconsidered".
Prof. Trothen's theological social ethics project will produce two essays regarding the intersection of sport, techno-science and religion, and the implications of this intersection for church and society. Her first essay will focus on the relationship between sport and religion, the second on the techno-science enhancement debate.
Her project develops the claim that there is a relationship between sport's perceived religious dimension, sport as an enhancement activity, enhancement technologies, and the resulting amplification of choices made in the sport enhancement debate. Enhancements have long been used in both sport and wider society to improve humanity. As science develops and enhancements including "cheetah legs", super swimsuits, and Repoxygen (an emerging gene therapy) arise, Prof. Trothen argues that the meanings of both improvement and what it is to be human are far from clear. Most ethical analyses of the enhancement debate have turned on distinctions between normal, therapeutic, natural and artificial. Such approaches often neglect underlying assumptive values, the dynamism of these constructs, and the moral relevance of global systemic power imbalances. Prof. Trothen maintains that such approaches have also failed to consider the moral relevance of sports' religious dimension. How this issue is framed, she maintains, has implications for who counts as valid and valuable human beings. Ontological questions of what it means to be human and virtuous are at the core of the debate; choices regarding what aspects to enhance and which to eliminate or overcome are value laden. Prof. Trothen seeks a Christian theo-ethical reframing of the sport enhancement debate that assumes a valuing of diversity and the marginalized , and surfaces additional issues concerning diversity, visibility, relationship, values, hope and the sacred.