ETF Leuven starts major research projects on technology and hope

22 March 2024

ETF Leuven starts major research projects on technology and hope

On 1 April, two major new research projects will start at ETF Leuven. These concern theological-ethical research on the themes of ‘technology’ and ‘hope’. The projects will be carried out by the Institute of Leadership and Social Ethics (ILSE), one of our research institutes, in collaboration with other partners. Biblical theological reflection plays a crucial role in both projects. The studies focus on the technology sector, the healthcare sector and the agricultural sector.

Ethics of responsibility as an innovative moral compass for engineers

Ethics of technology often take the form of moral reflection after the fact, once the technology has been developed. However, it is important to address ethics during the phase of technology development itself. This applies, for example, to the design of Automated Driving Systems in new cars. The new research project on technology is organized around the moral education of engineers. The aim of the project is to develop a form of responsibility ethics, recognizing that moral decisions are often imperfect trade-offs between legitimate interests that clash with each other, but in which a choice must still be made. In forming such a moral compass, biblical theological insights are crucial. One of the concrete outcomes of the project is then to equip engineers to wield this moral compass.

Hope as a motivation, in agriculture and health care

‘Hope’ is a crucial motivation for people’s actions, both individually and in society as a whole. The new research project aims to contribute to a better understanding of exactly how ‘hope’ functions in two concrete sectors of society: that of agriculture and that of health care. Both sectors are talked about in public discourse in terms of crises. Looking closely, both hope and despair play a prominent role in practices in these sectors. Understanding more about how “hope” in particular functions in these contexts provides important information not only for responsible persons in these sectors but also for an innovative biblical theological exploration of the Christian theme of hope.

Biblical theological reflection as a dialogical process

Biblical theological reflection in both research projects involves a dialogical process: new insights about moral judgment related to the functioning of hope can lead to a new way of reading the Bible. The movement also applies inversely: the Bible and theological traditions contain important and normative insights for the sectors of technology, agriculture and health care.

New growth opportunities for the ETF research institute ILSE

Both projects, funded externally, are being conducted by the Institute of Leadership and Social Ethics (ILSE), one of the research institutes of ETF Leuven. ILSE director Dr. Steven C. van den Heuvel is project director of both projects. Steven van den Heuvel: “I am very much looking forward to the innovative research of these two projects. We are deliberately building on previous ILSE research on the themes of ‘hope’ and ‘technology’. These new projects are large research projects on which several researchers will be working. This grant provides an important impetus for the growth of our research institute.”

Multi-year research in collaboration with partners

Both research projects are conducted in cooperation with partners. Regarding the technology project, Prof. Dr. Michel Verhaegen, of Delft University of Technology will collaborate, along with the “Stichting voor Christelijke Filosofie (Foundation for Christian Philosophy)”, with a view to valorizing the research results. Prof. Dr. Erik Olsman of the Protestant Theological University will collaborate on the hope project.

Both projects have a duration of four years and PhD students are being recruited to undertake the research. Vacancies for those positions can be found in our job listings.




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