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ETF Leuven

ETF Leuven starts major research projects on technology and hope

On April 1, 2024, two major new research projects will start at the Evangelical Theological Faculty (ETF), Leuven. It concerns theological-ethical research on the themes of ‘technology’ and ‘hope’. The projects are carried out by the Institute of Leadership and Social Ethics (ILSE) of the ETF Leuven, in collaboration with other partners. Biblical-theological reflection plays a crucial role in both projects. The research takes place in the technology sector, the healthcare sector and the agriculture sector.

Responsibility ethics as an innovative moral compass for technical engineers

Ethics of technology often takes the form of moral reflection afterwards, once the technology has been developed. However, it is important to address ethics during the 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 technical engineers. The aim of the project is to develop a form of responsibility ethics, which recognizes that moral decisions are often imperfect trade-offs between legitimate interests that conflict with each other, but in which a choice must still be made. Biblical-theological insights are crucial in forming such a moral compass. One of the concrete outcomes of the project is to equip technical engineers to use this moral compass.

Hope as a driving force, in agriculture and healthcare

‘Hope’ is a crucial motivation for people’s actions; both individually and in society as a whole. The new research project contributes to greater insight into how exactly ‘hope’ functions in two concrete sectors of society: agriculture and healthcare. Both sectors are discussed in the public debate in terms of crisis. If you look closely, both hope and despair play a prominent role in practices in these sectors. More insight into how ‘hope’ in particular functions in these contexts not only provides important information for those responsible in these sectors, but also for an innovative Biblical-theological exploration of the Christian theme of hope.

Biblical-theological reflection as a dialogic process

The Biblical-theological reflection in both research projects is a dialogic process: new insights into moral judgment and the functioning of hope can lead to a new way of reading the Bible. The movement also applies the other way around: the Bible and theological traditions contain important and normative insights for the sectors of technology, agriculture and healthcare.  

New growth opportunities for the ETF research institute ILSE

Both projects – which are externally funded – are carried out by the Institute of Leadership and Social Ethics (ILSE) – one of the research institutes of the ETF Leuven; ILSE director Dr. Steven C. van den Heuvel is project leader of both projects. Steven van den Heuvel: “I am very much looking forward to the innovative research of these two projects. We deliberately build on previous research by ILSE on the themes of ‘hope’ and ‘technology’. These new projects are large research projects in which various researchers will work. This is an important boost for the growth of our research institute.”

Multi-year research in collaboration with partners

Both research projects are carried out in collaboration with partners. The technology project involves collaboration with Prof. Dr. Michel Verhaegen, from Delft University of Technology. The Christian Philosophy Foundation is also a partner in this project with a view to valorizing the research results. As part of the hope project, there is collaboration with Prof. Dr. Erik Olsman, from the Protestant Theological University.

Both projects have a duration of four years. A number of PhD students will be recruited for both projects to conduct the research. The vacancies for those positions will be published shortly.

Note to the editor: If you have any questions, please contact <Michel Verhaegen> via <>


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