32 McGeorge L. Rev. 89 (2000-2001)
Biotechnology and the Creation of Ethics

handle is hein.journals/mcglr32 and id is 99 raw text is: Biotechnology and the Creation of Ethics

Raymond R. Coletta*
Biotechnology promises to change the course of evolution. Rather than patiently
waiting as natural selection channels the forces of biology into contouring the nature
and character of the organisms that populate our world, biotechnology allows
humans to directly manipulate the basis of life itself. By allowing the deliberate
reorganization of the genetic programs of organisms, biotechnology affords the
greatest revolution in scientific and cultural understanding in history. It also is
beginning to severely strain our established concepts of right and wrong and to
require us to rethink most of our basic moral assumptions.
Ethical issues surround almost every technological breakthrough. When science
makes new associations and combinations possible, the propriety of the new order
is called into question, as is the resilience and viability of the well-worn status quo.
The Copemican revolution heralded more than a new awareness of the orbital
motions of our solar system; it ushered in new social, political, and moral orders,
rearranging the place of humans and reconfiguring our notion of self.
Biotechnology promises no less of a social upheaval. Daily news clippings proclaim
the re-engineering of parenthood, sexuality, and reproduction. By recombining base
biological material, scientists are realizing the dreams of past alchemists. We are not
only creating new organisms, but learning to create the behavior inherent in the
organisms themselves. Such biological manipulation of an organism's personality
forces us to reconsider the very concept of the meaning of life and our relationship
to each other. We are becoming the engineers of temperaments, of emotions, and
ultimately of moral sentiment. It is likely that in the near future biotechnology will
allow us to reconfigure the genetic codes of living organisms to produce moods and
behaviors that are currently absent or tailor existing moods and behaviors to the
particular environmental stimuli the organism faces. Our commonplace notion of
free-will will be redefined, as will our common understanding of ourselves and our
world. The notion of man as the moral animal will need to be reexamined.'
The changes precipitated by biotechnology within the past decade have severely
strained our established notions of right and wrong. The outcry over the cloning of
*   Professor of Law, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law; J.D., University of California
at Berkeley School of Law, 1981.
1.  Robert Wright used the then emerging field of evolutionary psychology to explain human behavior,
including human moral sentiments, in his 1994 book THE MORAL ANIMAL. Noting that Darwin believed that the
human species was the only moral animal, Wright observed that humans have the technical capacity for morality,
although they tend not to embrace true morality. As Wright concluded, Chronically subjecting ourselves to a true
and bracing moral scrutiny, and adjusting our behavior accordingly, is not something we are designed for. See
ROBERT WRIGHT, THE MORAL ANIMAL 344 (1994).

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