If machine engine is the emblem of the industrial age, computer for the advanced industrialization, it would be safer to say that genetic information revealed through decoding genome can be an emblem of the ongoing postmodern age. Leaving safety and availability issues aside, the rapid development of genetic technology, including artificial reproduction, genetic therapy, genetic engineering and cloning, opens many choices never thought before. Likewise, it also radically challenge our traditional way of handling with giving birth, enhancing health, curing disease and improving farming productivity. Many questions arise, such as, would it be moral to reproduce by way of 'unnatural' means? would it be moral to manipulate our human nature at one's will? Or, would it be moral to play God? All and all, these questions lead to the final one, i.e., where will genetic technology may lead to? the brave new world or humanity's extinction?
The aim of this paper is to investigate two leading postmodern ethical perspectives and their different moral implications toward technology in general, and genetic development in particular. I will point out that both positions represented by Engelhard t and Bauman, although being the same at criticizing Enlightenment reason and modem universalization of morality, are bifurcated at our moral attitudes toward genetic technology. The bifurcation, as I argue, becomes clearer, if we read Engelhardt through Silver's Remaking Eden, and read Bauman through Fox's Superpigs and Wondercorn. The alliance, as I understand, helps us to see that, while Engelhardt/Silver pair sees new possibility developed through genetic technology, including refashioning one's nature, thus, a brave new world, what Bauman/Fox pair sees, on the contrary, is the possible catastrophe created by manipulating the very same techniques. Which direction should we lead to?
My main thesis in this paper is to argue that underlying the bifurcation is the same theoretical assumption, namely, linear and reductive thinking pattern regarding part-whole relations. Likewise, their respective postmodern ethics shares the very same starting- point, i.e., the concept of freedom based on linear and reductive reasoning. Likewise, either based on the free choices of moral person to refashion human nature (Engelhardt/Silver), or based on 'the duty to visualize the future impact of action' (Bauman), I see that both alternatives are one-sided. As I will continue to argue in this paper, there is an alternative way of understanding postmodernity defined by nonlinearity, nonreductivity and top-down causation. The moral implication of nonlinear and nonreductive thinking, I hold, is a paradigm shift from moral theory based on linear and reductive thinking. Likewise, I would also suggest that, from the standpoint of nonlinear postmodern ethics, we don't have to choose between either overaction through individual freedom uninhibited by the state authority, or simply choose to do nothing because of fearing unintentional consequences in the long run. Instead, as I would conclude in the paper, we can work out different ELSI(ethical, legal. social issues) guidelines in terms of different degrees of individual perturbations and genetic risks with respect to various time periods.