Recently, I wrote and presented a thesis in one of my biotechnology classes on the subject of ethics in the biotechnology industry. And did it ever cause a fire storm!
Quality standards in the industry have official names like ISO 9000 and cGMP (common Good Manufacturing Practices which are regulated by the federal government), and are employed worldwide so as to promote global trade and universal, reliable safety.
High quality products are absolutely essential to the biotechnology industry. That is because the nature of biotechnology involves the precise practice of biochemistry (the chemistry of life) and the production of healthcare products and medicines. A great part of our training and education is the achievement of high quality lab technique that is so necessary for high quality product.
What is it that leads to quality? Following the specific, relevant laws of nature in a systematic way is what leads to high quality production.
Consequently, what leads to high quality products is knowable, learnable, measureable and doable in precise, repeatable ways.
Science and engineering are therefore at the heart of high quality because they come about through an ever more profound understanding of the laws of nature.
This leads to my thesis which is well within the realm of the obvious:
If the laws of nature are essential to high quality products then the laws of nature are essential to the high quality ethics that guide the design and manufacture of biotechnology products.
What I proposed in my presentation was the unified field theory of industrial production and ethics; that if the biotechnology industry uses the laws of nature to assure high quality products, then why not use the laws of nature to assure high quality ethics?
Fortunately, natural law theory is much older than modern science and engineering. It goes back 2500 years to the ancient Greeks, is very much a part of our Western Heritage and forms the foundation of the Founding of the American Republic.
Natural law theory is at the heart of the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Christianity, the philosophy of the Enlightenment and the American Founders. Natural law ethics even appears in “Antigone” by Greek playwright Sophocles, where it is central to the moral questions examined by the play.
Put simply and for the purpose of this post, natural law ethics provides a guide to good and evil based on human nature.
Human nature is defined as the qualities, attributes and traits exhibited by the whole, healthy human specimen.
Human cloning, in vitro fertilization and designer babies, for example, would be considered an assault on human nature and therefore would be considered unethical.
So what does all this have to do with atheism? Atheists reject natural law theory and therefore reject it as the foundation of objective ethics.
And from the very hostile reception by the students and professor of my biotechnology class, clearly, the atheist worldview rules the ethics of the science-engineering-education-industrial complex.