Friday, February 29, 2008

William F. Buckley and Darwinian Evolution

William F. Buckley, Jr. died two days ago. In many respects, he was the most influential leader of the American conservative intellectual movement since World War II. The obituary in the New York Times is a good survey of his life.

One of his many activities was his long-running PBS television program "Firing Line." One of the most famous of his programs was a debate broadcast from Seton Hall University in 1997 on the topic: Resolved: The Evolutionists Should Acknowledge Creation.

On the affirmative side of this resolution, Buckley joined Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and David Berlinski. On the negative side--supporting evolution--were Kenneth Miller, Michael Ruse, Eugenie Scott, and Barry Lynn. A transcript of the entire debate can be found here.

It's remarkable how evasive and uncertain Buckley is about his position. When Michael Ruse asks Buckley "why are you on that side rather than ours?", Buckley is unclear. He seems to say that he opposes Darwinian evolution only if it is interpreted as denying any role for God as Creator. But when Ken Miller quotes from Pope John Paul II's endorsement of the theory of evolution as "more than a hypothesis," Buckley responds that he accepts this. Miller and Buckley are both Catholics, and they seem to agree on the Pope's statement.

In the exchange with Barry Lynn--who argues for the compatibility of theism and evolution--Buckley seems to concede the possibility that God could have used the evolutionary process to carry out His will. Buckley's concern is to reject the atheistic materialism of people like Richard Dawkins. But he seems to be open to a theistic evolution such as was endorsed by the Pope.

At the end of the debate, Buckley praises his opponents for their "repudiation of materialist explanations," which would seem to agree with his position that "the notion of creation has not been invalidated by whatever loyalty is shown to the idea of evolution."

What one sees in Buckley's struggles with the idea of evolution is typical for many conservatives. They worry that if Darwinian evolution is interpreted as necessarily dictating an atheistic materialism that rejects any First Cause, this will deny religious belief in human beings as created in God's image, which has dangerous moral and political consequences. And yet conservatives like Buckley can see that Darwinian evolution can be interpreted as leaving open the question of the ultimate causes of nature, and thus allowing for a theistic conception of evolution like that endorsed by John Paul II.

Of course, I have often argued that questions of ultimate explanation must be left open by Darwinian science, which permits the religious believer to accept Darwinian natural evolution while also looking to God as the uncaused cause of that natural evolutionary process. At the same time, skeptical conservatives--like Friedrich Hayek, for example--can accept evolutionary science while assuming that the order of nature is the self-sufficient ground of all explanation, and that "life has no purpose other than itself."

It should also be noted in this "Firing Line" debate that the critics of evolution here follow the strategy of negative argumentation--criticizing evolutionary theory but offering no alternative theory of their own. David Berlinski, for example, says at the end of the debate: "I find scientific flaws with the Darwinian theory. I don't have a replacement." Similarly, Behe and Johnson fail to offer any clear positive theory of their own.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Guns Save Lives

In some of my recent postings on the NIU shooting, I have raised the question of what unarmed citizens should do when they are attacked by gunmen. There is no easy answer to that question because obviously gunmen have an unfair advantage when they attack unarmed citizens. These unarmed citizens can call the police. But by the time the police arrive, many people are already dead.

This problem becomes acute particularly for "gun-free zones" like schools and shopping malls, which have become the favorite places for crazed gunmen to go looking for easy victims.

There is an alternative: allow citizens to defend themselves by carrying concealed handguns. In fact, as John Stossel has argued in a recent essay, there have been some recent cases where gunmen going to schools and malls have been stopped by citizens with guns.

If there are any natural rights at all, there must be a natural right to defend oneself against homicidal violence by using whatever weapon will stop the aggressor. So why shouldn't law-abiding citizens have the right to use guns to defend themselves?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Liberal Learning Through Peer-Response Journal Writing

Having vented my scorn for the intellectual emptiness of higher education today--particularly, as manifested in auditorium classes and power-point lecturing--I should offer some practical ideas for alternatives.

Over the past 10 years, most of my classes have been organized around peer-response journal writing. I first picked up this pedagogical technique from George Gopen, the "writing-across-the-curriculum" professor at Duke University. This always works for me in elevating the intellectual level of every class I teach.

Here's how it works. For each week of class, there is a reading assignment from some classic text. At the first class of each week, each student must bring to class three copies of a two-typed page journal entry on the reading for that week. This journal entry must show some kind of intellectual struggle with the reading. If a student doesn't understand the reading, he must explain what it is he doesn't understand. One copy of the journal entry is for me. The other two copies are for the other two members of the student journal group. Then, at the second class of the week, each student comes to class with two one-typed page journal responses to the two journal entries that he received earlier in the week. In these responses, he must respond somehow to the writing of the other two members of his journal group. By the end of the semester, each student has written over 60 typed pages of journal writing.

As a result, every student must come to class not only having read the assignment but also having thought enough about the assignment to write something about it. The students must also enter into a written conversation about the readings with other members of their journal groups. This prepares them for class discussion, because they are primed with questions and comments that have already come up in their journal writing.

Students learn how to read classic texts. They learn how to write about those texts and the questions they raise. And they learn how to talk about those texts and questions.

The classroom discussions are so lively that I never have to lecture, which is my objective. Reading the journal entries helps me to prepare for class, because I can see what the students are thinking, and I can come to class with questions for discussion based on the journal writing. Sometimes I will start a class by saying, I see that John and Susie are taking a position directly opposed to the position of Sally and Dan, so what's the debate here?

Of course, some students drop out of my classes immediately when they see this writing requirement in the syllabus. But that's good, because it means that the students who remain are ready to do some serious work. Many of my students say this is the most stimulating experience they have ever had in any college class.

This works best in small classes. But I have regularly done this in classes with enrollments of up to 50 students. To make the reading manageable for me, I don't write many marginal comments on the journals. But my comments will come out in the class discussions.

If this can work at a large state university like Northern Illinois University, it can work anywhere.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Auditorium Classes as Educational Fraud

It is not surprising that the campus shooting at Northern Illinois University last week occurred in Cole Hall 101. This room is actually a huge auditorium with a stage for the teacher and a huge screen for power-point projection. With hundreds of students enrolled, classes in this auditorium have to be organized around lectures with almost no discussion at all. Many students do not bother to come to class. Those who do are passive. Many sleep. Others surf the internet on their laptops. Standing on the stage and shooting down into the deep auditorium, the gunman knew it would be easy to target his passive victims.

Cole Hall will be closed this semester and even into the fall semester. Administrators say that they will decide what should be done with the building, with the thought of doing something that would honor the memory of the students who were killed there.

I have a proposal. Cole Hall now houses two huge auditorium halls. Why not replace these auditorium halls with small seminar rooms for classes with fewer than 25 students? Why not even prohibit all auditorium classes across the university? Wouldn't it honor the memory of these dead students to declare that never again would NIU students have to sit in auditorium classes that promote listless passivity rather than intellectual exchange?

Of course, such a proposal has no chance of being taken seriously. At large universities like NIU, it is economically efficient to herd hundreds of students into auditorium classes. With few exceptions, these classes have almost no intellectual content.

Recently, one of my colleagues at NIU was explaining to me why we needed to have large auditorium classes. He said that undergraduate students are only "warm bodies" to give us good enrollment numbers and to pay the tuition that finances our graduate programs and our leisure for professional research. Administrators and faculty members would never say this in public, but this really is the attitude that supports auditorium classes.

As part of a "strategic planning" process at NIU, faculty were recently asked to submit proposals for reforming education at NIU. I wrote a proposal for a "Great Books" program--a curriculum of small classes organized around the close reading of classic texts in all fields of the liberal arts. The written response to my proposal was that "Great Books programs are based on elitist notions of 'great literature' based on white middle class values."

Gathering hundreds of "warm bodies" in an auditorium for a course of lectures and power-point projections is not real education. But it surely does escape any charge of "elitism."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Anastaplo on the NIU Shooting

In my previous posts on the NIU shooting, I have suggested that it is not healthy for us to assume that when a gunman bursts into a classroom, the best response for the teachers and the students is to run away. Wouldn't it be better for our campus communities to make it clear that gunmen will be aggressively attacked by their potential victims? Wouldn't this provide a healthy deterrent to potential criminals who think they can intimidate us and achieve a perverse kind of glory by their power over us?

A similar line of thought has been expressed by George Anastaplo (Professor of Law at Loyola University of Chicago) in the following "letter to the editor" that he has sent to various newspapers:

"The fiendish attack last week on a hall full of Northern Illinois University students by a heavily-armed madman provoked typical resposes by potential victims: by and large, people dove for cover or ran for exits. It is obviously difficult, when assaulted thus, to resist the natural impulse to flee or to hide, even if one may become thereby a much easier target.

"It would usually be healthier, spiritually as well as physically, if potential victims in such dreadful circumstances had been taught (well before such a crisis) to rush the gunman, shouting vigorously and throwing things at him (backpacks, books, bottles, chairs, clothing, laptops, lunchboxes--whatever is at hand). Putting out the lights might also help. (Arming other students on a campus would probably be, to say the least, counterproductive--and not only because it can 'send the wrong message.')

"It would probably help, in any event, if a would-be gunman (no matter how demented) should be helped to recognize (as he makes his plans) that his hoped-for victims can no longer be counted on to remain simply targets, but might even take him alive. he yearns for, and indeed depends upon, much more uncontested control of the situation than he should be permitted by properly-prepared fellow students to count on."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Prozac, Nietzsche, and the NIU Gunman

The mystery of Steven Kazmierczak--the NIU gunman--deepens. In an interview conducted by CNN, Jessica Baty--Kazmierczak's girlfriend--has added at least two pieces of information. She indicates that he was on Prozac, but had gone off the drug "because it made him feel like a zombie." She also reports that after the shooting, she received mailed packages from him with various books--including Friedrich Nietzsche's THE ANTICHRIST, which he had been reading in recent weeks.

Prozac is one of the best-known of the anti-depressant drugs, which works by blocking the removal of serotonin from between nerve cells. As I indicated in Chapter 10 of DARWINIAN CONSERVATISM, there is controversy over the reliance on drugs like Prozac to manipulate neurotransmitters in the brain to deal with depression. Using such drugs can be evasive and self-defeating because it does not really solve the problem, which is something wrong in the mind or in the social environment of the patient. Moreover, going off such drugs can have severe consequences.

Reading Nietzsche being associated with homicidal violence by young men has a long history. In the famous 1925 case, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb read Nietzsche and decided that they were "supermen" who were "beyond good and evil." To show this, they decided to commit a murder--killing Bobby Franks, the young son of a rich family in Chicago. Of course, reading Nietzsche by itself is not going to make young men homicidal. But it is likely to be unhealthy for young men who otherwise are mentally disturbed. I say this as someone who regularly teaches Nietzsche, but who worries that certain kinds of students would be best not to read Nietzsche.

We need to know much more about Steven Kazmierczak. In particular, we need to know more about his use of Prozac, and about the dangers of such anti-depressant drugs.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Campus Gunmen and the Need for Courage

If an armed man breaks into a classroom intent on killing as many people as he can, what response should we expect from the teacher and the students?

At Virginia Tech and at NIU, the response of both teachers and students was to run away, out of fear of being killed, while calling for aid from armed law enforcement officers.

Is there any moral justification for expecting something more? Should we expect that some of the teachers and students would charge towards the gunman to stop his shooting, and thus risking their lives to save the lives of others?

Or have we decided that unarmed citizens with no special training in law enforcement or military service are not morally obligated to risk their lives in stopping a gunman?

The moral virtue of courage is displayed when people risk their lives for the sake of some cause worth dying for--like defending one's country or defending innocent people against attack. Should we expect college teachers and students to display courage when they face a gunman in their classroom? Or have we decided that this is an unreasonable expectation for unarmed citizens?

These are difficult questions. I must admit that I personally don't know how I would react under these circumstances. If I had been lecturing on the auditorium stage of NIU's Cole Hall 101 on Thursday afternoon, and Steven Kazmierczak burst onto the stage with his weapons readied for action, I hope that I would have had the courage to charge towards him to stop his attack. But I cannot honestly be sure that I could have done that. I am sure that I would have felt the same fear of dying that everyone felt in that classroom, and that fear of dying might have so overcame me that I would have been a coward. But if I had acted in a cowardly way, I would have felt ashamed of myself.

Or, again, have we decided that unarmed citizens are not morally required to show courage in risking death to stop a gunman to save the lives of others?

Friday, February 15, 2008

More on the NIU Shooter

As more information about the NIU shooter comes out, the case looks ever more confusing and disturbing. His name was Steven Kazmierczak. As an undergraduate at NIU, he was a double major in sociology and political science (my department). He also took a graduate course in the political science department as a graduate student in sociology. Although I did not have him as a student, some of my colleagues remember him as an "exceptional" student. He received a "Dean's Award" for his 3.86 GPA in sociology. He was admitted to my department's MPA program, but he decided to go to the University of Illinois for a social work program.

So he was a young man of some academic accomplishment.

We need to know much more, particularly about the reports that he was on psychiatric medications, and that he had recently become erratic after going off his meds. We might wonder whether he was paranoid schizophrenic.

Without Conscience: The Shootings at Northern Illinois University

I teach at Northern Illinois University. Yesterday, I left campus shortly before a gunman entered a large auditorium lecture hall with a shotgun and two handguns and began shooting at the students. After killing six people and wounding many others, he killed himself. Some of the wounded are now are critical condition and might die. The gunman has been identified as a former sociology graduate student at NIU who was enrolled at another university.

Along with the Virginia Tech shootings last year, this reminds us again of our vulnerability to attack from mentally disordered people who become predators who kill without conscience.

In various writings, and on this blog, I have written about the naturally evolved moral sense as the ground of moral experience. One way to think about the character of that moral sense is to look at those who lack it, who are literally without conscience. Pure psychopaths exemplify this condition. They are people who lack the moral emotions of shame, guilt, and sympathy, and so they can injure and even kill other people with no remorse. These are the people Darwin identified as "unnatural monsters." My chapter on psychopaths in DARWINIAN NATURAL RIGHT elaborates on this.

Of course, it is too early now to know anything about the psychological profile of this gunman. But we do know that he was a young male. And we can reliably predict that he was unmarried and solitary. We can also predict that he was emotionally flat. One of the students who survived the attack described the gunman this way: "His face was blank, like he wasn't a person. He was a statue, aiming."

Most human beings are not like this. If they were, social order would be impossible. But it seems that in every human society, there is a small minority of people who do take on the emotionally flat temperament that makes it possible for them to kill without conscience.

One of the most important projects for the social sciences and moral philosophy is to understand the nature and nurture of the moral sense and of the conditions that explain why some people have no moral sense.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Birthday of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin

On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in Hardin County, Kentucky. On the same day, Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England. So next year, February 12, 2009 will be the bicentennial of the birthday of both men.

As I have noted on this blog previously, there are many remarkable similarities between Darwin and Lincoln. Both believed in a universe governed by natural causes. Both accepted the idea of evolution. Both were accused of denying the Biblical doctrine of Creation. Both spoke of God as First Cause. Both appealed to the Bible as a source of moral teaching, even as they also appealed to a natural moral sense independent of Biblical religion. Both abhorred slavery as immoral. Darwin followed the news reports of the Civil War with great interest and cheered Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

For some of my previous posts on these points, go here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More on Is/Ought

There continues to be discussion of whether a Darwinian ethical naturalism fails to overcome the is/ought gap. Rob Schebel assumes that G. E. Moore's "naturalistic fallacy" argument is an insuperable objection to any naturalistic ethics.

In Chapter 4 of DARWINIAN NATURAL RIGHT, I have argued for a Humean naturalism that is compatible with Aristotelian and Darwinian views of morality. Far from denying that moral judgments are judgments of fact, Hume shows that moral judgments are accurate when they correctly report what our moral sentiments would be in a given set of circumstances. Moral judgments do not have cosmic objectivity in the sense of conforming to structures that exist totally independently of human beings. Yet neither do moral judgments have only emotive subjectivity in the sense of expressing purely personal feelings. Moral judgments for Hume have intersubjective objectivity in that they are factual judgments about the species-typical pattern of moral sentiments in specified circumstances.

Hume compares moral judgments to judgments of secondary qualities such as colors. My judgment that this tomato is read is true if the object is so constituted as to induce the impression of red in human beings with a normal visual system viewing it under standard conditions. Similarly, my judgment that this person is morally praiseworthy is true if the person's conduct is such as to induce the sentiment of approbation in normal human beings under standard conditions. Just as an object can appear red to me when in fact it is not, so a person can appear praiseworthy to me when in fact he is not. The moral judgment whether some conduct would give to a normal spectator under standard conditions a moral sentiment of approbation is, Hume insists, "a plain matter of fact." The moral sentiment itself, however, is a feeling or passion rooted in human nature that cannot be produced by reason alone.

The importance of the moral sentiments becomes clear as soon as one considers those who have no moral sentiments--pure psychopaths. As I have indicated in Chapter 8 of DARWINIAN NATURAL RIGHT, we must treat psychopaths as moral strangers who are incapable of responding to moral appeals because they lack that moral sense that makes morality possible for normal people.

Darwin's contribution to this tradition of naturalistic morality rooted in natural moral sentiments was to show how the human nature of such morality could have evolved.

This Humean and Darwinian naturalism seems more reasonable to me than G. E. Moore's claim that "good" belongs to some transcendental realm of non-natural objects. I cannot see how moral standards could exist independently of the facts of human nature.

In my Darwinian account of morality, moral values are rooted in moral facts--the psychological facts of the human species, such as our disposition to sympathize with our fellow human beings and feel resentment against those who harm others without justification.

Although his terminology differs somewhat from mine, I largely agree with Alex Walter's elaboration of these points in his article "The Anti-naturalistic Fallacy: Evolutionary Moral Psychology and the Insistence of Brute Facts," which can be found

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Response to Rob Schebel on Is/Ought

Rob Schebel has written a long comment on my post "Moving from 'Is' to 'Ought'." Before responding to him in this new post, I will begin by quoting his entire comment.

"The only justification you give for the good being the desirable is that Aquinas said so. It would seem that you are trying to skirt the 'is/ought' distinction by simply appealing to the most overarching 'ought' possible: that we ought to follow what is desirable. But this does not overcome the 'is/ought' problem because you simply pick one notion of the overarching good, that the good is desirable, without further justification. If you were to examine this notion further, you would continue to run into the 'is/ought' problem.

"Also, it is difficult to agree with your definition of the good as the desirable, especially considering that 1) people disagree as to what is desirable, 2) the universal desires Brown lists are only universal on a general cultural scale, not for individuals, 3) you pick and choose certain universal desires, and ignore 'negative' desires such as the desire to do violence to others, cheat on our partners, kill our own children, make war, and wield power unjustly, 4) you give insufficient weight to environmental and cultural traditions that contribute to each individual's personality and sense of happiness, and 5) the constellation of human desires can itself be altered through biotechnology.

"So my questions would be:

"1) How can you use the desirable as a standard when there is no universal agreement on what is truly desirable? Also, at what level are we considering the concept of 'desirable'? The individual? The group? The species? All living things? The answer to this question could lead you to highly divergent ethical domains, from ethical egoism to preference utilitarianism.

"2) How do you account for the lack of universality of Brown's universals on an individual scale, especially if your theory is supposed to help individuals make moral choices?

"3) By what standard have you picked the twenty desires over any of the others? It seems you would have to use a standard outside of the 'desirable,' considering you are making a kind of meta-level choice about the desirability of desires themselves.

"4) Even if we agree that the general constellation of desires is partly a product of evolutionary inheritance, environmental factors still play a great role in the moral make-up of any individual. You give weight to tradition and culture in Darwinian Conservatism, but how do we weigh competing political claims within a culture, especially when opposing factions use differing definitions of human happiness? If two factions disagree about happiness because they give weight to differing universal desires, how do we resolve their conflicts?

"5) Lastly, in light of the revolution in bioethics, by what standard do you choose desires when human nature itself is up for grabs? How does Darwinian natural right assist us in deciding whether or not to alter what is naturally desirable? By an appeal to what is currently desirable? Why is the currently desirable superior to the potentially desirable?"

I have raised and answered these questions in Darwinian Natural Right (DNR) and Darwinian Conservatism (DC). So here I will only briefly indicate the answers that are elaborated in those two books.

1) Yes, Schebel is right, "people disagree as to what is desirable." As I have indicated, there are four sources of moral disagreement: fallible beliefs about circumstances, fallible beliefs about desires, variable circumstances, and variable desires (DNR, 44-49). Because of these four sources of moral uncertainty and imprecision, morality depends on the exercise of prudence, which is the practical wisdom for judging how to satisfy the variable desires of human beings in the variable circumstances of action. We need prudence to judge the appropriate expression of each desire as varying according to the social and physical conditions of particular individuals in particular societies. We also need prudence to judge how best to resolve conflicts among the natural desires. In my Aristotelian emphasis on prudence, I reject the common assumption of many contemporary philosophers that the purpose of moral philosophy is to find universal normative principles--Kantian, utilitarian, or whatever--to resolve all moral conflicts in some abstract way. I believe that moral judgment lacks the precision and certainty of mathematics or formal logic because of the contingency of moral circumstances. In many cases, moral problems produce tragic conflicts that cannot be perfectly resolved by appeal to universal, formal rules. Much of my writing studies such tragic conflicts--for example, differences between men and women (DNR 123-60) and the debate over slavery (DNR 161-210).

What's Schebel's alternative? Does he have a set of universal normative principles from which he can logically deduce the resolution of moral conflicts? If so, what are those principles? And how would such principles logically resolve our conflicts?

2) Schebel questions me about the individual variability of the universal desires. This is something that comes up a lot in my writing (DNR, 29-44). In the case of each desire, I speak of what human beings "generally" desire, because I am speaking of general tendencies or proclivities that are true for all societies but not for all individuals in all circumstances. There can be individual exceptions for every natural desire. A few individuals might have little or no sex drive, for example. There is great fluctuation in sexual interest across the human life span. And in extreme cases of physical deprivation and suffering, all people might find their sexual appetite suppressed by other appetites. But this does not deny the fact that the desire for sexual pleasure is a natural desire for most sexually mature people under the normal conditions of life, which is why every human society must have rules for the proper expression of this desire.

What's Schebel's alternative? Is he suggesting that given such individual variability, the general tendencies of human nature are morally irrelevant? Is he suggesting some kind of moral solipsism?

3) I don't understand what Schebel means when he says that I ignore the "negative" desires--"such as the desire to do violence to others, cheat on our partners, kill our own children, make war, and wield power unjustly." Much of my writing is devoted to elaborate studies of such desires. I identify war as a natural desire (DNR 34). I consider the circumstances for infanticide (DNR, 38, 40, 119-21). I comment on the problems of sexual promiscuity and infidelity (DNR, 123-37, 149-60). I have a chapter on psychopathic desires (DNR, 211-30). And I comment extensively on how the desire for dominance can lead to tyranny and slavery (DNR, 137-43, 161-210; DC, 68-84). If Schebel can explain specifically where I have gone wrong on these various topics, then I can respond.

What's Schebel's alternative? How would he deal with "negative" desires? Does he have some way to manage these desires through a universal logic of moral principles? If so, how would that work?

4) Schebel asks, "how do we weigh competing political claims within a culture"? Well, again, that's what I have tried to do in surveying various moral and political conflicts--such as debates over slavery, property, and familial arrangements (DNR, 89-210; DC, 46-67). If he can specify where he thinks I have gone wrong on any of these topics, then I can respond.

What's Schebel's alternative? How would he resolve such competing claims?

5) Schebel objects that I have not considered the possibility that biotechnology could change our natural desires. But I have a chapter on biotechnology (DC, 130-42). If we keep in mind the adaptive complexity of human nature, I argue, we can foresee that biotechnology will be limited both in its technical means and in its moral ends. It will be limited in its technical means, because complex behavioral traits are rooted in the intricate interplay of many genes interacting with developmental contingencies and unique life histories to form brains that respond flexibly to changing circumstances. Consequently, precise technological manipulation of human nature to enhance desirable traits while avoiding undesirable side effects will be very difficult if not impossible. Biotechnology will also be limited in its moral ends, because the motivation for biotechnological manipulations will come from the same natural desires that have always characterized human nature (for example, the desire of parents to have healthy and happy children). Does Schebel disagree with this? If so, how?

What is Schebel's moral alternative for handling biotechnology? Does he think we can appeal to some abstract logic of morality that is not rooted in human nature? If so, how exactly would that moral logic constrain biotechnology?

[Pertinent to this points is my later post on moral reasoning through hypothetical imperatives.]