Allison Morse


This Paper will explore the ethical considerations of the reductionist paradigm that the Human Genome Project represents, and analyze how this paradigm affects our political institutions, our family relationships, and even our identity. Part Two will provide the scientific background for a discussion of the Human Genome Project. It will begin by defining two competing theoretical constructs scientists use when exploring biological phenomenon: reductionism and organism. This Part will then offer a rudimentary explanation of how genes function. Yet even this rudimentary explanation illustrates the complexity involved in the functioning of genes, leaving the reductionist notions of genes as the "master molecule" wanting. Part Three analyzes the claims of what can be accomplished by the Human Genome Project and explores more productive avenues where policymakers could be allocating our financial resources. Part Four looks at how genetic testing can be a form of power which medical, insurance and government institutions can use to define what is "normal." This section also evaluates the advantages and disadvantages of predictive diagnoses on individuals and their families. Part Five looks at the subscription of our culture to the model of gene as determinant of disease and behavior, opening the door to personal and institutional eugenics. Part Six looks at the political cost of deterministic notions, and how these very concepts could undermine the theoretical foundations of our whole system of justice.