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Epilogue
Where biological curiosity will lead in the years to corne is anyone's
guess. It is, I think, inevitable that someone, someday, will clone a
human being. Should that happen, our traditional concepts of "per-
sonhood," the soul, and much of our ethical tradition will behold
itself in turmoil. That said, it is an unarguable truth that the field of
bioethics will simply continue to expand as more and more troubled
scientists, philosophers, theologians, and laypeople try to meet such
crises.
In geology a spectacular claim emerged in January of 1993, add-
ing to the continuing controversy over "catastrophism." At the annu-
al meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the geologists Mi-
chael Rampino of New York University and Verne Oberbeck of
NASA's Ames Research Center in California claimed that asteroids
colliding with the earth might have initiated movements of the conti-
nents, producing debris long supposed to have been caused by glacial
movement. Such collisions, some thought to have originated some
250 million years ago, could have triggered the mass extinctions the
are thought to have occurred at that time. According to some esti-
mates, close to 96 percent of all species perished in that cataclysm.
In paleontology, a remarkable find also occurred in 1993, when
Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago found a complete skeleton of
the most primitive dinosaur so far discovered. This adds tremen-
371
372 Epilogue
dously to our knowledge of the evolution of dinosaurs. In the words
of Professor Sereno, the new dinosaur "is close to what we expected
the common ancestor of all the dinosaurs to look like."
On another front, looming developments in technology will inev-
itably cast new light on the tattered "mind-body" problem so ele-
gantly stated by Descartes in the seventeenth century. Is the mind
some sort of ethereal substance that just happens to be lodged in a
physical body? This, of course, is the classic theological view of man.
Or, is a doctrine such as "functionalism" true? According to the latter,
a "mental state" is something that is causally connected with other
mental states and with behavior of some sort. In some versions of
functionalism, it is claimed that "mental states" are just states of the
brain or nervous system-the so-called psycho-physical identity the-
ory stated some thirty years ago by the English philosopher J. J. C.
Smart. With the advance of computer technology and robotics, it is
not unthinkable that someone, someday, will succeed in constructing
a cybernetic organism that will outwardly be indistinguishable from a
human being, either in appearance or behavior. Have we then created
a human being? I think the answer is yes.
Genetic engineering will most likely keep scaring many in the
very understandable way that it has so far. Apprehension about
doomsday viruses will not easily disappear. If we can responsibly
overcome such problems, both ethical and scientific, the future pro-
gress of biology and the potential for the genetic treatment of diseases
is boundless.










































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