History and Philosophy Of Science | Whose view of life? Contemporary Issues in Bioethics
X123 | 23739 | Melinda Fagan


Whose view of Life?  Contemporary Issues in Bioethics
Melinda Fagan
TR 2:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m.

Biology plays an ever-increasing role in our society.  Issues such
as stem cell research, genetically modified organisms, invasive
species, and therapeutic vs. reproductive cloning, are matters of
public and political concern.  Bioethics deals with the interface
between biological science and our society, at the level of public
policy as well as individual responsibility.  As the public role of
biology increases, and new technologies are developed, it is
important to understand the scientific and ethical issues involved
in biological research, and the range of viewpoints that shape
current political debates.

In this course, we will investigate relations between biology and
ethics, and their impact on public decision-making.  No prior
experience in biological science or philosophy is required.  The
first part of the course will provide an introduction to critical
reasoning in ethics and an overview of major ethical theories.  We
then focus on specific debates about biological research, beginning
with the history of ideas and technologies involved in the current
controversy over embryonic stem cells.  We will also examine debates
over eugenics, assisted reproductive technologies, abortion, the
Human Genome Project, and cloning.  Readings will include diverse
viewpoints about the moral status of living organisms and persons.
We will first aim to understand, and then to critically evaluate,
these debates.

The course is organized around discussions of assigned readings;
requirements include one class presentation, as well as two short
papers, and one midterm exam.  Students will choose the issues
covered in the last weeks of the course.  Possible topics include:
research on humans and animals; end-of-life decision- making;
genetically modified organisms; environmental ethics and
conservation; medicine and the pharmaceutical industry; AIDS and
public health.