Pol 150 Contemp pol issues

What makes us human? Is it our genes? Our minds? How we look and how we act? And if it’s any (or all) of these things, what does it mean for our humanness when we change them?

Biological and technological advances of the past forty years have opened up possibilities for changing how we look, how we reproduce, and how we think. Gene transfer (also know as genetic engineering or gene therapy) has been used to treat a variety of diseases, and stem cell research may lead to the growing of replacement organs and other body parts. Reproductive technologies have allowed infertile people to have children, and there are some children alive today who have three genetic parents. And then there are all of the experiments in neuroscience: attempts to use the brain to move objects, implants to allow those with paralysis to walk again, research on allowing people to remain awake for long periods of time, and studies on how to manipulate memory.

In this class we’ll range widely across enhancement biotechnologies, touching on human experimentation, cosmetic surgery, gene transfer, cloning, performance-enhancing drugs, medical implants, and mood-altering drugs. We’ll also consider the histories behind these techs, as well as the at-times horrific abuses associated with thinking of humans as “better” or “worse” kinds of people. Running throughout the course will be considerations of what can, ought, and ought not to be done, how do decide what is right and wrong, how much does or should religion play in these discussions, and how much control anyone ought to have over themselves—or the future.

Required reading: Reading packet, distributed by College Now
Readings also available online at coursesandquestions.com/pol-150-contemp-pol-issues/

It is expected that you will complete the readings during the week they are assigned; as part of your participation grade, you may be called on in class to offer a question or comment on those readings.

…Attendance & participation:     15 pts
…Approaches papers        10 pts
… …due Oct 3
…Projects (3 x 15 pts):         45 pts
… …due Oct 24
… …due November 14
… …due December 5
…Final project             30 pts
… …due December 21

You will be given further written instructions for all assignments.
No extra credit will be available.

ALL assignments are due IN CLASS as HARD COPY on date due. Late work will be penalized.

Regarding tablets/computers: You may use for notes as long as WIFI IS TURNED OFF; please stow cell phones.

Note regarding food and drink in the classroom: Something to drink fine, something to eat is not.


I. Prologue
Days 1-3 September 12, 14, & 19 What’s it all about?
*Readings 1-3; begin Readings 4-5

***NO CLASS September 21: Rosh Hashanah***

Days 4-5 September 26-28 History & theories
*Finish Readings 4-5; Readings 6-8

II. Beginning Life
Days 6-7 October 3-5 Science of making us; birthin’ babies ……….Approaches papers due
*Readings 9-10; begin Readings 11-14

Days 8-9 October 10-12 Birthin’ babies
*finish Readings 11-14; begin readings 15-19

Days 10-11 October 17-19 Reproductive ethics & donating life
*finish Readings 15-19; begin Readings 20-23

III. Sustaining & Enhancing Life
Days 12-13 October 24-26 Who owns you? What do you own? ……….. Project 1 due
*finish Readings 20-23

Days 14-15 October 31-November 2 Science of what makes us us
*Readings 24-26

Days 16-17 November 7-9 Better bodies? Better minds?
*Readings 27-31; Begin Reading 32

Days 18-19 November 14-16 Different bodies? Different minds? ……. Project 2 due
*Readings 33-36 & 41-42; continue Reading 32

*** NO CLASS November 21: Friday schedule; NO CLASS November 23: Thanksgiving***

Days 20-21 November 28-30 Better? Different?
*Readings 37-40 & 43; finish Reading 32

IV. Ending Life
Days 22-23 December 5-7 Death and dying……… Project 3 due
*Readings 44-48

Days 24-25 December 12-14 Death and (not) dying
*Readings 49-51

V. Epilogue
Day 26 December 19 What’s it all about, redux

December 21 (no class)………… Final Project due


Required readings (in order of syllabus)

1. Belmont Report
2-3. 45 CFR 46.111 & 46.116. Criteria for IRB approval of research | General requirements for informed consent
4-5. BBC Consequentialism; deontological ethics
6. Thomas R. McCormick,  Principles of Bioethics
7. CE Harris, The Ethics of Natural Law
8. David P. Schmidt, Casuistry
9. Rudolf Jaenisch, Human cloning: the science and ethics of nuclear transplantation
10. President’s Council on Bioethics (PCB), Reproduction & Responsibility, ch. 2
11. Sirpa Soini, et. al. The interface between assisted reproductive technologies and genetics
12. N Curtis, Would the deliberate creation of a deaf child be morally defensible?
13. Carson Strong, The ethics of human reproductive cloning
14. PCB, Staff Working Paper, The Ethics of “Reproductive Cloning”
15. Jennifer Lahl, Dorothy, Dorothy, We’re not in Kansas any more
16. Karen Clark, Norval Glenn and Elizabeth Marquardt, My donor’s name is daddy: Recommendations
17. PCB, Reproduction & Responsibility, Exec summary, §§ III-IV
18-19. ESHRE Task Force on Ethics and Law: Gamete and embryo donation | Surrogacy
20. Rina Hakimian & David Korn, Ownership and use of tissue specimens for research
21. R Alta Charo, Body of research—ownership and use of human tissue
22. Thomas George, The case against kidney sales
23. C Erin, J Harris, An ethical market in human organs (w/Savelescu & Radcliffe commentaries)
24-25. NHGRI: Deoxyribonucleaic acid | A brief guide to genomics
26. National Institutes of Health, Stem Cell Basics
27. PCB, Staff Working Paper, Distinguishing Therapy and Enhancement
28. J Savelescu, Genetic interventions and the ethics of the enhancement of human beings
29. F Baylis & JS Robert, The inevitability of genetic enhancement technologies
30. PCB, Beyond Therapy: Superior Performance (ch 3)
31. Darrin Belousek, Professional baseball & performance-enhancing drugs
32. Begin: PCB, Beyond Therapy: General Reflections (ch 6)
33. Alexis Madrigal, The not-so-distant future when we can all upgrade our brains
34. Marek Kohn, Smart and smarter drugs
35. V Cakic, Smart drugs for cognitive enhancement
36. C Forlini & E Racine, Autonomy and coercion in academic ‘cognitive enhancement’
37. BBC, Happiness & disability
38. Thomas Koch & Peter Singer ethics and disability point/counterpoint
39. Rock Ethics Institute, Disability: Prenatal Genetic Testing
40. Charlotte Greenfield, Should we fix intersex children?
41. Cody Delistraty, The ethics of erasing bad memories
42. PCB, Staff working paper, Remembering and Forgetting
43. Carl Elliott, The tyranny of happiness
44. Arthur E Chin, et. al., Legalized physician-assisted suicide in Oregon (open w Adobe Reader)
45. Lars Johan Materstvedt, et. al., Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide
46. Richard Radtke, A Case Against Physician-Assisted Suicide
47. George Annas, ‘Culture of life’ at the bedside
48. Marcia Angell, The case of Helen Wanglie
49. John Harris, Immortal ethics
50. John K Davis, The prolongevists speak up
51. PCB, Beyond Therapy: Ageless Bodies (ch 4)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s