Indeed this is the age of scientific discovery! With each passing day, knowledge in the life sciences is increasing exponentially in many areas, including stem cell biology, patterns of birth defects, and the phenomena of aging, dying and death. This new information, while important to human health, surfaces the complex and intertwining issues of ethics and values that will be of special consideration in this seminar. Each of the daily learning modules and discussion topics laid out in a course “blueprint” is designed to expand current thinking and personal experiences on the “risks and benefits” between world of scientific discovery and its impact on human health and society.
Biological Perspectives. The “organizational plan” of the human body serves as a keystone as we probe the interplay of genes, cells, morphogenesis, and the environment in which we live. Myriad biological advances will be considered, including such examples as:
- Birth defects and population patterns
- Phenomena of aging, dying, and death
- Stem cells in biology and health
This last topic alone opens up a world of biological concepts and principles that can influence our understanding of how the human body — YOUR human body — is shaped prior to birth and throughout life. Thus, "life inside the box."
Ethical and Societal Perspectives. However stimulating "life inside the box" may be, that is not the whole story! In the excitement of so many dramatic scientific advances over the last ten years, efforts to understand the ethical implications have not kept pace. It is vital that researchers and clinicians be aware of and sensitive to the legal, cultural, and societal issues spawned by their work. What is society (nationally and internationally) asking for on principles and policies that should be in place to guide further research and application of such discoveries? Addressing this question focuses our attention on those environmental events occurring outside biology laboratories and outside our own human bodies. Thus, "life outside the box.”
Examples of key experiences in UC 154 include: open sharing of ideas and information on issues and priorities in biological and health care research; open class discussions on readings from a select text and from select case studies; and open sharing of ideas on strategies for information collection and assessment needed to guide the preparation of a required research paper on a topic of a student’s own interest as related to the course scope.