Connections 20015. Genes in Context
At the 50-year anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA, it is clear that the technology and medicine related to DNA have generated a wide range of ethical implications. This connection permits students interested in studying the genome at different levels to consider and apply those implications in their work. The 200-level DNA course is team taught, by a biologist and a computer scientist; students may sign up for it as either COMP 242 or BIO 242. Two different upper-level courses, BIO 211, also study DNA and the genome. Any one of these four courses may be connected to PHIL 111 or PHIL 241, which emphasizes topics dealing with DNA technology and applications.
This connection takes as its goal increasing students’ awareness and understanding of the ethical issues stemming from the use of our growing knowledge of DNA and the genome. Many students taking this connection will be expected someday to make professional decisions about DNA-related issues and an understanding of the ethical implications of those decisions will serve them (and the larger community) very well. As technology and medicine find ways to utilize genetic information, increasingly complex issues with more serious consequences will emerge. Students who have taken this connection will be better equipped to evaluate and address these issues as they arise and are more likely to take a broader view of the effects of their actions. In addition, students will learn Perl, deemed by many in bioinformatics to be one of the more accessible string-matching languages, useful for genome searches and pattern matching for phylogenetic trees.