22006 The Human Genome Projects: Genetics and Genethics

Credits: 3 graduate credits in Biological Thought

Prerequisite: Admission to the graduate program in Biological Thought

The course is based on two readers edited by. Simona Ginsburg and Sara Schwartz, and on books which change from semester to semester.

The topics presented in this course are, first, the Human Genome Project (HGP) and the Human Diversity Genome Project (HDGP), their initiation and realization, expectations they have raised, debates that have accompanied both, and numerous side-products (e.g., the international organization HUGO, biotechnology companies, bioinformatics and proteomics). Secondly, the course looks into the challenges, the benefits and the possible dangers that the two projects raise. The ethical, philosophical and social implications of genetics are not entirely new, but the HGP has undoubtedly focused tremendous attention on these issues. Implications of recent genetic research on the problem of determinism and free will, the nature-nurture debate, eugenics, interfering with fate and nature and on our self image are all discussed, with special reference to the question whether novel genetic knowledge enhances our choices or rather restricts behavior. In considering the ethical and philosophical questions, the course briefly analyzes several moral theories and reviews specific social policies. Other topics raised in the course are the right to hold and use genetic information, conflicts of interest involved in the HGP and HDGP, and gene patenting.