Fall 2007

Genes, Genomes and Society


Anthony C. Bishop (Section 01)
David I. Ratner (Section 02)


The sequencing of the human genome ranks as one of the most significant scientific achievements of the last century. How might we ensure that scientific progress is matched by society's ability to use that knowledge for human betterment? Although the scientific ramifications of the genomic revolution are just beginning to be explored, major implications are already apparent in such diverse fields as philosophy, medicine and law. The course will begin with a primer on genetics and molecular biology, but quickly move to consider some of the philosophical, ethical and very practical societal concerns raised by recent genetic discoveries. We will consider such issues as the origin of humans and of human races (and are there such?); the use and potential mis-use of DNA fingerprinting by governmental agencies; whether genetic information should be protected from scrutiny by insurance companies or employers; the ability of parents to screen potential offspring for a range of diseases; the creation of genetically altered plants and animals; and human gene therapy. First semester. Professors Bishop and Ratner.