The Ethics of Discovery

Science extends our knowledge of the natural world and yields technology that has improved and transformed our lives. But does science have a dark side? Current ethical issues like stem cell research, whether to allow widespread genetically modified agriculture, and the rights of research subjects deserve careful ethical thought. Is the cost of knowledge and technology ever too high? Does the promise of future advances ever outweigh human rights? Do we have a right to use knowledge and technology that we know was obtained unethically? Using resources from classical ethical theories, we will try to sort out how to answer these and other questions at the intersection of science and morality.
In examining these ethical issues, students will learn to extract and critique arguments, discuss them critically, and learn to formulate arguments of their own. Each student will write several papers during the course, including an 8-10 page research paper. Writing these papers will be supported by in-class exercises, informal writing assignments, peer review, and self-assessment.