Biology, The Science of Life

The Future of Biology

Overview: This lesson will be compromised of engaging the students to critically think about how biology will affect society in 50-100 years from today. Students will be engaged in discussions based on video clips and articles presented and will be analyzing them from an ethical point of view. Students will then be required to create a Photovoice project on their visions of what the future will be like from a biological point of view.

Materials: Today’s class requires the following five articles (most articles are available at the bottom of the page; the others will be printed since they have not been published on the internet):
  1. “Narrative Portrayals of Genes and Human Flourishing” by Aline H. Kalbian
  2. “Heredity and Humanity – Have no Fear. Genes aren’t everything” by Francis Collins
  3. “Perfect People, Perfect Country” by Allan Levine
  4. “Racism and Research: The case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study” by Allan M. Brandt
  5. “Does Race Exist?” by Michael Bamshad and Steve E. Olson
The teacher will need access to the class computer, projector, and screen to display the selected clips. The articles and videos are the digital media which will be used as a teaching tool. This lecture will take place in the computer lab since students will need access to the computers to start working on their projects.

Assessment: Students are required to create a Photovoice project on what they perceive society will look like 50-100 years from today from a biological aspect. This project is worth 20% of their final grade. This project was chosen to assess the students because it allows them to incorporate both biology and creativity in one project. It also allows students to think critically about the lessons they learnt and how to apply them in real life. It also creates awareness on how science affects society. The Photovoice project is a media project which touches on the production aspect of media.

LECTURE MATERIAL:

Outline:
  • Present the two Gattaca video clips (7 minutes)
  • Read article “Narrative Portrayals of Genes and Human Flourishing” by Aline H. Kalbian (15 minutes)
  • Discuss the articles and videos (15 minutes)
  • Expand the discussion to what the future will look from a biological point of view (5 minutes)
  • Explain the assignment (2 minutes)
  • Explain how to create a Photovoice (7 minutes)

Briefly explain the summary of the movie “GATTACA” then show clips in order (from left to right).
Hold any questions. Hand out the printed version of the article ““Narrative Portrayals of Genes and Human Flourishing” by Aline H. Kalbian and read it aloud with the class. Induce the class in a discussion.
Note: Article is not found online, therefore students will receive a printed version.
The article shares reflections of the sentiments about the ethics of prenatal genetic testing. Kalbain argues that the current, broader ethos surrounding prenatal genetic testing is that it is a natural and inevitable advance in medical care. The births of children with significant genetic defects can be avoided.  The article then takes a turn towards the movie “GATTACA” and discusses the possibility of gene discrimination.



Discussion Questions:
  1. Is prenatal genetic testing the start to creating a future as seen in "GATTACA"?
  2. What are certain ethical concerns towards genetic testing?
  3. Do you believe our genes pre-determine our fate?
  4. Do you believe gene discrimination occurs today? (Racism: skin pigment is embedded in our genes)
  5. Do you believe gene discrimination (as seen in the clips) is the form of discrimination our future will hold?
  6. Is it possible to ever remove discrimination?
  7. Do you believe Vincent’s will power to overcome the genetic discrimination he faced was embedded in his genes? Or is there a spiritual aspect to humans as well?

Expand the discussion using the following catalytic questions:
  1. Apart from being able to read our “fate”, what other biological advancements do you think our future will hold? (super powers, cloning, robots, asexual reproduction for humans, etc)
  2. Do you believe robots will rule our world?
  3. Do you think organ and limb transplants will be easily accessible if these organs can be genetically engineered?

Explain the assignment while doing every step on the head computer which is projected in front of the class so the students can see (students are encouraged to do every step at the same as you using their computers):

Assignment Rubric:
  • Prepare a photovoice which reflects your perceptions of the future from a biological point of view at http://www.voicethread.com
  • Must contain at least 10 images
  • Each image must contain an analysis of at least 100 words of the ethical and social issues regarding the perceptions you present
  • Must reflect understanding of course material presented in the 10 lessons 
  • The Photovoice must reflect ideas and understanding of at least two of the following articles:
  1. “Heredity and Humanity – Have no Fear. Genes aren’t everything” by Francis Collins
  2. “Perfect People, Perfect Country” by Allan Levine
  3. “Racism and Research: The case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study” by Allan M. Brandt
  4. “Does Race Exist?” by Michael Bamshad and Steve E. Olson
  • Must be creative and original
  • Example, if one of your perceptions is individuals obtaining super strength, describe how this modification effects the cells of the body and systems we learned at the beginning of the course. Also include the social and ethical implication super strength would have on society (i.e. are those who possess super strength above the law?)
  • You are free to share any of your ideas (if you believe that end of the world is in 2012, then base your project on that idea but must follow rubric!)
  • Send completed projects to Francesca.Fuoco@mail.mcgill.ca

Grading rubric:
10 photos - 2 marks
100 words oral or written (per photo) - 2 marks
Reflects understanding of at least two of the articles - 3 marks
Describes how this idea affects the biological system of humans; reflects understanding of course material - 6 marks
Critical analysis of how your idea affects society from a social and ethical point of view - 6 marks
Overall flow - 1 mark


Explain how to make a Photovoice.
  • Go to http://www.voicethread.com
  • Make an account
  • Under "MYVOICE", you will see tutorials on how to make a photovoice/voicethread
  •  Go to "CREATE"
  • Upload images from your computer, USB, or URL etc.- images must relate to your perceptions of the future (can take images from movies like "Irobot" and "Starwars").
  • Once they are uploaded click on the photo you want to make a comment for- it will be highlighted in yellow- then on the side you can click edit and at the bottom of your photo click on Comment- you have the choice of audio or written
  • Do this for all photos- you can drag photos around to change the order
  • At anytime you can click on MYVOICE to see how your project will look for your audience (your instructor)
  • When you are in MYVOICE you can click on your album and MENU – EDIT to go back into and make any changes, comments and photos can be easily removed
  • You will be asked to add a title- call it what ever you desire, as long as it is relevant to the project's main focus: Biology in the future
  • When your project is done, either in the create tab click on share- get link- copy link- then open an email and paste it in (it is copied to an abstract clipboard in cyberspace). If you are in MYVOICE click on the menu located on your photo album and do the same as above.
  • Send link to Francesca.Fuoco@mail.mcgill.ca

The Articles:
“Heredity and Humanity – Have no Fear. Genes aren’t everything” by Francis Collins
http://www.arn.org/docs2/news/heredityandhumanity0711.htm
Collins and his colleagues are responding to the fear that society has towards our genes: that we are genetically determined; we do not have choose our actions, hence no free will. Collins believes that we are not pre-determined, regardless of our genes. However, he agrees that research on genes is valuable since it will provide insight to curing diseases.

“Perfect People, Perfect Country” by Allan Levine
Note: Article is not found online therefore students will be handed out a printed copy.
This article discusses how Mendel’s law of segregation (lesson 09) laid the foundation for modern genetics. Levine explains that eugenicists believed that human traits – not just physical, but also intellectual and moral characteristics – were transmitted the same way. Basically, this article is centered on the idea of eugenics, which means the science of improving stock (i.e. mating the best of the best) and its social and ethical implications. This eugenetics movement is a true movement that occurred in Canada. It was believed that the “feeble-minded” (i.e. prostitutes, criminals, and alcoholics) can be removed through sterilization.

“Racism and Research: The case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study” by Allan M. Brandt
http://sociology101.net/readings/Racism-And-Research.pdf

The Tuskegee study happed during the same period as the eugenics movement. This study, which was ran by the U.S Public Health Services (USPHS), studied Black men: 400 with Syphilis and 200 controls. However, some men of the control group contracted syphilis and where therefore part of the other group. Already we see how this experiment is “bad science”. Basically, there was a common assumption that both White and Black people contracted syphilis but that Black people suffered less and therefore did not need to be treated. A doctor went out to prove that this assumption is incorrect. The idea that Blacks experience the disease differently than Whites suggests that the Blacks are genetically different to Whites and this was proved wrong. This study remains an example of “bad science”: it was not well organized and went on without a purpose for a while.

“Does Race Exist?” by Michael Bamshad and Steve E. Olson
http://www.racesci.org/racescinow/controversiesoverrace/2.html

This article discusses if our physical features reliably say anything about our genetic makeup other than our phenotypic traits. It draws onto the definition of race and how people are categorized in different regions of the world and discusses the relationship between our genes and “race” by analyzing various case studies.