Will it be possible to edit our children's DNA? What are designer babies and saviour siblings?
What are the ethical implications of genetic selection? Will we live in a world without Down's Syndrome?
Do films such as GATTACA and Jurassic Park play a role in the perception that society has of genetics?
This module will help you to explore all of these questions and to look at this global topic in its complexity, discovering the potential of an interdisciplinary approach.
It will give you an overview of the latest human genetic technologies and it will focus on the interactions between science, society, politics, and culture. In particular you will be working on the historical, ethical and societal controversies around the use of genetic selection and reprogenetics (e.g. designer babies, saviour siblings), and the relationship between science fiction movies (e.g. Never let me go, My sister's keeper) and biotechnologies.
Experts from different fields, such as School of Life Sciences, Warwick Medical School, Sociology, History and Film and TV Studies will contribute to this module giving you the possibility to achieve a truly global approach to this very complex matter.
This module will utilise popular art and in particular films, to facilitate the critical discussion of scientific technologies and of the ethical, social and political topics presented in the lectures.
You will be directly involved at every stage of the learning process and at the centre of group- and problem-based learning activities throughout the module.
If you are already familiar with the scientific theme presented, don't miss the opportunity to look at this topic from the point of view of other disciplines.
This module is truly unique for its holistic approach to the subject, for its transdisciplinary nature and for the type of learning activities proposed. It will allow you to learn how to tackle your own learning interests and research in a more interdisciplinary and global way.
No pre-requisites required. Students from all the faculties have attended to the module in the previous academic years.
Module Structure (*Subject to Change)
This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.
The first part of the session will be a lecture given by the subject expert with the second part being a workshop, led by the module leader(s) together with the disciplinary expert, to facilitate the learning experience of the students.
Indicative topics and themes covered on the module include:
Week 1: Introduction to Genetics: Science & Society
Week 2: Introduction to Prenatal Testing and Genetic Editing
We will explore the history of the human genome and the progress made up to the current day. We will discuss how researchers utilise all the information encoded in the human genome for understanding diseases and for ante-natal analysis.
Week 3: History of Genetics
We will explore the history of genetics, particularly the eugenic movement to “improve” mankind, as it played out across the world. We will examine the history of eugenics in Britain, India, China, South Africa, and the United States, reflecting on the similarities and differences between national contexts.
Week 4: The Ethical Implications of Genetic Selection
We will Identify and discuss different ways in which reproductive engineering might be achieved. We will consider the strengths and limitations of permitting unregulated personal decision-making in relation to reproductive choices, including those employing technology and requiring third party assistance. We will explore the complexities entailed in making decisions involving future persons.
Week 5: Reprogenetics
We will consider the emerging reprogenetic technologies as highly gendered, relating to their reliance on / development of early medical practices that bear heavily on women’s bodies (eg. IVF). We will explore popular misconceptions about ‘designer babies’, consider the ethical issues relating to ‘saviour siblings’ and mitochondrial replacement, and examine how the latter is regulated in the UK.
Week 6: Reproductive Genetics and Law
We will consider the English Law in relation to the use of Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and the limitations and scope of this legislation including, what practices of PGD are legalised in English Law. Using case studies and law from other jurisdictions, we will critically analyse the English legislative framework, drawing out concerns from which we will create recommendations for reform.
Week 7: Field Trip
Week 8: Genomics and Society
We will explore the implicit tension at the heart of genomic medicine; that is, between disabled people (who, in the modern western world report higher quality of life and greater access/participation within society than has ever before been possible) and the advancement of high technology genomics, a field increasingly capable of permanently eradicating certain types of inherited disability.
Week 9: Genetic Age in Science Fiction Films
We will explore the relationship between science fiction movies, genetics and biotechnology reflecting on the questions and themes that science fiction films raise, including societal beliefs and concerns about human heredity manipulation.
Week 10: Genetics recap
Learning outcomes Level 5 (IL023)
By the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Recognise the multifaceted and rounded nature of ‘genetics and the importance of a holistic approach to it in order to have a better understanding of such a complex topic.
- Demonstrate a good theoretical knowledge and understanding of disciplinary theories, positions and research themes related to the field of wellbeing.
- Recognise the problems, limitations and issues connected to the theories, practices and research themes of wellbeing
- Appreciate the value of adopting inter-disciplinary approaches and research methods for understanding global topics such as genetics and attempt to find a solution to difficult issues.
- Summarise ideas from the different disciplinary backgrounds for exploring potential inter- and trans- disciplinary answers to the various questions that will be presented during the module and to problems that students will identify during their personal learning process and research.
- Formulate relevant questions and engage in personal and collaborative attempts to answer them in an informed manner via independent and collaborative research to develop inter- and trans-disciplinary ideas.
Learning outcomes Level 6 (IL123)
By the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Display a deep and critical understanding of the multifaceted and rounded nature of ‘genetics’ and the importance of a holistic approach to it in order to have a better understanding of such a complex topic.
- Demonstrate a deep and critical understanding of abstract and complex disciplinary theories, positions and research themes related to the field of genetics.
- Critically evaluate the problems, limitations and issues connected to the theories, practices and research themes of genetics
- Appreciate the value of adopting inter-disciplinary approaches and research methods for understanding global topics such as genetics and engage in imaginative and novel attempts to find a solution to complex problems.
- Independently evaluate ideas from the different disciplinary backgrounds for exploring potential inter- and trans- disciplinary answers to the various questions that will be presented during the module and to problems that students will identify during their personal learning process and research.
- Formulate imaginative and novel questions and engage in personal and collaborative attempts to answer them through via independent and collaborative research to develop inter- and trans-disciplinary ideas.
- 2000 word academic writing piece. Traditional style essays, as well as essays that reflect scientific writing (i.e. scientific article style), will be welcome. (50%)
- Student Devised Assessment (SDA) Form of assessment method designed by you with the full support of the tutor whereby you will create a piece of work (an article, a short film, a talk, a play, a workshop, a painting, a podcast and so on) that offers a solution to a controversial topic or a question that has arisen during the module. You will be free to select your preferred topic/question and subsequently, you will undertake your own research utilising the methodologies and the holistic approach presented throughout the course. You must demonstrate and communicate the theories presented in the module in your piece. You will be given full tutor support both when planning your devised assessment and when bringing it to fruition. This will include some one-on-one time with a module tutor.(50%).
More information about assessment methods, can be found on our page: IATL Assessment Methods
Class Time 2024-25 TBC
Class Time 2023-24:
Term 2 (Spring)
Fridays 10:00 - 12:00
1) 2000 word piece of academic writing (e.g. essay, scientific article, etc. - 50%) -
2) Student-devised assessment (SDA) (50%)
Watch our video 'Demystifying student devised assessments' on our page: