bioethics

Grizzly Adams brownbrd at iastate.edu
Thu Feb 3 11:20:12 EST 1994


> From: garfinkl at iitmax.iit.edu (Mark D. Garfinkel)
>        *Is this undergraduate honors course part of a major in religion,
>philosophy, etc., or is it part of the *biology* curriculum? If cross-
>listed, who are the principal attendees? Who teaches the course?

To my knowledge it is available to any undergraduate *honors* student,
regardless of major.  It is taught by professor from Animal Physiology who
began studying bioethics in depth several years ago.  I believe that he now
has an ethics professor who also works with the class.

>>it is very important that as part of our training we receive a grounding
>>in ethics, so that it automatically becomes something we consider at each
>>step.  Not just animal rights, but end uses, questions of plagiarism,
>>falsification of data, etc, etc.  We are, after all (or at least training to
>>be) (mostly) doctors of *Philosophy*.
>        *Is ethical conduct an innately *separate* area that has to be
>tacked-on to a graduate program in biological research?

I don't know that it is innately separate, but as an undergraduate I felt that
it was a subject that was almost completely ignored.  My professors were very
intent on getting all that fundamental knowledge into us, and so we spent an
awful lot of our time just learning facts, and beginning to learn how to think.
Not to belittle them either, because I think I received an excellent undergrad
education.

Then by the time one hits graduate school, it is assumed, as you mention (not
quoted) that it is something we have been raised with/taught already, and
again is not given much consideration.  I saw a survey among chemists
(professors and grad students) asking how much plagerism, falsification of
data, etc. they saw going on, and it was actually quite a lot.  I also
mentioned end uses.  I think that often we get so caught up in the moment, and
the thrill of finding an answer to our question, that maybe we don't often
consider the outcome, beyond what can I do with this information next.
I think that occasionally we need to be reminded to step back and look at
*why* we are doing something, and what its ultimate effects on society and the
world might be.  Not just is it a bad thing, but is it a worthwhile thing -
for me the occasional question from my roomate's farmer parents about why
exactly I bother to grind up fruit flies had this effect.


>From: mhollowa at epo.som.sunysb.edu (Michael Holloway)
>
>>The training group I am part of as a graduate student recently met and
>>discussed a small portion of bioethics - specifically that of "animal rights">.
>
>That's disappointing, unless the discussion centered around educating the 
>participants about the danger presented by "animal rights" terrorists.  Ethics 
>certainly is something that researchers need some formal training in.  "Animal 
>rights" however, is pop culture and not serious, or useful, ethical thought.  
>The only thing that a researcher needs to be taught about it is how to  best 
>protect yourself from terrorists.

I don't think that the only thing a researcher needs to be taught is how to
protect oneself from terrorists.  But I did put "animal rights" in quotes
because I couldn't think of a better term, and it is not strictly accurate (as
you have pointed out in other conversations.

It seems that a lot or researchers and technicians become quite callous and
cavalier about destroying animals.  It is a necessary reaction to the need
to detach ourselves from what may be an unpleasant, but
necessary part of the work.  We need to question ourselves to keep use of
animals on a necessary level, in order to protect our research from all the
animal activists - not just the terrorists - often the ones who can have your
funding taken away are more common and a bigger threat.  And we need to
remember to treat the animals humanely - a sort of stewardship if you will.

And no, our talk did not focus just on the above aspects.  We also spent a
fair amount of time discussing the position of the animal rights groups.  With
the idea that by knowing our enemy and his arguments, we will know how best to
respond and defeat them.  Lay people may come to one of us with a question
about why do you murder all those innocent bunnies? And if you have never
thought about the question you may well stumble a bit trying to answer it.
That certainly wont help things much.  And it seemed to me that about 50% of
the people there had not given it much if any thought.  (I have to say that I
was in the not much category -- I'd read some of the arguments posted here
specifically about "animal rights" but for the most part they seemed to
represent the two extremes of the argument.  Consequently I had never really
bothered to think about the extreme activist point of view.  I tended to
dismiss it as something that any rational person would ignore.  Not
necessarily true.)


Thanks for all your responses - it's been interesting so far  :-)

eric



-- 
------------------------------ Eric H. Anderson -------------------------------
BROWNBRD at IASTATE.EDU      |  Science II room 339   |  I sincerly hope that all
                          |  Iowa State Univ.      |  my opinions are my own,
                          |  Ames, IA 50011        |  and not theirs.



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