Course curriculum

This is what the outline of the course looks like at the moment. It is not set in stone.

It is based on the classic idea of what bioethics is, which we will look at in Lecture 1.

Bioethics is often explained as medical ethics or clinical (bio)ethics. That’s a limited definition, though understandable as medicine is where many decisions need to be made at the intersection of science, technology and nature. These decisions challenge us ethically. What is the right thing to do, and for who?

It involves law, science, philosophy, technology, policy, politics and medicine.

And now we have CRISPR and all that. Gene editing. Gene therapy. Do-it-yourself DNA kits to investigate your own kids’ DNA. We won’t go into the details of these new technologies in this course, but I provide links for those who want to know more.

I also talk about a stepwise approach to using new technologies like CRISPR, as a practical basis from which to move forward. I ask you to give feedback.

The course also contains assignments, tests and so on, including many links to other materials, such as articles. If you complete the course successfully, you will be awarded a certificate.

I will later update the course, following events and developments in real life. I am contemplating adding more lectures, one on privacy, for example, and one on end-of-life decisions.

Section 1: Introduction

This section sets out what this course is about. Surprise surprise.

  • Lecture 1. Introduction
    This lecture gives you the outline and other information for this course.
Section 2: What does it mean to be human

This is a question many philosophers ponder. Have you found a good answer yet?

  • Lecture 2. What does it mean to be human?
    In this lecture, we discuss a definition a particular philosopher came up with.
  • Lecture 3. But what about animals?
    Definitions we come up for what it means to be human may also apply to other species.
  • Lecture 4. Should we respect other species more?
    Other species are not as different from us as we used to think. Shouldn’t that have consequences for how we treat them?
  • Lecture 5. The new eugenics.
    This lecture contains a brief introduction to the new eugenics and the questions this development raises.
Section 3: Disabilities and diversity

Human diversity is much more varied than most of us assume. Isn’t time we accept that?

  • Lecture 6. Are people with disabilities expensive?
    An often-made argument for removing certain variations of humans from future populations is that they cost more. Is that true?
  • Lecture 7. Many so-called impairments are created by society.
    In this lecture, we’ll take a look at how we make the lives of some people much more difficult than they need to be.
  • Lecture 8. Why we may need diversity.
    Many disabilities are natural variations of the human species and come with special abilities and characteristics.
  • Lecture 9. Mental health versus physical health.
    It is time to start seeing mental health conditions in a new light.
  • Lecture 10. Discrimination: how stigmas work.
    Stigmas debilitate. Stigmas render people powerless. Stigmas are mostly figments of other people’s imagination.
  • Lecture 11. Gender is a dial!
    Gender is not an either/or switch. So does it even make sense that some people travel to foreign countries because they want a male baby?
  • Lecture 12. Skin tone is not black and white!
    Just like gender, skin tone is not exactly an either/or switch either.
  • Lecture 13. Trends of emancipation give hope.
    Will we have a world, one day, in which everyone is equally accepted?
Section 4: Humans’ rights

Humans have rights, right? But your rights can only be upheld if other people respect them. That’s your duty too, toward others. So what are we doing with the rights of humans, in practice? Let’s take a look.

  • Lecture 14. Where do they come from?
    In this lecture, we talk about universally accepted and locally adapted human rights.
  • Lecture 15. Should prisoners be allowed to vote?
    In Britain and in some American states, (many) prisoners are not allowed to vote.
  • Lecture 16. Should we ban tasers?
    Tasers are disproportionately used on people with mental health issues and disabilities. That is not the whole story.
Section 5: The new eugenics

New technologies are making more and more possible when it comes to selecting the properties of our offspring. Some say that we will never have designer babies. To some degree, however, we have already been making them for a while. It’s just that we’re gearing up rapidly now as a result of the various new technologies.

  • Lecture 17. Should we “erase” certain people?
    Would we be saving them from pain and suffering? Or is that merely an excuse or the result of myths such as that all disabled people lead miserable lives?
  • Lecture 18. What is a life not worth living?
    A useful concept within this context is the so-called life not worth living. Defining it is hard and getting such a definition universally accepted even harder.
  • Lecture 19. Are tall people better than short people?
    Proponents of the new eugenics often discuss the notion that tall people are more successful.
  • Lecture 20. It’s the fashion, stupid!
    Many of the properties that the new eugenics may enable people to select in their offspring are merely dictated by fashion trends. We’ve seen it before.
  • Lecture 21. The new eugenics, revisited.
    Knowing what you know now, do you feel the same way about what you said in Lecture 5?
Section 6: What is progress?

I love technological progress, but not all “progress” is good, even though the word sounds so positive. We should keep an open mind, both ways, and not get trapped in discussions of science versus nature, as that isn’t what the issues are really about. It is about science and nature.

  • Lecture 22. Climate change and climate change deniers.
    A hot topic, with lots of myths and mud-throwing…
    Not all so-called climate change deniers are actually like people who keep insisting that the earth is flat, but the term “climate change denier” suggests that they are. Always keep an open mind.
  • Lecture 23. Why didn’t we foresee this?
    Looking back into history, we can see choices that we made that now look incredibly dumb. Technological progress is not always progress, even though a lot of it is.
  • Lecture 24. Geo-ethics.
    Humans are becoming more conscious of what they are doing to their habitat and the other species in it. This is leading to the development of new disciplines.
Section 7: Conclusions
  • Lecture 25. How to move forward?
    In this lecture, I will also give you tips for how to move forward in your own life and work regarding what we’ve talked about.