This course explores the relationship between the biological sciences and society from Enlightenment France to the Human Genome Project and biotechnology in the United States. Ever since the Enlightenment, the study of nature has played an ever-increasing role in shaping social issues. For example, the course examines the roles played by gender, social class and natural theology in 18th-century classifications of plants and animals. The course investigates how biologists and anthropologists drew upon rather ambiguous notions of nature to classify humans into races. The course traces Darwin's theory of evolution and how it shaped, and was shaped by, socioeconomic, political and religious views. The course discusses the depressing history of eugenics in Britain and the U.S. The course concludes by provocatively asking if there is a link between eugenics and the Human Genome Project. Students will learn how economics, politics and religion have shaped biotechnology and human-embryonic-stem-cell research. The student is invited to think about the way in which debates concerning "nature versus nurture" have been framed historically, in order to understand current controversies over that distinction.
Prerequisites: Completion of first year writing requirements. Co-requisites: None. Notes: Satisfies a HuSS Elective.