Topics in Genetics: The Strange World of the Nucleus and its Social Implications
The objective of this course is two-fold. First, to provide a relatively comprehensive overview of the phenomena involving DNA so that the students will not only gain a broad basic understanding of the nucleus but hopefully also an appreciation for its amazingly elaborate and effective world. What are genes, introns, inteins, transposable elements, microRNAs, telomeres, enhancers, transcription factors, etc.? Second, that the students become able to situate this knowledge in its socio-historical context, and to critically reflect upon this interaction. For instance, what do we mean, from the biological and the philosophical standpoints, when we talk about health issues or behaviors and say, “That’s in my genes”, or “That’s in my DNA”? Is it always an accurate and useful view, based on today’s knowledge? How did we arrive at this way of thinking? What are its psychological and social consequences? Discussion and coursework will be based on readings drawn from primary research articles, historical and philosophical essays as well as media for the general public.