You can’t open a newspaper or go to any news site without seeing at least one news item that has to do with bioethics.
Bioethics? Much more than medical ethics.
It includes how we look after the planet and other species on it.
It was Fritz Jahr in 1927, who came up with the word "bioethics" when he published the article: “Bio-Ethik: Eine Umschau über die ethischen Beziehungen des Menschen zu Tier und Pflanze”. The article introduced what he would later call "the Bioethical Imperative".
"All living beings are entitled to respect and should be treated not as means but as ends in themselves."
Bioethics is a challenging and exciting combination of policy, law, ethics, science & technology, politics, philosophy and even more, such as economy.
Literally, bioethics means “the ethics of life”.
WHO YOU ARE
You care about what goes on in the world, and you have guts.
You want to accomplish positive change, but may not always know what approach to take and may sometimes find yourself at a loss during discussions with certain professionals, business people and politicians. This course may be able to help you with that.
“Bioethics, the ethics of everyday life” is a relatively academic course, one that will strengthen your critical thinking muscles and help you approach difficult topics from various viewpoints.
WHAT YOU WILL GAIN FROM THIS COURSE
Depending on your current skill level and attitudes, it may teach you new skills and will certainly hand you arguments that you can use in discussions and in written communications.
It will likely provide you with a better foundation to negotiate for what you believe in and help you build a better future for all. It can also make you see more easily where other people's opinions are coming from, which can enable you to build bridges to cross such chasms.
After this course, you will likely find that you are more motivated and continuing to develop your critical thinking skills.
You will gain a greater awareness of innovative views in areas of diversity and inclusivity.
You will build up more knowledge to support so-called green choices.
You will be more skillful in formulating and supporting your own views during meetings and negotiations.
You will gain more flexibility in countering traditional arguments during meetings and negotiations.
You will be able to add much more variety and strength to your written communications.
The course is shaped like an ocean wave. It builds up from a light beginning into pretty heavy and theoretical stuff, in longer lectures, and is rounded off with a return to lighter, shorter lectures.
SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION
This section sets out what this course is about. Surprise surprise.
SECTION 2: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HUMAN
This is a question many philosophers ponder and that is highly relevant for the bigger picture in all sorts of discussion. It can serve as a tool to base arguments on.
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? Fritz Jahr’s bioethical imperative says we have to treat then with respect.
Lecture 5. The new eugenics, introduction
In addition to the old “Nazi-style” eugenics, we now have the new eugenics. This development raises many questions and we should all contribute to this debate.
SECTION 3: DISABILITIES AND DIVERSITY
Human diversity is much more varied than most of us assume. This diversity enriches our lives, our knowledge, our progress and our societies. Yet variations on human life are still often seen as “defects”, but that view short-changes us all.
Lecture 6. Are people with disabilities expensive?
An argument sometimes made for removing certain variations of humans from future populations is that they cost more. Is that true? Is it relevant?
Lecture 7. Many so-called impairments are created by society
Society makes the lives of some people much more difficult than they need to be. That’s slowly starting to change.
Lecture 8. Why we may need diversity
Many disabilities are natural variations of the human species and come with special abilities and characteristics. In the future, we may need these abilities badly.
Lecture 9. Mental health versus physical health
It is time to start seeing mental health conditions in a new light, as brain-related conditions that deserve the same care, respect, and attention as purely physical conditions.
Lecture 10. Discrimination. Stereotypes. Prejudices. Stigmas.
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 only want a male or female 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.
It looks like one day, we will have a world in which everyone is equally accepted and allowed to flourish to the best of his or her abilities and to his or her heart’s content.
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? And how did they come about?
Lecture 14. Human rights, where do they come from?
How the universally accepted and locally adapted human rights came about.
Lecture 15. Should prisoners be allowed to vote?
In Britain and in some American states, (many) prisoners are not allowed to vote. Human rights are not automatic.
Lecture 16. Should we ban tasers?
Tasers seem to do more harm than good. Tasers are disproportionately used on people with mental health issues and disabilities. And that is not even 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.
Lecture 17. Should we "erase" certain people from the planet?
Would we be saving them from pain and suffering? Or is that merely an excuse? The result of myths such as that all disabled people lead miserable lives, perhaps?
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 finding a definition that can work universally and hold up in practice is even harder.
Lecture 19. Are tall people better than short people?
Some proponents of the new eugenics may cling to the notion that tall people are more successful. Is it truly better to be tall?
Lecture 20. It’s the fashion, stupid!
Many of the properties that the new eugenics may enable people to select in their offspring one day – designer babies sensu stricto – are merely dictated by fashion trends.
Lecture 21. Gestational surrogacy as a window into the new eugenics
If you look at cases in which the use of gestational surrogacy goes wrong, you get a view of what could go wrong when techniques like CRISPR were to get free reign.
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. It is not a discussion of “science versus nature”. It’s about science & technology and nature.
Lecture 22. Climate change
A hot topic, with lots of myths and mud-throwing... This lecture shows that it is important to keep an open mind. Besides, there is a heck of a lot more stuff going on, besides climate change. If only climate change were the only challenge that we face on the planet.
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 certainly is.
Lecture 24. Geo-ethics
Humans are becoming more conscious of what they are doing to their habitat and the other species in it. Among other things, this is leading to the development of the new discipline geoethics.
SECTION 7: HOW TO MOVE FORWARD AFTER THIS COURSE