Academic Freedom: Liberty to pursue and teach relevant knowledge and to discuss it freely without restriction from school or public officials or from other sources of influence.

For Assignment Grading Criteria -- see bottom of page!


Genetic Engineering

Blackboard Class Discussion

x Stem Cells and Human Cloning

x "Dr Andrew Corbett presents the Stem Cell and Human Cloning Debate from an ethical perspective..." View the x video below.

x Stem Cell Research

x "Canadian scientist, Dr. Gordon Keller, and his team of international researchers have successfully grown human heart progenitor cells from embryonic stem cells. With this advancement, Dr. Keller, director of Toronto's McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University Health Network, and his team, have taken a significant step towards the creation of functioning heart tissue." View the x video below.

The article (letter to the editor) is used for educational purposes by Dr. Jan A. Nilsson, Biology Department, South Texas College, Texas, USA. To make information available to all students in the course the following was scanned, for educational purposes, from the McAllen Monitor. The home page of the McAllen Monitor is located at the following URL: www.themonitor.com

Elizondo, H. 2006. Bush, how can I encourage those with Parkinson's? The Monitor, McAllen August 07, 2006: 7B.

Click on the small picture below of president Bush to read an article about what Bush did, to cause the writing of the above Letter-To-The-Editor.

Introduction. The hybrid class will watch the movie GATTACA a futuristic story about genetic determinism and genetic engineering -- a supposedly genetically imperfect man, Vincent Freeman, and his seemingly unobtainable goal to travel in space. Vincent, an "invalid" defies the system obsessed with genetic perfection by assuming the identity of a member of the genetic elite.

x Gattaca - Trailer (1997)

x GATTACA is probably one of the most thought provoking and inspiring films ever made. With futuristic philosophies and technologies (some of the futuristic things anno 1997, are now happening and possible in today's world), this film includes "exciting, edge-of-your-seat moments and challenges the idea of what it means to be human". The plot is supported by sets and visuals that literally take the viewer to the cold, hard time ahead. View the x video below. If you are a hybrid student and don't want to know anything about the plot, don't watch this trailer. If you are an online student and don't plan to rent or purchase the video, the trailer might be a good way for you to get a feeling for what the hybrid student will see, and put you in the mood for the class discussion. However, participation in the class discussion does not require viewing the movie or the trailer.

x However, if you are not interested in intellectual art movies -- if your interest is limited to violence, sex and car chases, and bang, bang -- then perhaps the movie is not for you... x

GATTACA is set in the future where there are two classes of people: 'valids', whose parents have selected their genetic attributes before birth, and the lower-status 'invalids' who are the result of natural conception.

The distributors of GATTACA anticipated that the story would prove useful for those in education who might use it to stimulate discussion about modern human genetics. Technologies such as pre-implantation embryo selection have become more common and the human genom project has been completed, so the main thesis behind GATTACA has gained greater plausibility. As an educational tool, therefore, this film has improved with age.

The more recent release of the DVD version of GATTACA provided several previously-unseen clips that had ended up on the cutting-room floor. They revealed that the original scenes would would have raised many more ethical issues, and explain why the actors on the DVD's accompanying documentary thought that the film would break new ground. Cuts were made because it was thought that cinema audiences, particularly in the USA, might not react favourably to a film that touched, however gently, on topics such as abortion, homosexuallity and genetic modification of human embryos. (Schollar and Madden, National Centre for Biotechnology Education.)

Definition: A narrow definition of genetic engineering is to remove genetic material from one organism and splicing it into chromosomes of another (in scientific terminology preparing recombinant DNA in vitro by cutting up DNA molecules and splicing together fragments from more than one organism) and often used mainly to discuss agriculture and food production. A wider definition used in medical terminology -- to manufacture, alterater or repair genetic material by synthetic means, allow us to include genetic manipulation of human chromosomes without necessarily involving material from other organisms. A very broad biological definition is the manipulation of an organisms qualities and abilities by introducing or eliminating specific genes through modern molecular biology techniques including selective breeding and other means of artificial selection.

Persons opposing genetic engineering usually predict great problems -- worrying about irresponsible use, while supporters of the technology usually predict great benefits in the future. The movie GATTACA gives us a platform to discuss this technology, genetic determinism, and some other important social issues.

Genetic engineering is often used in futuristic stories and many of the technological applications presented as science fiction have later become reality (Adam, 2003. Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity). Some say that in the future DNA will predict everything about an individual, that people are born with certain traits and characteristics that predetermines an indiviuduals life, instead of choosing the lifestyle and attributes. This, called genetic determinism, is a rather controversial theory -- especially since we know that even identical twins are not absolutely identical. We are more than the sum of our genes. We are also influenced by the environment, by our parents, by our peers, and by our own free will (Collins, 1998. National Institute of Health, Office of Science Education).

GATTACA discussions or sources for suggested discussions can be fond on the Internet. The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity (2003. M.B.Adam. Bioethics and the Movies.) is an excellent educational resource, with suggested movie clips, supplemental reading list, and notes to teachers. Governmental organizations also use GATTACA as base for discussion of needed law reforms. The Australian Law reform Commission Discussion Paper 66 discusses protection of human genetic information and law reforms and regulations needed in times of rapid technological change. Higher education use movies for scientific discussions, such as the film festival Science in the Cinema at the National Institute of Health, including post-movies speaker and discussion. GATTACA discussions are included as requirements in higher education courses such as Faith and the Life Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Reinventing the Human: Designer Children at Virginia Tech. In addition there are many individual Internet lists and blogs discussing GATTACA, such as BrothersJudd: GATTACA calling.

After reading the introduction above (and hybrid students watching the movie GATTACA) what do you think? To make an informed -- educated, decision you must first gather facts -- information. For this activity you must now gather facts on the Internet (or elsewhere). Links to several sites that may serve as a starting point for your search for information can be found below. When you think you have gathered, and read, enough information to learn about the subject so you can make an informed decision -- or at least enough to lean in one direction, go to the STC WebCT discussion forum for this class and discuss your findings.

Short instructions

Read this page with instructions and background information and view the x videos.
In class, if you are a hybrid student, view the GATTACA movie (online students may want to rent the movie -- it is a very good movie).
Visit the GATTACA reading links below and READ them.
Visit the additional, non-GATTACA, reading links and READ them (links below the GATTACA links).
Think about this critically. Critical thinking and making informed decisions is important in a free society, and it is specially important in the academic world of universities and colleges. Then go to the STC WebCT on-line for this class. Discuss the problem (and perhaps other related questions). State YOUR opinion.


Articles discussing the movie GATTACA (mandatory reading for hybrid students)

Primary article BioScience Explained: GATTACA
National Centre for Biotechnology. United Kingdom.
Secondary article Gattaca: Gattaca examines Science, religion, genetic engineering and ethics.
Text Talk, The Age: Education. Australia.
Tertiary article Gattaca: Breeding super humans.
Text Talk, The Age: Education. Australia.

Other relevant articles

First article British cloning scientist gets license for human embryos
The Monitor, McAllen, Texas.
Second article Letter to the Editor: No outcry over cloning research.
The Monitor, McAllen, Texas.
Third article Schwarzeneggar [sic] defies party, endorses stem cell funding.
The Monitor, McAllen, Texas.


Hyperdictionary. Webnox Co., http://www.hyperdictionary.com (09.IX.2004)

Adam, Mary B. 2003. Bioethics and the Movies: Discussion Questiona and Supplemental Readings. Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. http://www.cbhd.org/resources/movies/adam_2003-07-14_print.htm (07.IX.2004)

Collins, F. 1998. Science in the Cinema: GATTACA. National Institute of Health, Office of Science Education. http://science-education.nih.gov/NihHTML/ForThePublic/Cinema/Gattaca/GattacaText.htm (07.IX.2004)

Schollar, J., and D. Madden. GATTACA. Bioscience Explained: Reviews. National Centre for Biotechnology Education, The University of Reading. Http://www.bioscience-explained.org/EN1.1/gattaca.htm (03.IX.2004)

Moore, A. Gattaca. 2003. True grit beats genetics: Gattaca examines science, religion, genetic engineering and ethics. The Age Education, FairfaxDigital, Australia. Http://www.education.theage.com.au/pagedetail.asp?intpageid=1147&strsection=students&intsectionid=3 (03.IX.2004)

Stitson, R. Gattaca. 2004. Breeding super humans: Sci-fi film Gattaca plays on your fear of technology. The Age Education, FairfaxDigital, Australia. Http://www.education.theage.com.au/pagedetail.asp?intpageid=1251&strsection=students&intsectionid=3 (03.IX.2004)

Web page layout and design © and intellectual property Jan A. Nilsson, 2006. Page created 11.IX.2004, last updated 08.VI.2010, most likely during the wee hours of the morning on a G3 PowerBook owned by Jan A. Nilsson. -- Disclaimer: "Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice", at the time of writing located as a file under the South Texas College's (STC) web server with the general URL http://stcc.cc.tx.us/, is the intellectual property of Dr. Jan A. Nilsson, member of STC biology faculty. The content of Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice does not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of the STC faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Trustees.