APS 326 Biology and Ethics

Level 3
Semester 1B
Credits 10
Pre/Co Requisites -
Recommended Requisites -
Teaching Staff Dr Stephen Rolfe 
Co-ordinator Dr Stephen Rolfe


This course will:
• Provide students with an insight into current ethical issues in biology.
• Introduce the concepts of moral theory, risk assessment and regulation, the balance between choice, the right to privacy, ownership and intellectual property rights.
• Demonstrate how ethical issues have been viewed from a historical perspective and current public understanding of science.
• Involve the student in investigating, presenting and discussing ethical issues by means of questions, seminars and preparing a poster.


As the pace of biological research continues to increase, society and scientists are continuously faced with ethical issues which, in many cases, we are ill-prepared to consider. This course examines areas where biology and ethics interact using a series of topical examples including medicine, agriculture, industry and the environment. In each case ethical concepts will be examined and discussed in the context of the right to privacy, ownership, current regulation, historical perspectives and the public understanding of science. Case studies will be presented for discussion which raise one or more issues associated with these topics.
Four main themes will be developed – ethics, the need for a scientific foundation, people and legislation. The ethical component of the course will be covered explicitly then the lectures will develop case studies which show how the themes can be used to form reasoned arguments for differing viewpoints. This will provide a conceptual framework for the individual poster presentations. The balance of these sections will vary depending on the topic and other components (e.g. historical views) may be introduced as appropriate.

DELIVERY METHOD: 14 lectures and discussion sessions

ASSESSMENT METHOD: 100% Examination (1 essay from a choice of 3)


For more information on APS326, please go to Blackboard.

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