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Biology, Ethics, and Society 
History XXX, Spring 1999, Tentative Syllabus
Prof. D. J. Kevles                                                            

Course Content and Aims 

This course aims to explore selected contemporary issues in
biology, ethics, and society in their historical context. To
that end, the first half of the course will be devoted to an
examination of the antecedents of these issues during the
first half of the twentieth century, paying particular
attention to the eugenics movement and its consequences. The
second half of the course will address the more recent
issues, including genetic engineering, patenting life, the
control and use of human genetic information, the genetics
of behavior, and human cloning. These issues will be
analyzed in their own right and against the backdrop of
controversies in the past. The ideas of bioethics –
and, indeed, the term itself – are products of the
latter third of this century, but bioethical notions were at
the least implicit in eugenics and other areas focused on
the control of life. The course will attempt to tease out
these ideas and to understand how they have evolved in
response to factors such as changes in the powers of the
life sciences, socioeconomic interests, social values, and
notions of individual and reproductive rights.

The course meets weekly for two lectures and a precept.
Several guest lectures will be offered and one or two of the
lecture hours will be devoted to the showing of a film.
Written work for the course comprises a midterm examination
and a final paper that is 4,000 to 5,000 words in length.
Students will have the opportunity to choose a topic from
among several possibilities. Grades will depend partly on
class participation as well as on performance in the
examination and the paper. The readings for the course are
listed below. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are
available for purchase in the bookstore. Those marked with
an "®" are on Reserve in Firestone Library.
Those marked with an "X" are part of a package of
photocopied material that is available from [TK]

My office is in 5 Ivy Lane. Students are welcome to find me
there during office hours and by appointment outside those
hours.



READINGS

(x) Buck v. Bell, 1927, documents from the Supreme
Court case

® Gunnar Broberg and Nils Roll-Hansen, Eugenics and
the Welfare State: Sterilization Policy in Denmark, Sweden,
Norway, and Finland (1996), selections

(x) Glenn Bugos and Daniel J. Kevles, "Plants as
Intellectual Property: American Law, Policy, and Practice in
World Context," Osiris, 2nd Series,
VII(1992), 119-48

® Gena Corea, "The Reproductive Brothel," in
Gena Corea et al, Manmade Women (1987)

(x) Henry H. Goddard, Feeblemindedness: Its Causes and
Consequences (1914), selections

Linda Gordon, Woman's Body, Woman's Right: A Social
History of Birth Control in America (1976), selections

(x) J.B.S. Haldane, Daedalus (1924), selections

(x) J.B.S. Haldane, Heredity and Politics (1938),
selections

® Dean Hamer and Peter Copeland, The Science of
Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene and the Biology of
Behavior (1994), selections

(*) Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)

(x) Herbert Spencer Jennings, The Biological Basis of
Human Nature (1930), selections

(*) Leon R. Kass and James Q. Wilson, The Ethics of Human
Cloning (1998)

(x) Daniel J. Kevles, "Ananda Chakrabarty Wins a
Patent: Biotechnology, Law, and Society, 1972-1980,"
HSPS: Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological
Sciences, 25:1 (1994), 111-36 

(*) Daniel J. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics
and the Uses of Human Heredity (1995)

(x) Daniel J. Kevles and Leroy Hood, eds., The Code of
Codes: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome
Project (1992), selections

(*) Philip Kitcher, The Lives to Come: The Genetic
Revolution and Human Possibilities (1996), selections 

(x) Hermann J. Muller, Out of the Night: A Biologist's
View of the Future (1935), selections

(x) National Bioethics Advisory Commission, Cloning Human
Beings (1997), selections

® Dorothy Nelkin and M. Susan Lindee, The DNA
Mystique: The Gene as a Cultural Icon (1995), selections

(*) Martha Nussbaum and Cass Sunstein, eds., Clones and
Clones : Facts and Fantasies About Human Cloning,
selections. 

® Diane Paul, The Politics of Heredity: Essays on
Eugenics, Biomedicine, and the Nature-Nurture Debate
(1998), selections

(x) Raymond Pearl, "The Biology of Superiority,"
American Mercury, 12(Nov. 1927)

® Robert Proctor, Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the
Nazis (1989), selections

® Lee M. Silver, Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in
a Brave New World (1997), selections

® Michelle Stanworth, "The Deconstruction of
Motherhood," in Michelle Stanworth, ed.,
Reproductive Technologies Gender, Motherhood and
Medicine. 1987. 

(x) Jonathan Tolins, The Twilight of the Golds: A Play in
Two Acts 

(x) James D. Watson and John Tooze, eds., The DNA
Story (198?), selections

(x) U.S. Congress, House, Subcommittee on Courts, Civil
Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the
Committee on the Judiciary, Hearings, Patents and the
Constitution: Transgenic Animals, 100th
Cong., 1st Sess., 1987, selections

® Leila Zenderland, Measuring Minds: Henry Herbert
Goddard and the Origins of American Intelligence Testing
(1998), selections



Assignments

Week No.

1. Bioethics at the Turn of Two Centuries

Lecture 1: The Historical Contingency of Bioethics: An
Overview

Lecture 2: Controlling Nature, Controlling Life c. 1900

Readings: Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics, pp. 1-56

Davenport, Heredity in Relation to Eugenics, excerpts



2. Eugenics, 1890s to 1930s

Lecture 1: Eugenics in the U.S.: Race, Gender, and Region

Lecture 2: Film: "Are You Fit to Marry?" (1927)

Readings: Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics, pp. 57-118

Goddard, Feeblemindedness, excerpts

Zenderland, Measuring Minds, selections

Gordon, Woman's Body, Woman's Right, selections



3. Eugenics Triumphant

Lecture 1: Eugenic Sterilization: the U.S., Canada, and
Scandinavia

Lecture 2: Eugenics in Germany

Readings: Broberg and Roll-Hansen, Eugenics and the
Welfare State, selections

Buck v. Bell, 1927, documents

Proctor, Racial Hygiene, selections



4. Repudiation and Reform

Lecture 1: A Coalition of Critics

Lecture 2: Reforming Eugenics 

Readings: Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics, pp. 129-63

Pearl, , "The Biology of Superiority"

Jennngs, , The Biological Basis of Human Nature,
selections

Paul, The Politics of Heredity, selections

Haldane, Heredity and Politics, selections



5. From Eugenics to Human and Medical Genetics

Lecture 1: The Establishment of Human Genetics

Lecture 2: The Origin of Medical Genetics 

Readings: Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics, pp. 238-58

Paul, The Politics of Heredity, selections

Begin Huxley, Brave New World



6. Visions of Perfection

Lecture 1: Brave New Biology

Lecture 2: Midterm exam; 

Readings: Finish Huxley, Brave New World

Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics, pp. 258-68

Muller, Out of the Night, selections

Haldane, Daedalus, selections



SPRING BREAK



7. The Advent of Genetic Engineering 

Lecture 1: Recombinant DNA, Part 1: The Road to Asilomar

Lecture 2: Recombinant DNA, Part 2: Ethics, Interests, and
Politics

Readings: Watson and Tooze, The DNA Story, selections



8. Patenting Life

Lectures 1 & 2: Ethics, Science, and the Political
Economy of Patenting Plants, Animals, and Genes in the U.S
and Europe

Readings: Bugos and Kevles, "Plants as Intellectual
Property";

Kevles, "Chakrabarty";

U.S. Congress, House, Subcommittee on Courts, Civil
Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the
Committee on the Judiciary, Hearings, Patents and the
Constitution: Transgenic Animals, 1987, selections



9. The Human Genome Project

Lecture 1: Scientific Origins and Social/Ethical Issues

Lecture 2: Guest Lecture: 

Readings: Kevles and Hood, eds., The Code of Codes,
selections

Kitcher, The Lives to Come, selections



10. Reproductive Issues

Lecture 1: AID and IVF: Origins and Ethics 

Lecture 2: Guest Lecture: 

Readings: Kevles and Hood, eds., The Code of Codes,
selections Corea, "The Reproductive Brothel";

Stanworth, "The Deconstruction of Motherhood";

Kitcher, The Lives to Come, selections 



11. Genetics and Behavior

Lecture 1: The Revival of Behavioral Genetics: Violence;
Homosexuality

Lecture 2: Guest Lecture

Readings: Hamer, The Science of Desire, selections;

Tolins The Twilight of the Golds; play/film

Nelkin and Lindee, The DNA Mystique, selections 



12. Human Cloning

Lecture 1: The Science and the Controversy: the U.S. and
Europe

Lecture 2: Concluding Lecture

Readings: Kass and Wilson, The Ethics of Human
Cloning

Silver, Remaking Eden, selections

Nussbaum and Sunstein, eds., Clones and Clones,
selections. 

National Bioethics Advisory Commission, Cloning Human
Beings, selections


Final Paper due May ??. Topics to be determined. 
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