This course examines how reproductive technology has altered the way humans create and view family. Advances in medicine and manufacturing in the past century have produced unprecedented levels of control in preventing or producing offspring. What are the modern ways to make a baby? How have these options altered our views of family planning and parenting? What is the effect on the legal, social, and spiritual standing of the child (or potential child)? How does the impact of modern reproductive practices vary with different religions and cultures?
The power to start human development in a Petri dish and then select the time, environment, and individuals with which the embryo will continue to develop presents the opportunity to examine foundational questions in new context. What is family? What is natural? How has biotechnology altered the creation and view of family? How do cultural systems (legal, medical, social, economic) respond to new reproductive options? How do we evaluate, regulate, alter or accept the impact of biotechnology on mankind?
In order to examine the implications of reproductive technology, we will begin with an investigation of the central issues with regard to the impact of in vitro fertilization (IVF) from various disciplinary perspectives. We will read materials from different genres and pieces representative of different disciplinary styles. We will discuss the types of evidence utilized and other elements that contribute to conveying a particular perspective and building an effective argument. Analysis of writing will be important, as you will write in several different formats for assignments during the semester. Late in the semester, we will expand our exploration of the issues to include other types of reproductive technologies and options for preventing or creating parents. You will work with a group of your classmates to select a topic, prepare materials, and lead a class session focused on the topic. We will reexamine issues brought to the fore with the prospects of human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. We will end with consideration of how biotechnology affects our everyday lives, at the level of personal expectations and cultural perceptions.