The Nature and Measurement of Learning from Attending a Public Lecture on Human Genetics
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It is easy to think that much of the important scientific research today concerns genetics. In the last few weeks of 1999, The West Australian daily newspaper carried articles linking genetics with modified foods, environmental concerns, medical care, genetic diseases and the possibility of their prevention. This burgeoning information base calls for increasing public understanding of these issues . Turney sums it up: DNA dreams and gene nightmares have been an important part of our collective image of science these last four decades. Today the volume of academic commentary on the human genome project, let alone journalistic or fictional depictions of genetics, is becoming almost overwhelming. This poses as important problem for public understanding of science. To what extent might it be possible to make sense of this whole area for debate, and which frameworks will be most helpful in trying to do so? This 'whole area for debate' has come to be called the 'new genetics', that is, 'the development and deployment of recombinant DNA techniques in relation to human disease' . Macintyre points out that the new genetics will have implications in three major areas: the screening for carriers of inherited disorders, the identification of those with a particular disorder, and gene therapy for those affected . Having knowledge about genetics and DNA is thus important but insufficient. People also need some understanding of, and ability to deal with, the moral and ethical issues that arise when the techniques and processes of the new genetics are used deliberately to intervene in human lives.
This is an electronic version of an article published in Melbourne Studies in Education. 41 (2): pp. 17 - 34. Melbourne Studies in Education is available online at: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/17508487.asp
Note: Melbourne Studies in Education now published as Critical Studies in Education
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