BIOL 136
Studying Human Genetic Diversity: Individuals, Populations, and 'Races'--Dangerous Biology
Last Offered Spring 2014
Division III Exploring Diversity Initiative
This course is not offered in the current catalog or this is a previous listing for a current course.

Class Details

Scientists are rapidly acquiring DNA sequence information on thousands of individuals from a wide variety of human populations. This information can be used to illuminate human history and evolution. It can also be used in the field of medicine to develop new drugs and as a first step toward tailoring treatments to match individuals’ genomes. This information can also create new ethical and social dilemmas. Do such studies support or refute the idea of a biological basis for ‘race’? Can the data be used to justify societal inequities? Do the data have any use outside of scientific circles? Through reading scientific articles we’ll explore genome sequencing data to determine the types of DNA differences that exist among humans. We’ll examine the data in the light of human population history (migration, population bottlenecks, selection) to understand how these variations come about. Throughout we’ll discuss the implications of these studies for individuals and for society. In particular we’ll critique the use of such information in guiding policy and practice in areas such as genetic screening and eugenics, ancestry testing, ‘race-based’ medicine, forensics. As an EDI course, we’ll examine issues of power and privilege in shaping practice and policy associated with these genetic initiatives, such as in deciding what populations to study, in administering informed consent, and in addressing health disparities.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 20
Class#: 3187
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: one exam, one short paper (4-6 pages), final paper (10-12 pages); class participation
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: juniors, sophomores, seniors, first-years; not open to students who have taken BIOL 202 or BIOL132
Distributions: Division III Exploring Diversity Initiative
Attributes: PHLH Biomedical Determinants of Health

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