International Science Debate
Dr Tina Read of Illumination Educational Software a company set up to make a link between people and science came into school to run a Skype debate over the internet with a school in India and a science teacher in Germany.
The topic was, ‘I think people have the right to have their embryos genetically tested to try and ensure they have healthy children.’
The students in both countries voted initially using Voters’ Views, an internet based voting system, that the company have designed specifically to run debates. The students debated with each other using Skype, then voted again to see how the experience of debating had affected their opinions on the issue.
Some of the issues around genetic testing:-
In 2009, a girl was born free of a mutation in a gene that had caused breast cancer in three generations of her father’s family, reigniting an ongoing debate over the ethics of genetic screening of embryos.
The number of genetic conditions that can be screened for in embryos is quickly increasing, as scientists discover new markers and tests.Currently over 200 conditions have been tested by PGD, but it should be possible to work up a test for any of the three thousand genetic conditions for which the genes involved are now known. For further information visit: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Omim/mimstats.html.
Supporters of genetic screening argue that the ability to use science to prevent a child being born with a debilitating illness is a great advance, which should be taken advantage of to prevent the suffering of a child born with a gene, chromosome defect.
Opponents argue that the scree
ning opens up possibilities for the creation of ‘designer babies’ who are treated as consumer goods, purchased or discarded on the basis of their apparent quality; and that the focus on eradicating genetic anomalies devalues the lives of those who live with disabilities.
The issues at stake include the ability to prevent unnecessary suffering from diseases with known causes, and concerns about the prospect of a society where even minor deviations from biological ‘normality’ are viewed as unacceptable.
Pupils debated a range of both ethical and scientific issues, and enjoyed speaking with pupils in India.
‘It was a great experience to talk to people across the planet about this interested topic’ Matthew Winter
‘It was a good experience to discuss the issues and share the views of others from different cultures, and find out about the current debate in Germany were genetic testing is being debated.’