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Science Panels

  • Bloopers and Blunders of Science

  • Where There’s a Will There’s Way: Reproductive Technology, Medical Ethics and the Law

  • Scientific Literacy vs. Human Knowledge

The first was kind of a bust for me.  Again, it was an early panel. Some of the same panelists were much better in latter panels.  The panels centered on ideas in science that were later repudiated.

In the second one, the panelists chose the issues that they saw as ethical issues. They churned through those and they went back and forth with prompting by the audience.

Described ethical issues:

  • The ability to choose a genome

    • Since cost is involved, one panelist quipped that this may be the one time that the 1% are used as Guinea pigs.

  • Outsourcing to Asia

    • I didn’t understand this at first.  But the audience helped to clarify.  In Germany, single women are not allowed to use sperm donor medical facilities.  So, they tend to go to a country that allows that.  The panelist then noted that there are also women who go to Asia to hire a surrogate mother.  The child might then be raised in a Denmark/Sweden/Norway -- someplace with a better child rearing policy.  So it is possible to have a child with a borrowed egg, borrowed sperm, surrogate mother, and raised in a yet another country because of its childcare policy.  Whose child is it? (And where should their loyalty lie?)

  • Parents who are looked down because they carried a child to term that they knew had a birth defect

    • Who is responsible if parents decide to have a child that they can not afford to support medically?

    • One of the panelists taught ethics in his country and he was participating on several panels.  He stressed that the society needs to decide on its basic philosophy to answer this.

  • End of Life issues. Ethics change due to technology.  Until the possibility of breathing tubes and feeding tubes existed, those were not ethical dilemmas.  Technology will continue to bring new end of life issues.

  • Why do we favor parental choice over governmental choice?

    • Example -- we recoil at China’s one child policy.  Is that governmental choice worse than the ones that the parents then made -- to abort female embryos?

  • One from the audience: What should society do about medical care staff (doctors, pharmacists, nurses) who refuse care to women who may terminate their pregnancies?

  • Another panelists mention that there are always blockages.  We may learn to clones organs, but you still need transplant surgeons.

  • Ultimately, one panelists said that we need to ask ourselves “why should I get what I want?”

Some of the issues continued to the third panel because of one the participants was the same--Torie Hoie (of Norway, I think).  He spoke with appreciation of the science training in Finland.  After deciding that teaching to the test was not working, they decided in 1968 that all teachers --at every level--would get 5 years of training.  I am wondering if he means that they pay for your education if you go into teaching because he continued to say that teaching is now the most popular course of study.  They now have to turn away 90% of the applicants.

A person in the audience how they solved the problems of

  1. teachers uncomfortable with science

  2. teachers unwilling to accept correction when the textbook is out of date

He said that the training helps to solve the first problem.  Also, in Finland, the teachers create the curriculum.   Other panelists had similar teaching experiences on the college level.  They sometimes have to retrain students to understand the scientific process of coming up with a theorem and testing that theorem.   Students are never presented with a rote answer even though he admitted that some students resist going through the process.  They just want to know “the answer”. Torie Hoie believes that all students should get a class in philosophy along with any class in science.

Torie Hoie spoke of the limitations of his method of teaching.  He wanted his students to write about one of Pzier’s drugs but the company had all sorts of roadblocks to the public getting comprehensive information on their products.

Questions left on the table: Who decides what a baseline knowledge of science is.  What does one measure against that baseline?


The second panel with its list of problems could make innumerable stories. Lots of possible moral conflicts.

I was blown away by the idea that teaching could become the favorite course of study. And the idea that even elementary school teachers would have training on how to teach science to elementary school children.  I still remember being in a delegation to my principal in junior high because we found out that our teacher had not taught science in 20 years and had only taught in an elementary school.  We were stuck with her--a wasted year.

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