University of Kansas, Fall 2003
Honors Program 190: Freshman Honors Tutorial

Freshman Honors Tutorial

The Lives to Come: Genes, Medicine, and Ethics

Description: The Human Genome Project, along with related technologies, is now presenting both policymakers and ordinary citizens with a variety of difficult questions: When is screening or discrimination on the basis of genetic information legitimate? In particular, is it legitimate to use genetic information in ranking applicants for jobs, setting prices for health insurance, or making decisions about abortion? Does using genetic engineering to alter congenital medical conditions amount to “playing God”? What efforts, if any, should be made to save future generations from having to deal with the hardships imposed by harmful genes? To explore these and other questions, we'll read and discuss the recent book The Lives to Come, by Philip Kitcher.

Class Schedule: Tuesdays, 1:30–2:20, in 3097 Wescoe Hall

Requirements/Grading: Since this is a 1-credit course, the requirements are simple. For the most part, all you have to do is read the assigned material closely, come to class, and occasionally offer comments and/or questions that are intelligent and helpful. The other thing you’ll have to do is to start the discussion one day, by presenting some questions at the beginning of class that you think are worth discussing. Further details about starting the discussion will be given on the first day of class.

If you have a disability for which you may be requesting special services or accommodations for this course, be sure to contact Disability Resources (22 Strong Hall / 864-2620 (V/TTY)), if you have not already done so, and have that office send me a letter documenting the accommodations to which you are entitled. Please also see me privately, at your earliest convenience, so that I can be aware of your situation and can begin to prepare the appropriate accommodations in advance of receiving the letter from Disability Resources.

Finally, you should feel free to come by my office (3070 Wescoe Hall) at any time. I have office hours on Fridays from 1:30 to 2:20, but you are also welcome to stop by at other times, either with an appointment or without. I spend most of the work week in and around my office, so your chances of finding me should be reasonably high; and although in rare cases I may have to ask you to come back at another time, in general I will be happy to speak to you at your convenience.

Books to buy: ,

Course materials on the web:

Course documents, including this syllabus, will be available on the web site for the course, the URL of which is

(If you don’t want to type in this whole thing, you can stop after ‘be75’—at which point you’ll be at my personal web site—and then follow the links to the web site for this particular course.)

E-mail distribution list:

I’ve had the KU computer folks set up an e-mail distribution list for the course, and its address is

I’ve asked that it be set up so that not only I, but also you, can use it, so that you can communicate with everyone in the class (including me) whenever you are so inclined.

In general, I’ll try to mention everything important (whether substantive or procedural) in class. But at times, I may use the e-mail distribution list to send you information that you will be responsible for having or acting on, so it is your responsibility to make sure that you read mail that I send to this list. You can do this by making sure that you (1) have an e-mail address, (2) are registered for the course (because this list is updated every night to reflect current enrollment, taking account of drops and adds), and (3) read your e-mail. There is one complication that you should be aware of: if you have both an Exchange e-mail address (e.g., and a non-Exchange e-mail address (e.g.,, and you prefer to receive e-mail at the latter address, then mail sent to the e-mail distribution list for the course will not necessarily go to it, even if you have registered it with KU as your primary e-mail address. (This is a minor glitch in the KU distribution-list system.) To deal with this problem, either check your Exchange account as often as your check your non-Exchange account, or arrange for mail sent to your Exchange account to be forwarded to your non-Exchange account. For more information on this problem and how to solve it, see the Exchange Distribution List Primer, question 2: “Some of the people on my list say they’re not getting my list mail. Why?”


date reading assignment discussion starter
August 26 chapter 1, “The Shapes of Suffering” (pp. 13–22) Jennifer Guerra
September 2 chapter 2, “Our Mortal Coils” (pp. 23–63) Alex Chavez
September 9 chapter 3, “To Test or Not to Test” (pp. 65–86) Katie Molstad
September 16 chapter 4, “The Road to Health?” (pp. 87–103) Kayce Seidl
September 23 chapter 5, “A Patchwork of Therapies” (pp. 105–126) Eric Saylor
September 30 chapter 6, “The New Pariahs?” (pp. 127–155) Eric Schmidt
October 7 chapter 7, “Studies in Scarlet” (pp. 157–179) Angela Sanders
October 14 interlude, “The Specters That Won’t Go Away,” (pp. 181–186), and chapter 8, “Inescapable Eugenics” (pp. 187–204) Jenny Collins
October 21 chapter 9, “Delimiting Disease” (pp. 205–219) Erin Grisier
October 28 chapter 10, “Playing God?” (pp. 221–238) Zach Viets
November 4 chapter 11, “Fascinating Genetalk” (pp. 239–269) Stephanie Schneider
November 11 chapter 12, “Self-Dissection” (pp. 271–284) René Ward
November 18 chapter 13, “The Quality of Lives” (pp. 285–307) Jesse Haug
November 25 chapter 14, “An Unequal Inheritance” (pp. 309–326) Katrina Ostmeyer
December 2 postscript (pp. 327–342) Bridget Livers, Ryan Slack
December 9 [no class]