On November 6, 2015, NPR aired a story about the very controversial topic of stem cell research. This story can be used as the basis for a philosophical discussion of a variety of topics including what it is to be human and the ethics of medical research. Here is a link to the story:
This story focuses on the decision by the National Institutes of Health to halt the practice of placing human stem cells into the embryos of nonhuman animals for research purposes. This process creates “dual-species chimeras,” that is, biological entities that are hybrids of two different species. Their existence raises several philosophical and ethical questions that students will be interested in discussing. There is great scientific benefit in creating these chimeras, as scientists might be able to discover and better test new treatments for human diseases. However, the article also introduces several ethical considerations in pursuing this kind of research. From an English class to a Biology class, teachers might discuss the characteristics that distinguish human animals from nonhuman animals. And further, there are issues about whether these potential differences justify treating nonhuman animals differently with regard to the research scientists conduct? A Government class might discuss the role of government in creating policy to regulate these research practices and ponder what the proper limits of scientific research are? Using this current topic to frame the discussion can provide an example of the importance in asking the bigger, philosophical questions.