Rise of the Planet of the Apes – a bioethical feast

December 31, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, now available on DVD, was one of the blockbuster releases in the summer of 2011. A prequel to the classic series of films (5 cinema releases between 1968 and 1973, TV spin-off and Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of the main Planet of the Apes), the new movie tries to offer a plausible mechanisms for the evolution of apes into a dominant global force.

(Warning: contains spoilers!) The new film is a veritable gold-mine for discussion of ethical topics, it would make as excellent vehicle for an engaging “film night”. In terms of bioethical issues, the film touches on all of the following:

  • Research ethics – there are lots of examples where aspects of the conduct of research are raised (some of which are picked out specifically in the list below). The motivations for doing research are touched upon at several points in the film – these include financial gain, fame and a desire to do good, both for mankind in general and specifically for the benefit of a relative in need. GenSys boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) is the embodiment of profit as a driver for research whereas Will Rodman (James Franco) represents more noble aspirations. A discussion of the ethics of research funding could follow naturally. Read the rest of this entry »

Biofuels: ethical issues

December 12, 2011

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has recently added a guide for teaching about the ethical issues associated with the use of biofuels. In keeping with other recent resources produced by the education team, the new teaching materials draw their inspiration and focus from one of the authoritative reports written by the main Council Members and seconded experts. In this instance a two-lesson outline for students at Key Stage 3 (age 11-14) and above has been developed from the 2011 report Biofuels: ethical issues.

The structures activities on biofuels are the fifth resources developed specifically for teachers and lecturers

The first lesson uses a series of case studies to introduce a variety of potential biofuels and the advantages and disadvantages that each presents.

The second lesson involves the students in role play, to consider the question into the question “Should the UK increase the amount of biofuels it imports and if so what should be the rules for biofuels production?”