• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Biology
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Nathan Emmerich
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2021
    See Future Offerings

This course has been adjusted for remote participation in Sem 2 2021, however students are encouraged to attend on-campus activities if possible.

The rapid advance of biological technology challenges our society with some very difficult ethical questions. Should vaccination be compulsory or is this an infringement of personal rights? Is it ethical to edit a baby’s genes? What about the genes of a whole population? Should we let artificial intelligence drive our cars, help us make decisions about who to hire, or help us decide who to imprison? Do we owe future generations a liveable planet? This course will give you the tools to understand these questions and to make clear ethical arguments that point to the right course of action. In other words, this course will teach you how to argue well, and how to translate your scientific knowledge into good decisions both for yourself and for society.


This course examines the ethical and societal impacts of biological knowledge and medical practice. We will focus on a range of current issues, including the nature of bioethics; vaccination; animal ethics; cloning of humans and other animals; genetic screening; designer babies; organ and stem cell transplantation; artificial intelligence; and human enhancement. We will discuss issues affecting individual and societal decisions to accept or reject these technologies, such as risk/benefit assessments and regulation of new technologies. You will consider diverse perspectives through readings, tutorial discussions and lectures.

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but are assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Discuss the science involved in new biotechnologies and the associated contextual issues
  2. Understand and employ a range of approaches to ethical and moral reasoning
  3. Evaluate facts, values, and arguments from a variety of information sources
  4. Assess the benefits, risks, and societal & ethical implications of biotechnologies
  5. Identify a personal view in the context of the debate about a biotechnology
  6. Research facts, values, and ethical arguments about unfamiliar topics

Other Information

Please email rsb.studentadmin@anu.edu.au to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Completion of a quiz style assessment (20) [LO 1,2,3]
  2. Short argumentative essay (30) [LO 2,3,4,5]
  3. Long research essay (40) [LO 2,3,4,5,6]
  4. Tutorial discussions, and submission of reflective questions in tutorials (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

  • Every week will have two hours of lectures and one hour of tutorial throughout the semester.
  • Each week will have 3 hours of assigned reading in preparation for the tutorial
  • Each week will have either two hours of self directed study in the form of reading, preparing assignments, watching documentaries, or listening to podcasts, or a 2 hour workshop.
  • Approximately 34 hours of additional work will be devoted to preparing assignments throughout the semester.  

Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards discussions.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

Incompatible with BIOL3191

You will need to contact the Biology Teaching and Learning Centre to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading

Weston, A. A rulebook for Arguments, Fifth Edition. 2017. Hackett publishing, USA.


The ebook is available to read online, for free, from the ANU library here:



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $4110
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $5880
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
6349 26 Jul 2021 02 Aug 2021 14 Sep 2021 29 Oct 2021 In Person View

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