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DNA Technologies and Ethics

Bring Christian values to bear on questions raised by emerging technologies for genetic testing and genome editing.

Title:

DNA Technologies and Ethics

Corequisite science:

Genetics, human body

Number of modules:

8

Teaching time:

5:00-7:30 hours

Format:

Digital download

Language:

English

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Explore the promise and peril of genetic technologies.

Advances in technologies that allow scientists to manipulate and modify DNA are radically altering the landscape of medicine and reproduction, ushering in a host of new ethical dilemmas and social consequences. How can you prepare your students to participate with informed and morally grounded voices in public dialogues about these important issues?

Essential Questions

  • How should faith inform our acceptance of new technologies?
  • How does wisdom help us make decisions in modern situations that the Bible does not specifically address?
  • What types of genetic testing are available today and what questions do they raise?
  • Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) good or bad?
  • Can we go too far in our efforts to upgrade the human body?
  • What is CRISPR and what should it be used for?
  • Why should we proceed cautiously with genetic technologies?
  • What ethical questions do DNA technologies raise?

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Learning Outcomes

What will students know or be able to do after this unit?

  • Describe how to proceed wisely when faced with decisions about how to use a new technology.
  • Assign, evaluate, and reflect on the level of controversy involved in various types of genetic testing.
  • Discern potential benefits and costs for specific examples of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • Formulate questions to consider when evaluating a particular GMO.
  • Assess personal comfort level with the acceptability of different types of human enhancements.
  • Describe three applications of CRISPR-Cas9 technology.
  • Identify ethical differences between genome editing in germ cells versus somatic cells.
  • Develop a written argument for or against a particular CRISPR therapy.
  • Give examples of the moral and ethical issues involved in genetic testing and genetic therapies.

Modules Included in this Unit

6.1 Meet: Geneticist Francis Collins

Dr. Collins shares his journey from atheism to Christianity and describes what it was like to lead the Human Genome Project.

6.2 Grow: Wisdom

In this brief devotional, students reflect on the characteristics of wisdom as described in the Bible, and how wisdom equips Christians to plan well and respond morally when ethical questions about new technologies arise.

6.3 Engage: Genetic Testing

Students are briefly introduced to different applications of genetic testing such as medical diagnostics, managing health risk, ancestry, and forensics. Next, students are asked to assign a level of controversy for each type of testing and to think about whether or not a type of genetic testing is ethical. After learning more, they are asked to re-evaluate their decisions.

6.4 Experience: Evaluating GMOs

Students poll friends and family about their opinions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) before analyzing the consequences and benefits involved in three different case studies. Finally they examine the factors that affect how we judge the appropriateness of GMOs and decide what questions they should ask when thinking about the ethics of a particular GMO.

6.5 Engage: The Human Enhancement Continuum

Students consider the ethical implications of various therapies and enhancements that are available now or may be possible in the future.

6.6 Engage: Genome Editing

Students learn about CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology and research how it is being used currently to correct genetic disorders. Students then consider the ethical implications of editing the genomes of somatic cells versus germ cells and read about how Christians who are scientists view the distinction in light of Scripture. They conclude by arguing for or against a particular CRISPR therapy.

6.7 Engage: Ignorance as Inequity, Ignorance as Bliss

Students consider examples that demonstrate that although genetic testing can provide interesting and useful information, it can also lead to difficult decisions or unanticipated consequences. Genetic testing and gene editing can also sometimes cause undesirable health disparities in society.

6.8 Integrate: Making Hard Choices

Students apply wisdom as they weigh the ethical and moral implications of a genetic technology.


Integrate encourages the thinking and exploration that lead to a robust understanding of God’s world and his word. Instead of providing pat answers to questions, this curriculum encourages students to think through hard questions that don’t always have easy answers.

Lisa Strite
Lisa Strite, Home Educator, Apex, NC

What’s Included

  • Unit lesson plans (PDF download, 45 pages)
  • User Introduction and Overview (Google Doc)
  • 12 student handouts (Google Docs, Google Slides, PDF)
  • 2 presentations (Google Slides)
  • 10 images for printing or projecting (JPEG)
  • Integrate Glossary (Google Docs, 64 pages)
  • NGSS Alignment (Google Doc)

From the inspiring activities to the thoughtful questions and content, you will be able to lead students through some of the most pressing topics of our age and do so with a firm footing in the Christian faith.

Michael Stephen Burdett, Assistant Professor in Christian Theology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom