Are we allowed to tinker with (human) DNA? Addressing socioscientific issues through philosophical dialogue - the case of genetic engineering.

Jelle de Schrijver, Stefaan Blancke, Eef Cornelissen, Jan Sermeus, Lynda Dunlop

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Education about socioscientific issues (SSIs) can be challenging
as underlying tensions can surface. When discussing the topic
of genetic engineering, these tensions can be related to (1)
the molecular biology of genetics and genetic engineering, (2)
the evolutionary aspects of genetic engineering, (3) the nature
of science and (4) the ethical understanding of this SSI. Such
tensions may lead to confrontation, either between students or
between students and teachers. The practice of ‘philosophical
inquiry’ provides a pedagogical approach to help explore these
tensions and engage in dialogues. Philosophical inquiry entails a
dialogic approach in which a facilitator helps a group of students
uncover hidden presuppositions and elicit an argumentative
conversation. Stimuli such as pictures, cases or quotes provide a
context to help students engage in dialogues about philosophical
questions. Thus, students can reflect upon the relationship
between science and evolution, the nature of science and the
tensions between genetic engineering and society. In this
chapter, we first explore different sensitivities related to genetic
engineering. Then, we showcase learning material for secondary
school students to cope with these issues. We focus on an
approach to using big questions and stimulating dialogue to
explore sensitivities. Ultimately, we provide tips to consider when
addressing SSIs through philosophical dialogue.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLearning evolution through socioscientific issues
Publisher UA Editora
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-972-789-822-0
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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