Biology for Voters
General Catalog Course Title:
Biology for Voters
Terms Offered:
Spring 2014
Course Thread: 
Sciences and Society
Rine, Jasper
Urnov, Fyodor

Would you sign your name to a petition declaring that “2x2=5”?
Yet thousands of parents have refused to vaccinate their children against measles based on arguments just as flawed. The resulting measles outbreak reminds us: for society to function, voters must understand how to deal with the rapid advances in science and technology in an informed way.
We will teach you how biologists approach major issues that touch us all, and will help make your vote—in life and the polling booth—a more informed one.
• What are the arguments for and against everyone’s DNA being read at birth?
• Can we predict your cancer risk based on your DNA, and if so, reduce that risk?
• Is fidelity in relationships genetic, and where do we stand on the genetic foundation of sexual orientation?
• It will soon be possible to change your DNA at will—but should that be legal?
• Given that some people refuse to vaccinate their children against measles, what will we do when the next superbug emerges?
• What are the competing considerations in deciding whether or not to produce a genetically engineered organism, and is a genetically engineered animal or crop safe to eat?
• Why is evolution a principle and no longer a theory?
This Discovery Course for non-Biology majors will present these and other key challenges of twenty-first century biology, and teach students how experimental data produce conclusions and, at the same time, limitations to those conclusions. We will discuss how to translate this knowledge into action.
However you choose to cast your vote, we want you to do so based on an informed understanding of the facts.

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.