Philosophy (PHIL) 371

Ethics, Science, Technology, and the Environment (Revision 3)

PHIL 371 Course Cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: PHIL 252 and one university-level science course are recommended but not required.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Philosophy home page

PHIL 371 has a Challenge for Credit option.

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This course provides an introduction to the special ethical problems and issues associated with science, scientific research, applied science, and technology. For example, should research be conducted on animals, and if so, under what conditions? What ethical issues arise as a result of our increasing use of computers?

Why should students study ethical issues in science and technology? One reason is that several recent scientific developments such as cloning and genetic engineering of plants and animals have raised pressing ethical issues. Many universities and research funding agencies have determined that science and technology majors should increase their awareness of the ethical issues they are likely to face in their careers and have made courses such as this one mandatory. As well, many members of the public wish to increase their understanding of current debates about ethical issues in biotechnology and other areas of science that will affect their lives and well-being.

The reasons for studying ethical issues in science and technology extend beyond current controversies to the pervasive influence of science and technology in our lives. Thus, we will focus in this course not only on current issues, but on long-standing debates and deeper questions about why ethical issues continue to arise in science and technology. For example, some people argue that our attitude toward the natural environment as a resource to be dominated and exploited is at the root of these issues. This course will not provide easy answers to the questions we will raise, but it will provide students with concepts and methods for thinking about them systematically and coherently, and for developing justifiable positions about them.


Part I: Foundational Issues

  • Unit 1: Introduction: Ethical Aspects of Science and Technology
  • Unit 2: Ethics and Moral Reasoning

Part II: Social Responsibilities of Scientists

  • Unit 3: Research Ethics
  • Unit 4: Individual and Collective Responsibility

Part III: Specific Issues

  • Unit 5: Issues in Bioethics
  • Unit 6: Ethical Issues in Computing, Electronic Information, and Communication Systems
  • Unit 7: Ethics and Military Technology

Part IV: Environmental Ethics

  • Unit 8: Environmental Ethics I: Causes
  • Unit 9: Environmental Ethics II: Water


To receive credit for PHIL 371, you must submit every piece of written work and achieve a course composite mark of at least D (50 percent). The weighting of the composite mark is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Tutor-marked Exercise 20%
Essay or Case Study 40%
Final Exam 40%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Franklin, Ursula M. The Real World of Technology, rev. ed. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1999.

Other Materials

The course materials includes a reading file. All other material are available online.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the PHIL 371 challenge registration, you must achieve an overall grade of at least D (50 percent).

Activity Weighting
Essay 40%
Exam 60%
Total 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, May 10, 2012.

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