POLS 497-1 Small Group Study, Spring 2008

Politics of Stem Cell Research



Myong-Hwa Lee                                                              Class Information

Office: DU 222 (SOCQRL lab)                                         Class Time: M 12-1:15 PM

Office Hours: M 3-4 or by appointment                            Room: DU 464

E-mail: Z111890@niu.edu





This course is designed to discuss various perspectives regarding current stem cell research. The major issue of stem cell debate might be whether using human embryos for research is morally acceptable. If we accepted the restrictive religious view that human life begins at conception, human embryonic stem cell research would be unethical. However, if we considered the medical benefit of stem cell research, the use of human embryos could be justified.

In addition to this fundamental debate, stem cell research brings many other issues. The course will explore not only focus on the classic religious debates but also on more contemporary social, political, policy, and global issues. This course will open your minds to the complexity of stem cell research issues, and will attempt to find more balanced ways of looking at the issues.



Required Texts


1) Solo, Pam and Pressberg, Gail. 2007. The Promise and Politics of Stem Cell Research.

Westport : Praeger Publishers


2) Articles posted on Blackboard.





*** I will not accept any late papers. If you want an exception, you must notify me in advance and/or bring documentation of your emergency.


1) Five Commentaries

At the beginning of each session (except the first) students will have to turn in a brief commentary (1-2 pages) on the topics assigned each week. For each commentary, students should choose one among the three topics listed in the Course Outline in this syllabus. Students can use readings as evidence for their assertions, but they have to make their own arguments (* Do not merely repeat readings.) Commentaries should be double-spaced, have 12 point font and one-inch margins.

2) Final Essay

At the end of the semester students should submit a double-spaced 4-5 page essay on one topic discussed in class. Students can develop their commentary(/ies) into final essay by providing more evidence gained from various sources, i.e. academic articles, newspapers, governmental documents, etc. Your essay may use any regular format for citations. The essay is due by 4 p.m. on April 14. Please turn in it via email.





Since this course is a discussion-oriented class of a very small size, students are expected to demonstrate their understanding of the subject through active class participation. Attendance is mandatory.





Five Commentaries – 25%

Final Essay – 25%

Participation (including attendance) – 50%



Course Outline



Session 1 (Jan. 14) - Introduction and Distribution of Syllabi



Session 2 (Jan. 28) – Science and Society

1) Solo and Pressberg’s Preface (xi-xv) and Ch.1 (Page 1- 14)

2) President’s Council on Bioethics. 2002. Human Cloning and Human Dignity.

    Executive Summary (Page 6-8 only)

3) Hayes, Richard. 2006. Stem Cells and Public Policy. New York: The Century

    Foundation Press (Page 26-34 only)


** Topic 1 - How does the development of stem cell research affect our society?

** Topic 2 – Do you agree or disagree with using human embryos for stem cell research? Why?

** Topic 3 – Compare and contrast between the debates on stem cell and abortion.



Session 3 (Feb. 11) – Politics of Stem Cell Research

1)      Solo and Pressberg’s Ch. 2-3 (Page 15-41)


** Topic 1 – How do supporters or opponents of embryonic stem cell research play political arena?

** Topic 2 – Do you agree or disagree with granting federal funding to human embryonic stem cell research? Why?

** Topic 3 – Can we say stem cell debate presents new politics? Why?


Session 4 (Feb. 25) – Stem Cell Research and Religion

1)      Solo and Pressberg’s Ch. 6 (Page 71-84)

2)      Walter, LeRoy. 2004. “Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: An Intercultural Pespective.” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal Vol.14. No. 1. pp. 3-38

(Page 4-5 and 20-34 only)


** Topic 1 – Does religious tradition matter in stem cell debate?

** Topic 2 - How differently do each religious group respond to stem cell research?

** Topic 3 – Why do some countries that share same religion establish different stem cell policy (i.e. the U.S. and the U.K.)?


Session 5 (Mar. 17) – State Policies Regarding Stem Cell Research

1)      Solo and Pressberg’s Ch. 7 (Page 85-100)

2)      Levin, Aaron. 2006. “The Rise of State-Sponsored Stem Cell Research in the United States.” Levin, Aaron eds. States and Stem Cells: The Policy and Economic Implications of State-Funded Stem Cell Research. Policy Research Institute for the Region, Princeton University (Page 7-16)


** Topic 1 – What makes some states move forward to fund stem cell research?

** Topic 2 -  Why could some states grant funding to stem cell research while others could not?

** Topic 3 – How would different stem cell policies at state level affect researchers and the public?


Session 6 (Mar. 31) – Global Competition in Stem Cell Research

1)      Solo and Pressberg’s Ch. 8 (Page 101-110)

2)      Banchoff, Thomas. 2005. “Path Dependence and Value-Driven Issues: The Comparative Politics of Stem Cell Research.” World Politics 57. pp. 200-230 (Page 200-211 only)


** Topic 1 – Why do some countries establish supportive policies while others do not?

** Topic 2 – What kind of impact will Bush’s restrictive policy bring to the U.S. in terms of global competition for stem cell research?

** Topic 3 – Why does achieving competitiveness matter in stem cell research?




April 14 – Final Essay is due by 4 p.m.