HISTORY 4527-100 CRN 24863                                                                    Dr. Jeffrey Johnson

From Frankenstein to Bioengineering:                                                            SAC 440, X7404

  The Origins of Artificial Life                                                                           Hrs. T-Th 11am-noon,

Tues. 6:10-8:50pm, JBARRY 202A                                                                 Th 2:30-3pm,& by appt.

Fall 2004                                                                                        Jeffrey.Johnson@villanova.edu

                                    Website:  http://www11.homepage.villanova.edu/jeffrey.johnson/


AIM:  This elective course investigates the history of the human quest to replace the creative functions of God and Nature through science, technology, and medicine.  We will examine artificial reproductive technologies and the creation of artificial life (broadly defined), considering various perspectives including those of scientists, literary observers, politicians and businessmen, and society as a whole.  Topics include cloning, "test tube babies," transplants and artificial organs, genetic engineering, robots and artificial intelligence.  Some of the dreams or nightmares we discuss are as old as mankind; much of the science may be as recent as yesterday's newspaper.  The course will not be primarily technical, but we will learn enough about the techniques involved to discuss their origins and some of their implications.


MATERIALS:  Readings will come from the following books available in the bookstore, and in some cases from materials on the web or on reserve in the Falvey Library reserve reading room.  We will also have the opportunity to view some classic films, including the Boris Karloff version of "Frankenstein" (1931) and , as well as some documentaries covering recent scientific developments.


Mary Shelley,  Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus (The 1818 Text - Broadview edition)

Aldous Huxley.  Brave New World

Karel Capek, R.U.R. (Dover Books edition)

Gina Kolata, Clone: The Road to Dolly & the Path Ahead

G. J. V. Nossal & Ross Coppel, Reshaping Life:  Key Issues in Genetic Engineering (3d ed.)

Gaby Wood, Edison's Eve:  A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life




Attendance, reading, and discussions:  You will be expected to attend one lecture‑discussion session per week.  The discussions will deal with the assigned readings, lectures, and some films to be shown in class.  Each week you will be responsible for 50‑150 pages of reading.  After the first meeting, be sure to read each assignment before coming to class, so that we can have an informed discussion of each principal topic (class participation is worth 10%).


Written work:  Written work will include one in‑class essay examination and a final (30 % each) as well as a 6-8 page short paper (30 %).  Evaluations of written work will consider both argument and evidence.  Full explanations of the standards expected will be distributed with the paper assignment.


Late work, make‑ups, plagiarism:  In case you must miss an in‑class essay examination, notify Dr. Johnson by phone or email (see number and address above) BEFORE the time of the examination, so that a make-up can be arranged.  If you do not complete an assignment within the first week it is due, and if you do not have an adequate excuse (such as medical reasons), your maximum possible grade must be reduced one letter grade after each week the assignment is overdue.  If you submit work that is not your own or use others’ work without proper citation (plagiarism), you will receive an “F” for the course and otherwise be penalized according to university policy.  To review Villanova’s guidelines please see:  http://www.academics.villanova.edu/AcademicIntegrity.html

HISTORY 4527, Sect. 100, Fall 2004 (p. 2)                                                    Dr.  Johnson


Week 1 (8/31)  Introduction; "Let us make man in our image . . . "

    Begin reading Wood, Introduction & ch. 1

Week 2 (9/7)  "It's alive!   Now I know what it means . . ."

    Read Shelley (Broadview ed.):  preface, introd., & vol. 1 (=pp. 9-35, 41-117); skim sources of education for Shelley, Frankenstein, & the Monster (=pp. 249-302)

    FILM (in class):  "Frankenstein" (Wale-Karloff version, 1931)

Week 3 (9/14) "I began the creation of a human being."

    Read Shelley, Vol. II-III (=pp. 119-247)

    FILM:  "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Branagh-DeNiro version, 1994, 123 mins.)

Week 4 (9/21)  "A mother ... was an obscenity."

    Read Huxley, chs. 1‑3, 5‑7, 10‑11 (skim parts in between) 

    Assignment for papers to be distributed by 9/21; proposals will be due next week   

     SUBMIT TOPIC PROPOSAL for paper (no later than 9/28)

Week 5 (9/28) "God isn't compatible with . . . scientific medicine" / REVIEW for in-class essay;  paper topic proposals will be returned with suggestions for modification if necessary

    Read:   Huxley, chs. 12‑18

Week 6 (10/5)  IN-CLASS ESSAY    -  All topics should be definitely assigned by this date.

            FALL BREAK (Oct. 11-15)  Begin working on papers

Week 7 (10/19)  "He rejected man and made the Robot."

    Read Wood, ch. 3; Capek, R.U.R.  (entire)

FILM:  "Blade Runner" (Ridley Scott director's cut, 1991 revision of 1982 release, 117 min.)   

Week 8 (10/26)  "Test-tube babies" & artificial wombs

   Read (Turney, "The Baby of the Century," will be put on on-line reserve)

FILM:  "Test‑Tube Babies"

Week 9 (11/2)  History of embryology and cloning

   Read Kolata, ch. 1-4

   FILM:  “Dawn of the Clone Age” (1998)

Week 10 (11/9)  From mammalian cloning to human cloning?

   Read Kolata, chs. 5-10

   FILM:  “The Ethics of Cloning” [postponed to 11/16]

Week 11 (11/16)  DNA -- key to the puzzle of life?  Science & medicine

  Read Nossal & Coppel, chs.  1-8

Week 12 (11/23)  "Mankind [can] ... create life forms in ways that nature never intended."  Artificial life-forms?

  Read Nossal & Coppel, chs. 9-13

PAPERS DUE 11/23 (will be returned for revision as appropriate)

Week 13 (11/30)  Transplants & artificial organs as replacement parts

  Read (TBA, on-line reserve)     Film:  TBA

Week 14 (12/7)  Problems & prospects of artificial intelligence; review for final

   Read Wood, ch. 2


Final examination week (12/15-21)      Exam will be Tuesday, Dec. 21, 7:00 - 9:30 pm in JBARRY 202A [NOTE:  please do NOT ask Dr. Johnson to change the time/date of the final exam.]