Science & Education

, Volume 19, Issue 9, pp 867–894

Of Pigs and Men: Understanding Students’ Reasoning About the Use of Pigs as Donors for Xenotransplantation

Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11191-010-9238-y

Cite this article as:
Lindahl, M.G. Sci & Educ (2010) 19: 867. doi:10.1007/s11191-010-9238-y

Abstract

Two important roles of education are to provide students with knowledge for their democratic participation in society and to provide knowledge for a future profession. In science education, students encounter values that may be in conflict with their worldview. Such conflicts may, for example, lead to constructive reflections as well as rejection of scientific knowledge and technology. Students’ ways of reasoning are important starting points for discussing problematic issues and may be crucial for constructive dialogues in the classroom. This study investigates students’ reasoning about conflicting values concerning the human-animal relationship exemplified by the use of genetically modified pigs as organ donors for xenotransplantation. Students’ reasoning is analyzed using Giddens’ concepts of disembedded and embedded practices in parallel with moral philosophical theories in a framework based on human-animal relationships. Thirteen students were interviewed and their stances categorized. Kantian deontological and classical utilitarian ethics were found within the patronage and the partnership models. These students appreciated expert knowledge but those using the partnership model could not accept xenotransplantation if pigs were to be killed. Students using care ethics did not appreciate expert knowledge since it threatened naturalness. The results suggest that stances against the use of scientific knowledge are more problematic than knowledge per se, and that conflicting stances have similarities that present opportunities for understanding and development of students’ argumentation skills for future participation in societal discourse on utilizing expert knowledge. Furthermore it is argued that science education could benefit from a higher awareness of the presence of different morals.

Abbreviations

DNA

Deoxyribonucleic acid

GMO

Genetically modified organism

PUS

Public understanding of science

PUST

Public understanding of science and technology

RFLP

Restriction fragment length polymorphism

SSI

Socio-scientific issues

STS

Science-technology-society

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural SciencesLinnaeus UniversityKalmarSweden