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PHIL 371 (Ethics in Science and Technology) is a three-credit philosophy course that “provides an introduction to the special ethical problems and issues associated with science, scientific research, applied science, and technology.” PHIL 372 is considered a Humanities course, and has no required prerequisite, but recommends students to take PHIL 252 and one university-level science course beforehand.  PHIL 371 can also be challenged for credit.  Ethics in Science and Technology is a philosophy course that explores questions such as “should research be conducted on animals, and if so, under what conditions?” and “What ethical issues arise a result of our increasing use of computers?”

Who and Why You Should Take This Course

If you are someone with a science or technology background, this course may fall in your interest! This course explores ethics behind science and technology and allows us to see the ethical issues that are often overlooked or forgotten in these fields.  This course will expand your knowledge and understanding of the world and allow you to be more well-rounded and think more critically.  Upon taking this course, I personally started to develop more interest and did more readings on ethical issues in a wide range of topics.

Course, Assignment, Midterm and Final Exam Details

The course itself is comprised of eight units, starting with an Introduction, then delving into Ethics and Moral Reasoning, Research Ethics: Human and Animal Experimentation, Professional Responsibility and Whistle-Blowing, Bio-Engineering and Nanotechnology, Computer Ethics and Machine Ethics, Military Technology and Ethics, and lastly, Technology and Humanity.  Students will be evaluated by two assignments.  Assignment 1 requires students to write three essays, each with 500 – 700 words on three topics (students are provided with six topics and are required to pick three of their choice) for 30% of their total mark.  Assignment 2 requires students to discuss either a case that they construct, or construct their case in approximately 2,500 words, and is worth another 30% of the final mark.  There is no midterm for this course.  The final exam for this course is an online exam that is worth 40%.  The course does not include a textbook, instead students will be provided with many different articles to read for each unit.

Student Tips


As this course is a philosophy course, you can expect to write and analyze for assignments.  To prepare and successfully complete this course it is important to avoid cramming, if possible.  Writing typically requires time to research, write and lots of editing.  It is important to follow assignment criteria provided and properly reference.  When writing for the assignments, make sure to select a topic you understand and feel comfortable with.  If you have questions, do not hesitate to reach out to your TA for help.

AU also has a website (https://www.athabascau.ca/write-site/) that students can visit for tips, help, links to assist with academic writing.  This website is useful for all writing courses and is not limited to this course.

Final Exam

The final exam is an online final exam divided into two parts.  Part A is made up of  short answer questions that require 200 to 400 word paragraph responses to the five different questions provided.  Each question is worth ten marks.  Part B of the final exam is a long answer essay question.  This part of the exam requires students to write 500 to 800 word essay responses to two different questions provided.  Each question is worth 25 marks.

The best way to prepare for the final exam is to review all the course material thoroughly, ensure you understand the material and ask your TA if you have any questions, review the Study Guide and check answers to the practice questions in the Study Guide and lastly, review the learning outcomes of each unit.  Don’t forget to review the feedback provided for your assignments as well to ensure you do not make similar mistakes on the final exam.

Tips from Course Coordinator and TAs

Dr.  Chris McTavish is the Academic Coordinator for PHIL 371, and has been with AU since 2010.  Dr.  McTavish currently coordinates seven Philosophy courses at AU, including PHIL 371.  Dr.  McTavish research interests include ethics, phenomenology and the philosophy of film.  An interesting fact is that Dr.  McTavish co-host a weekly podcast entitled “Philosophy in Film“.  For those interested in philosophy, you should try listening to these podcasts as they are very intriguing and interesting to listen to!

Dr.  McTavish states that PHIL 371 “is a great course for students who are looking to think critically about the intersections of ethics, science, and technology.  The concluding unit discusses how emerging technological forces have impacted fundamental features of the human condition, such as relationships, friendships, and information sharing.”


If you have any further questions regarding the course, please do not hesitate to contact the Course Coordinator/Assistant at ilagace@athabascau.ca.  Happy studying!

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