Interdisciplinary Teaching: Confessions of a “Biologian”

By Spencer S. Stober and Donna Yarri.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging biotechnologies are replete with opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching. This paper draws upon the shared experiences of a biologist and a theologian doing interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching within genetics. We will attempt to address the following philosophical and pedagogical issues, with the intent of providing practical suggestions for the classroom, from the perspective of our interdisciplinary and unique “biologian” perspective. How can we model interdisciplinary thinking and create classroom dialogue that engages our students in real-life issues surrounding emerging technologies? How can we create a classroom climate where students feel free to express their thoughts, while at the same time maintaining a respectful decorum? How can we encourage students to defer judgment and to seek a better understanding of these technologies? How can we get our students to understand how disciplines differ in their assumptions, methods, and the knowledge that they generate? And finally, how can we ensure that we remain true to the tenets of our disciplines while seeking a shared understanding in light of epistemological differences?

Keywords: Interdisciplinary Teaching, Science and Religion, Biology and Theology, ELSI Project

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.117-128. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 870.094KB).

Dr. Spencer S. Stober

Professor of Biology; Director, Center for Ethics and Leadership, Graduate Studies, Alvernia University, Reading, PA, USA

Dr. Spencer S. Stober is a Professor of Biology, and Director of the Center for Ethics and Leadership at Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania, US. He has taught Biology for 30 years including undergraduate course in Genetics, Botany and Environmental Science. Since earning his doctorate at Temple University, with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, he teaches graduate courses in education and leadership. In 2005 he received Alvernia’s Christian R. & Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Stober has also served in a number of key administrative positions at Alvernia College, including Department Chairperson, Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Dean of Graduate and Continuing Studies. His research interests include environmental sustainability, and the intersection between religion and science. He publishes regularly in the International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability. Dr. Stober recently coauthored a book with Dr. Donna Yarri, Associate Professor of Theology at Alvernia University, entitled God, Science, and Designer Genes: An Exploration of Emerging Issues in Genetic Technologies, published by Praeger in 2009. They are also working on a second book forthcoming in 2013, God, Darwin, and the Origins of Life, Mercer University Press.

Dr. Donna Yarri

Associate Professor of Theology, Arts and Sciences, Department of Humanities, Alvernia University, Reading, PA, USA

Dr. Donna Yarri is an Associate Professor of Theology at Alvernia University, where she has been teaching for ten years. She is the first recipient of the NEAG endowed professorship at Alvernia University, which recognizes significant research and teaching excellence. She does research and teaches in the areas of religion and science, medical ethics, and religion and popular culture. She has presented papers at numerous conferences, and has several published articles, as well as three book manuscripts: The Ethics of Animal Experimentation (Oxford, 2005), God, Science, and Designer Genes (co-authored with Dr. Spencer S. Stober, Praeger, 2009), and Kafka’s Creatures (co-edited, Rowman and Littlefield, 2010). She also has 2 book projects in progress: The Sopranos: Exploring Ethics in TV’s Most Infamous Family (Mercer University Press, 2012), and another co-authored work with Dr. Stober, entitled God, Darwin, and the Origins of Life (Mercer University Press, 2013).