PLNU Offers Free Debate Tournament on Science and Ethics

Friday, October 28, 2011


This Saturday, October 29, Point Loma Nazarene University will host a free Parliamentary Debate Tournament entitled Free Fall. The theme of the tournament, centered on Rebecca Skloot’s novel The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is a part of PLNU’s participation in a citywide discussion on the relationship between science and ethics.

The book tells of Henrietta Lacks, a woman diagnosed with cancer in 1951 and whose cells were taken and used for medical research without her knowledge. Today her cells, called HeLa cells, are bought and sold by the millions while her family suffers without the ability to afford health insurance. Some of the ethical issues raised by the novel that in turn will be used for debate topics at the tournament include the question of rights to privacy, stem-cell research, the good of the many versus the good of one, questions regarding race, gender, class, and more. 

The tournament is primarily for less experienced, novice debaters from local schools, though there will be a small open division for those with more experience as well. This is to introduce first time classroom debaters to the experience of a tournament, as well as some of the ethical issues that debate and PLNU are concerned with.

Throughout the 2011-12 academic year, PLNU will continue to participate with regional universities and the San Diego Center for Ethics in Science and Technology by discussing Skloot’s novel. Nine lectures on the subject have and will be delivered at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, including one by Dr. Jamie Gates, who spoke on “Politics of Race, Class, Gender, and HIV/AIDS in South Africa” earlier this month. In April, Dr. Mark Mann will direct a panel discussion on religious views of death and immortality. Dr. Michael Lodahl will be serving as a panelist representing a Christian perspective.