Episode 5 – Shaping Our Bodies

Interviewees Julian Savulescu and Serene Khader discuss the effect of social assumptions on how we view our bodies, and the science we use to change them.

Teacher Notes

Content overview

This episode is focussed on the ethical issues arising from the social expectations and regulations on how we treat our own bodies. It begins with the question of bodily freedom and the effects of social and cultural values regulating what is acceptable and what is not. It explores the role of culture in creating social obligations regarding clothing, hair-styles and body modification which restrict individual freedom. It concludes with a brief exploration of disability, questioning the ethical role of scientific responses to disability, and whether ‘problems’ arising from disability (for instance wheelchair inaccessibility) are problems of the body, or of the social structures which privilege the able-bodied.

Links to Ethical Capability

• Investigate why ethical principles may differ between people and groups, considering the influence of cultural norms, religion, world views and philosophical thought (VCECU015)
• Discuss the role of context and experience in ethical decision-making and actions (VCECD018)

• Explore a range of ethical problems and examine the extent to which different positions are related to commonly held ethical concepts and principles, considering the influence of cultural norms, religion, world views and philosophical thought (VCECU020)

Complementary curricula

Intercultural Capability
Personal and Social
VCE Health and Human Development
VCE Product Design and Tech (the last few minutes)

HSC Community and Family Studies
HSC Design and Technology (the last few minutes)

Questions and discussion points

  1. Is it right for society to establish standards of dress and personal grooming to which individuals are expected to conform?
  2. What is the ethical difference between using steroids as a medicine to improve people’s quality of life, and using steroids to improve people’s quality of athletic performance?
  3. Is there any ethical distinction between using science to preserve a property of a person (such as preventing a loss of IQ) and using science to enhance a property (such as boosting IQ)?