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Rolls provides a detailed account of Genie’s story and describes it as a “catalogue of unfortunate or misguided mistakes” (2015: 132), leaving us to consider the ethics of Genie’s case and as a result of this, if we can even take anything from it at all.The ethics behind this study mean that it could never be recreated, as abuse of a child is involved.
This first Briefing is primarily aimed at educators in science and explains some of the issues surrounding teaching bioethics, however, the topics and subjects covered are also very relevant for anyone interested in ethical issues and science.
Each topic is available as a PDF file which can be downloaded.
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This resource comprises a series of briefings written by Chris Willmott at the University of Leicester and is part of the Bioethics Bytes website. It shows us how bioethics issues affect us all and how we hear about issues which fall into this category on a daily basis.
News items about cloned embryos, GM crops, fears about the use of stem cells for research and even issues about having the right to chose to die are all subjects which people have their own opinions on.The first issue that people encountered with Genie was her mental state.Although it has been suggested that Genie had normal cognitive function at the time of birth, there is no denying that Genie turned into a “highly abnormal adult” (Harris & Pinker 2009: 147).Genie was found in a small, dark room where she had been tied to a potty from the age of just a few months old.When she was discovered, Genie was 13 ½ and was mute due to her lack of communications with the outside world.We will never know whether her subsequent retardation was a result of her traumatic upbringing or if she was born with an initial problem from birth.Like similar cases (such as Victor the Wild Child of Aveyron), this raises the issue of how reliable the study really is as the brain capacity of these individuals differs from someone who would have a normal upbringing with a normal brain capacity.Rolls (2015: 131) discusses many of the methodological problems with Genie’s case and suggests her lack of interaction and social development was inevitable given her circumstances.It is unlikely you would find someone who had a normal upbringing with a normal brain capacity that wasn’t exposed to any language, so although this could be as close as we could ever get, it is still not considered reliable data for many people.The PDF files contain background information, case studies, a list of resources and links to further information.The language acquisition question is one of the oldest linguistic debates in the discipline that still has no simple answer.