Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Philosophy students compete at Harvard

When the National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference took place at Harvard earlier this month, five DU philosophy students debated their views on a number of bioethical issues.

“Each student did a huge amount of empirical, philosophical, and ethical research on at least two bioethical issues,” says Candice Upton, assistant professor of philosophy and coach of the team. “They all realized that studying ethics is a serious, intellectually challenging, yet fascinating and enjoyable, enterprise, and not just a matter of getting into frustrating argumentative stalemates and expressing your feelings about contentious moral matters.”

It was the first competition Shaun Rakhshani, senior philosophy major, has participated in. While his younger brother Rhett Rakhshani, a forward for the Pioneer hockey team, is known for fierce competition on the ice, Shaun showed an equally competitive spirit in debate.

Rakhshani says the debates often got heated when the DU team proved their opponents were contradicting themselves.

“Nobody likes to be told they’re wrong, especially on issues that deal with ethics, since each person tends to weave their own belief into their argument,” he says. “Keeping a cool head and not letting your emotions get the better of you was critical in the debates.”

The DU team of Emily Bettinger, Brandon Fernandez-Comer, Shaun Rakhshani, Donald Reinhard and Cameron Stone placed fifth out of 12 teams. Schools at the competition included University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Miami, Williams College and Southern Methodist University.

Topics up for debate included: self-demand amputation, savior siblings, the intentional destruction of species, DNA dragnets, ownership of frozen embryos, smoking bans and organ markets.

“This is a very valuable tool to have in our current political and social climate where we as a people really have to start focusing on the core of the issues and be able to critically approach them with an open mind,” Rakhshani says. “So even though we ended up taking fifth, in my opinion, we are champions.”

Comments are closed.