By Candice Stilwell, Staff Writer
Whitworth’s Ethics Bowl team, the “Philosoraptors” won the Northwest Regional Ethics Bowl competition at Pacific Lutheran University on Nov. 19. This has qualified them to attend the national competition in the spring.
Ethics Bowl is a one-credit course where students “analyze, present on and argue complex ethical cases.” According to Isabel Iral, who joined the Ethics Bowl team in the spring of 2022. Iral added that there is a large variety of topics that can be discussed at competitions.
Iral joined the team after taking a medical ethics class in the fall with one of the Philosoraptors’ coaches, Professor Dr. Keith Wyma. As a pre-med health science major, Iral has experience and knowledge in biology, so most of the work she does as a part of the Philosoraptors team is within the bioethics category.
Iral said before the competitions the team is given a series of cases that surround topics of “science ethics, policy ethics or environmental ethics.” These cases are based on events from real life.
After they’re given the cases, they “have to decide what is the most ethical way to address the situation,” said Iral. Iral explained that the work in practice can take up to nine hours per week. Outside of that time, the team has to do research on their topic and meet with the other people working on their case.
All of the regional prep work took place in the two months between when cases were released and when the regional competition took place. Edits and adjustments to the cases took place up to the very last minute.
Iral said there are a total of 8-10 teams that go to regionals, but only two qualify for the national competition. Whitworth’s Ethics Bowl team was undefeated as they went into the semi-final round to battle it out for one of the top two spots with three other teams from regionals.
During each round, the team had two minutes to prepare an answer to the given question and then presented their case for 10 minutes. Then, they were asked questions by the judges and the opposing team.
In regionals, 13 out of the 15 people who judged them voted for the Whitworth team.
Iral said the competitions can be stressful, but “our team is all really close friends.” The team is full of support and works together to win the rounds.
Iral said that last year when she was on the team, bioethics bowl gave everyone the questions that would be asked in the rounds. For the regional ethics bowl, the team isn’t given the questions in advance.
Iral said, “I was a little worried about going from bioethics bowl… to regionals where they don’t give you a question at all [in advance]. But honestly, we still felt really prepared because in practice we run each case several times and we brainstorm a lot of questions that they could possibly ask.”
The ethics bowl cases covered topics such as animal experimentation, accidentally harming a hospital patient due to a medication mix-up, water dam control, whether employers should fund employees traveling out-of-state, abortions and more. Everything they discuss is related to the real world and things that are happening right now.
Michael Ingram, an ethics bowl co-coach and communications professor, believes the team has what it takes to win, after seeing their performance at regionals. “I was very proud of the team’s work. They work very well together integrating research, ideas from ethical theories and logical arguments. Our goal is to win, and this team is very capable of doing so.”
The Whitworth’s Ethics Bowl team will be competing in the national competition on March 4-5, 2023, in Portland, Ore.