Fall 2012

Inaugural University of Dallas Science Conversation

The Converging Life Sciences and Human Dignity: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on Contemporary Biophilosophies

Thursday, September 27, 7:30 pm
Art History Auditorium
University of Dallas

Since the late twentieth century, evolutionary theory, molecular biology and experimental psychology have converged with empiricist philosophies of life science to ground a deeply reductionistic perspective on human beings. This has created a new order of difficulties in developing an anthropological perspective that can sustain traditional notions of human dignity. After reviewing the historical framework behind contemporary biological reductionism, Professor Sloan will develop an alternative approach that accepts the new perspectives of the sciences, but does so within a framework of philosophical anthropology consistent with Catholic-Christian positions. He will conclude with some discussion of the relevance of these questions for the current debate over embryonic stem cell research.

Phillip R. Sloan is Professor Emeritus in the Program of Liberal Studies, Notre Dames Great Books department, and in the graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science at Notre Dame. Sloan has also been active in the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values since its founding in 1985, serving as the Director of the History and Philosophy of Science Graduate Program (1994-97), the Director of the Reilly Center (1997-99), and Director of the undergraduate Program in Science, Technology and Values (1999-2002). He is a Fellow and past Chair of Section L of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has held national office twice on the governing council of the History of Science Society. From 2002 to 2009 he served as the President of the Association for Core Texts and Courses, an international organization dedicated to advancement of general liberal education through the study of classic texts. He has also served as a Lay Advisor to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Science and Human Values from 1998-2006.

His research specializes on the history and philosophy of life science from the early modern period to contemporary molecular biology. He was the primary conference organizer, editor, and contributor to Controlling Our Destinies: Historical, Philosophical, Ethical and Theological Implications of the Human Genome Project (2002), and has most recently published with the University of Chicago the co-authored Creating a Physical Biology: The Three-Man Paper and Early Molecular Biology (2011). His current project is a multi-year study, funded by the National Science Foundation, on the conception of life in modern biophysics and its implication for bioethical questions. He is actively involved in the Notre Dame Initiative for Adult and Alternative Stem Cell Research, an interdisciplinary working group devoted to advancing ethically sound stem cell research, and was co-director of the 2011 Inaugural Summer Workshop on Adult and Non-Embryonic Stem Cell Research.

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