APRIL 14, 2003
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456, mstepanovich@csub.edu

CSUB ethics center hosts "Ethics in a Free Society: Convictions, Compromise, and Consensus."

A man who might best be described as the nation's conscience regarding medical ethics will deliver the 2003 Charles W. Kegley Memorial Lecture at California State University, Bakersfield on Monday, April 28, at 7 p.m. in the Dore Theater.

Daniel Callahan, co-founder of The Hastings Center, the world's first and arguably still the world's best ethics center, will pose such questions as:

  • Can a moral community be sustained when some of its members hold radically opposing moral views?

  • How far can and should tolerance extend? For example, should critical attacks on the president or on members of the armed forces be tolerated during times of war?

  • What is the appropriate connection with the issue of human cloning between ethics and the law?

    Such questions are fundamental to any diverse, liberal democracy, Callahan says: "No society can exist unless there are some firm roles about moral behavior. But no liberal, diverse society can exist unless there is some way to deal with differences. If consensus on morality cannot be achieved, what then?"

    The title of Callahan's talk is "Ethics in a Free Society: Convictions, Compromise, and Consensus."

    Callahan has a way of posing ethical dilemmas in ways most people can understand. In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on crime on June 7, 2001, Callahan addressed the issue of human cloning. "There is," he said, "a long-standing and important difference between ethics and law. The former is meant to shape our individual virtues and principles, and to provide a foundation for making distinctions between right and wrong, good and bad. The latter may and often does embody our ethical values, but its purpose is primarily to establish those rules and prohibitions necessary for a society to function well, in reasonable peace and harmony. Not every ethical principle or belief is appropriate for law, and not every law embodies moral principles (though law should never be incompatible with them).

    "... Too much of the current research drive is fueled by a single-minded passion to eradicate disease, often likened to a war. The worst possible analogy for biomedical research is that of warfare. Illness, death, and suffering are terrible human threats, but to approach them as if nothing less than all-out battle, with no holds barred, will demonstrate our moral seriousness is a profound mistake. Health is a great and vital human good, but not the only such good. The point of a ban on research for human cloning is to make certain that some time-tested, critical means of human procreation and human individuality are protected. They are as important a part of our American and Western heritage as freedom of scientific inquiry - a freedom that has well coexisted for some years with ethical limitations and has managed to flourish in the face of (and sometimes because of) those limitations."

    Christopher Meyers, director of CSUB's Kegley Institute of Ethics, said, "Dan never pretends to have final answers to these enormously difficult questions, but he frames the issues with such great insight that real solutions become readily apparent. He is one of the most important figures in the international applied ethics movement, truly one of the grand scholars."

    Callahan was the co-founder of The Hastings Center in Garrison, N.Y. The Hastings Center is a research and educational organization founded in 1969 to examine ethical issues of medicine, biology and the environment. He has served as president of the center, director of its international programs and senior associate for health policy. In 1998-1999 he was a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard University Medical School. He is also an honorary faculty member at Charles University Medical School, in Prague, the Czech Republic.

    He earned his doctorate in philosophy from Harvard, a master's degree from Georgetown University, and his bachelor's degree from Yale University. He holds honorary degrees from Oregon State University, the University of Colorado, Williams College, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Science; a member of the Directors Advisory Committee, Centers for Disease Control; and a former member of the Advisory Council, Office of Scientific Integrity, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He won the 1996 Freedom and Scientific Responsibility Award of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    Callahan is the author or editor of 35 books. They include "False Hopes" (Simon & Schuster, 1998); "The Troubled Dream of Life: In Search of a Peaceful Death" (Simon & Schuster, 1993); "What Kind of Life: The Limits of Medical Progress" (Simon & Schuster, 1990); "Setting Limits: Medical Goals in an Aging Society" (1987); "The Tyranny of Survival" (1973); "Abortion: Law, Choice and Morality" (1970); "Ethics in Hani Times" (1982); and, with his wife, Sidney, "Abe Won: Understanding Differences" (1984). He has contributed articles to Daedalus, Harpers, The Atlantic, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, The New Republic, and other journals.

    The annual Kegley lecture is free and open to the public. Callahan will also sign copies of his books after the talk. For additional information, please call (661) 665-6303.