Emory Report
September 15, 2008
Volume 61, Number 4

Ethics fall events

Sept. 16: Student Open

Sept. 25: Building Dedication
(joint ceremony with
Candler School of Theology)

Oct. 7: Ethics @ the Movies
Screening and Discussion: “Born Into Brothels”

Installation Ceremony for Paul Root Wolpe

Nov. 4: Ethics @ the Movies Screening: “Once Were Warriors”

Nov. 6: Presidential Panel:
“Taking a Stand”

Nov. 18: Discussion:
“The Dumbest Generation” with Mark Bauerlein

Dec. 2: Ethics @ the Movies Screening: “King Gimp” and discussion with documentary subject and author Dan Keplinger

For details, contact Tanya Anderson at 404-727-1179
or lande22@emory.edu.



Emory Report homepage  

15, 2008
New Ethics leader to embrace hard issues

By Elaine Justice

Paul Root Wolpe isn’t afraid to ask the big questions. In fact, Emory’s new director of the Center for Ethics seems to thrive on them.

“What should happen to the body if an astronaut dies in space?” he asked in an article last winter for Popular Science. Last fall while visiting Emory, Wolpe lectured on “Is My Mind Mine? Neuroethics, Privacy and the Fifth Amendment.”

Wolpe, who also serves as the first chief of bioethics for NASA, assured readers that if the astronaut death happened on a short mission to the moon, “the craft would turn around and come back. But it gets thornier if the astronauts are on Mars, or even halfway there.”

“Thornier” is Wolpe’s forte, and he’s delighted to be at Emory. As he settles in at the Center’s new home in the heart of campus, Wolpe says that as an ethicist, there is nowhere else he would rather be.

“Emory takes the idea of being an ethically engaged university very seriously,” he says, pointing out that the words “ethically engaged” are a prominent part of the University’s mission statement. “The understanding here is that true ethical engagement requires a scholarly resource that thinks of ethics in its most sophisticated yet pragmatic way,” Wolpe says.

What the Center for Ethics hopes to be, says Wolpe, “is a both a center of scholarly production and a center of university and community action.” It’s clear that Wolpe embraces both. This fall the Center will host a program “about the degree to which universities should be ethically active or engage in advocacy, about them taking a stand.”

Formerly a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and senior fellow at its Center for Bioethics, Wolpe is considered a pioneer in the field of neuroethics. He has spoken around the world on neuropsychiatry and neuropharmaceuticals. He also has written about sexuality and gender in society, stem cell therapy, genetics and eugenics. He will appear on an upcoming edition of CBS’s “60 Minutes” talking about brain enhancement issues.

Because so many of Emory’s schools and units have a powerful interest in ethics, Wolpe sees faculty involvement with the Center continuing to grow. In addition to a small group of core faculty, the Center will have two to three dozen affiliated faculty “from around the University who will have the opportunity to use the Center as an intellectual resource as well as a source for funding and other kinds of support for work they do relevant to ethics.” Beyond that, Wolpe sees the Center becoming a resource for all faculty who explore ethics in the classroom or their work.

Engaging more students also will be a key part of the Center’s mission, says Wolpe. “I want the Center to be a place where students can come in, throw down their bookbags and engage in a conversation or read a book,” he says. A forthcoming program on ethics at the movies will take students from viewing films that deal with ethical issues to participating in student discussion groups. In selected cases, says Wolpe, those discussions will lead to students taking action in the community.

“The Center’s desire is to be a resource for and a help to the Atlanta community,” says Wolpe. “We’re committed to being not just an insulated, intellectual, monastic kind of Center, but rather an expansive place where ideas can lead to palpable change.”