Author-bioethicist to speak on ethically questionable practices in academic activism

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

LAWRENCE—Alice Dreger, bioethicist, academic activist and author, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the The Commons at Spooner Hall, as the first installation of the Hall Center for the Humanities' 2016-2017 Humanities Lecture Series. “Good Causes, Bad Acts: Scrutinizing Ends and Means in Academic Activism” is free and open to the public. A reception and book signing will occur after the lecture.

Dreger is a historian of medicine and science, a sex researcher, a mainstream writer and an "(im)patient advocate." Dreger’s latest major book is "Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice," which argues that the pursuit of evidence is the most important ethical imperative of our time. Funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship and published by Penguin Press in 2015, the book has been praised in many reviews, including in The New Yorker, Nature, Science, Forbes and New York Magazine.

This talk draws from the book and explores the ways in which freedom of research is under assault from multiple fronts, including identity politics activism, the corporatization and branding of universities, and social media shaming campaigns.

Dreger, who has 20 years’ experience both as an intersex patient rights activist and as an academic historian, will use case studies to talk about the dangers researchers face today. She will also speak to how researchers can work individually and collectively to try to protect themselves. She argues they must do so not for their own sake, but for the sake of social progress in our fragile democracy.

Dreger will also participate in an informal conversation session the next day. “A Conversation with Alice Dreger” will take place at 10 a.m. Sept. 14 in the Hall Center Conference Hall. Audience members are invited to pose questions to Dreger and advance topics that may not have been touched upon in the previous night’s session.

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Lecture Series is the oldest continuing series at KU. More than 150 eminent scholars from around the world have participated in the program, including author Salman Rushdie, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Recent speakers have included Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Toobin, and Sarah Vowell. Shortly after the program’s inception, a lecture by one outstanding KU faculty member was added to the schedule. For information on the series, visit the Hall Center website.