Statement on the Insurrection
This is a perilous moment in the nation’s history. We are heartbroken that the U.S. Capitol was violently attacked on January 6, 2021, by insurrectionists encouraged by elected leaders bent on overturning the results of the presidential election and subverting the peaceful transfer of power.
The Wayne Morse Center recommits itself to the defense of democratic principles and institutions in order to repair the poisonous partisanship and deep divisions visible in the United States and in Oregon today. We place our trust not only in the integrity of constitutional guarantees but in the promise of extending them to new constituencies, applying them to new challenges, and inspiring new conceptions of justice and movements for social change. At its best, that is what the American democratic experiment has accomplished in the past.
Now more than ever, we are keenly aware that there is no guarantee that this American experiment in democracy will have a future. Democracy must be continuously taught, practiced, modeled, shared, and debated so that we may find common purpose in diversity rather than hatred and mistrust. The Wayne Morse Center stands ready to encourage civic engagement and enlightened, truthful dialogue. In the words of Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, we place “principle above politics.”
Join us in exploring intersections between science, politics, policy, and justice.
Françoise Baylis, 2020-21 Wayne Morse Chair, is a bioethicist and university research professor at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia. A philosopher whose innovative research in bioethics lies at the intersection of policy and practice, she challenges readers to think broadly and deeply about the direction of health, science and biotechnology. Her work aims to move the limits of mainstream bioethics and develop more effective ways to understand and tackle public policy challenges. Baylis' most recent book is Altered Inheritance: CRISPR and the Ethics of Human Genome Editing (Harvard University Press, 2019).
Baylis is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. In 2017 she was awarded the Canadian Bioethics Society Lifetime Achievement Award. She has been named to "Who's Who in Black Canada" (2002–present).
This is the annual Wayne Morse Chair Public Address and is part of the Wayne Morse Center's Science, Policy, and the Public theme of inquiry. It is cosponsored by the UO Department of Philosophy; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and the Center for the Study of Women in Society.
Register here for the free Zoom event.
This panel will consider the enduring legacy of eugenics alongside the possibilities that genetic technologies now offer for understanding population histories, diverse and diasporic ancestries, and race- and gender-based health disparities.
Alexandra Minna Stern is a professor of history, American culture and women's and gender studies as well as associate dean for the humanities at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Telling Genes: The Story of Genetic Counseling in America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012) and Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right Is Warping the American Imagination (Beacon, 2020).
Jada Benn Torres is a associate professor of anthropology and the director for the Laboratory of Genetic Anthropology and Biocultural Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Torres' research explores genetic ancestry and population history of African and Indigenous Caribbean peoples. She also studies women’s health disparities, with a specific focus on the uterine fibroids among women of African descent. Her most recent book is Genetic Ancestry: Our Stories, Our Pasts (Routledge, 2020).
Moderator: Judith Eisen, Professor of Biology and Wayne Morse Center Distinguished Scholar.
Commentary by Françoise Baylis, 2020-21 Wayne Morse Chair.
Sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics as part of its Science, Policy, and the Public theme of inquiry
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Sheila Jasanoff is a professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her work explores the role of science and technology in the law, politics, and policy of modern democracies. A pioneer in her field, she has authored more than 130 articles and chapters and is author or editor of more than 15 books.
This talk is based on and shares a title with Jasanoff’s most recent book, which explores the dramatic authority accorded to the biological sciences and biotechnology in the genomic age. She explores flashpoints in law, politics, ethics, and culture to argue that science’s promises to edit, or even rewrite, the texts of life to correct nature’s mistakes have gone too far.
Commentary by Robert Guldberg, vice president and executive director, Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact at the University of Oregon; and Françoise Baylis, bioethicist and university research professor at Dalhousie University and Wayne Morse Chair.
Sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics as part of its Science, Policy, and the Public theme of inquiry. Cosponsored by the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.
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For more than 50 years, technologies like amniocentesis have used for prenatal screening purposes, to help individuals and families with histories of serious genetic illness make informed reproductive decisions. What do we do now that technologies exist not just to provide information but to select and even modify the genetic makeup of the next generation?
Camisha Russell is an assistant professor of philosophy at University of Oregon. Her primary research and teaching interests are in critical philosophy of race, feminist philosophy, and bioethics. Her book The Assisted Reproduction of Race (Indiana University Press, 2018) considers the role of the race idea in practices surrounding assisted reproductive technologies and argues for the benefits of thinking of race itself as a technology.
Paul Knoepfler is a professor of cell biology and human anatomy at UC Davis School of Medicine. His research interests are primarily focused on the epigenomics of cancer and stem cells. A science writer, advocate, and cancer survivor, he has written and spoken widely about “designer babies.”
Moderator: Judith Eisen, Professor of Biology and Wayne Morse Center Distinguished Scholar.
Commentary by Françoise Baylis, bioethicist and university research professor at Dalhousie University and Wayne Morse Chair.
Sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics as part of its Science, Policy, and the Public theme of inquiry.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, public debates about the validity of scientific findings and the value of science overall have intensified, as some Americans have actively resisted and even denied the legitimacy of scientific guidance about how to address the disease. What are the social and psychological drivers of public skepticism about science? How can skeptics be convinced otherwise? According to Naomi Oreskes, professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, people won’t be persuaded with more science or more facts. They deny scientific findings because they do not like the implications of their veracity—what Oreskes terms “implicatory denial.”
To convince deniers, their fears and ideologies must be addressed. Some Americans hold a worldview that prioritizes the inviolability of individual rights and the sanctity of the economy above all else, and adhere to an ideology of “limited government.” Oreskes contends, “This runs very, very deep in American culture. It ties into an extraordinary individualism that you don’t generally see in other places in the world. We tend to be more resistant to collective action in the United States than people in other countries. And it ties into this very, very deep idea in American culture that the government that governs best governs least.”
Naomi Oreskes will explore the complexities of Americans’ denial of scientific findings and skepticism about science in her 2020–21 Cressman Lecture “Can Science Be Saved?” via Zoom.
As Oreskes explains, “Many Americans think that we face a general crisis of trust in science. With the rejection of mask-wearing by many Americans—as well as many of our political leaders—it is easy to come to that conclusion. But evidence shows that the vast majority of Americans do, in fact, trust science. Scientists (along with doctors and nurses) remain among the most respected and trusted figures in American life. However, Americans do distrust and reject science in particular areas, and we know something about why that is: Americans reject scientific findings and advice when they dislike their implications. Often this involves a perceived threat to our individual freedoms and personal liberties, or to strongly held beliefs. In the COVID-19 crisis, irresponsible political leaders fomented the idea that asking a person to wear a mask was asking them to give up their freedom. This, of course, was preposterous; wearing a mask is little more than an inconvenience. Still, because the question of mask-wearing has become entangled with the question of personal choice, solving it will not be a matter of giving people more or better information. This means that scientists will have to accept that asking people to trust science is more than a matter of asking them to accept facts; it is also a matter of ethics, morality, and citizenship.”
Oreskes is a leading public intellectual on the role of science in society, the reality of anthropogenic climate change, and on anti-scientific disinformation campaigns. She has written numerous books including Discerning Experts (2019), Why Trust Science? (2019), and Science on a Mission: American Oceanography from the Cold War to Climate Change (2020), and the forthcoming The Magic of the Marketplace: The True History of a False Idea with Erik Conway.
Oreskes’s lecture is free and open to the public. Registration is required to participate in the live Zoom event. The talk will be recorded and available for viewing on the OHC’s YouTube channel. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Alondra Nelson was recently nominated by Joe Biden as the Office of Science and Technology deputy director for science and society. She is president of the Social Science Research Council and is also the Harold F. Linder Chair and Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, an independent center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. She was previously a professor of sociology at Columbia University, where she served as the inaugural Dean of Social Science.
Nelson is author of several books, including The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome. She has contributed to national policy discussions on inequality and about the social implications of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, and human gene editing.
This event is sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics as a part of its 2019-21 theme of inquiry, Science, Policy, and the Public. It is part of the African American Workshop and Lecture Series, which is sponsored by the Office of the President and coordinated by the Division of Equity and Inclusion. It is also part of the Lorwin Lectureship on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Videos of recent events
Defending Democracy: A Conversation with Eric H. Holder, Jr., 82nd Attorney General of the United States (2009-2015)
Black Mental Health Matters, featuring Martin Summers (Boston College) and Larissa Miller (Strong Integrated Behavioral Health)
Immunity Passports: Pandemic Privilege or Biological Discrimination?, featuring Francoise Baylis (Dalhousie University)and Natalie Kofler (Yale)
Immigration Policy in the Pandemic, featuring Mae Ngai (Columbia University)
Saving Our Economic Future, featuring Robert Kuttner (The American Prospect)