Ethics Center offers four book club events for the fall semester

contact: Deanne Puca
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The Center for the Study of Ethics in Society is hosting a series of book clubs during the fall semester that examine a variety of ethical questions ranging from prescription drug addiction to the changing role of the United States as a world power.

Discussions of four books begin Wednesday, Sept. 12, and continue through mid-November. Books are provided free of charge to the first 10 people who sign up for a book club. To sign up, email the ethics center no later than one week before the group's first meeting.

Prescription Drug addiction

John Minser, instructor in the WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine's program in medical ethics, humanities and law, will lead discussions of "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic" by Sam Quinones. This nonfiction book examines the parallel rise of opioid prescriptions alongside a change in heroin distribution. Among the ethics questions it explores are the over-prescribing of opioids and the unintended consequences of this crisis, systems and their effect on the people living within them–especially perverse incentives and behavioral reinforcement models─and an exploration of the biopsychosocial model of addiction versus the layperson's "moral responsibility" narrative of addict behavior.

The group will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Sept. 12, 19 and 26, at Walnut and Park café, 322 W. Walnut St. in Kalamazoo.

Research ethics

Dr. Jil Larson, WMU associate professor of English, will be leading discussions of Allegra Goodman's novel "Intuition." In the novel, Cliff, a postdoctoral researcher in the Philpott lab run by Marion Mendelssohn and Sandy Glass, has been working unsuccessfully for two and a half years on a variant of a respiratory virus that may transform cancer cells into normal ones. He has disobeyed orders to discontinue his experiments, but feels vindicated when his rogue experiments show spectacular results and his prospects as a scientist take off. Are the results too good to be true? This fictional narrative has many research ethics implications, ranging from what constitutes research misconduct and what are the responsibilities of mentors, to the role played by gender inequities and conflicts of interest in the corruption of the scientific enterprise.

This group will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Sept. 25, Oct. 2 and 9, in 2072 Moore Hall on the WMU campus.

Technology use

T.J. Broy, a WMU master's degree student in philosophy, will be leading discussions of Shannon Vallor's book, "Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Having." Vallor argues that emerging technologies are reshaping our institutions and habits in ways that are hard to understand and to predict. What are the implications for human flourishing? Drawing from the philosophical tradition of virtue ethics dating back to Confucius and Aristotle, Vallor examines questions raised by our 21st-century technologies, including the role of social media in shaping civic participation and the impact of artificial intelligence on employment and the nature of work. To flourish going forward, Vallor argues that we need to develop "technomoral virtues" to live well with technology.

This group will meet at 5 p.m. Mondays Oct. 15, 22 and 29, in 2072 Moore Hall on the WMU campus.

United States as a world power

Dr. William Santiago-Valles, WMU associate professor emeritus of Africana studies, will be leading discussions of Alfred McCoy's "In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power." The author, endowed chair in the history department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, sets out the ethics agenda early in the book: "What is the character of this American empire?" Initially this text explores the rise of the U.S. as a world power from the time of its war against Spain and Cuba in 1898 to the invasion of Panama in 1989. The second part goes into the means used to extend that power. The third part analyzes the economic and military instruments used to maintain global domination and the possible scenarios for economic, military and climate decline, and end of the American century, and what can be done now. Can the decline of U.S. power open up the possibility of a more ethical stance toward the rest of the world?

This group will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, and Wednesdays, Nov. 7 and 14, at Water Street Coffee Joint, 3037 Oakland Dr. in Kalamazoo.

Learn more about the WMU Center for the Study of Ethics in Society.

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