An interdisciplinary speaker series on contemporary moral issues

Gene editing. Artificial intelligence. A changing climate. Intersections of technology, values and communities in our rapidly changing world raise important ethical questions. Join us for a series of lectures by nationally renowned researchers, thinkers and leaders who will explore contemporary issues, ethically speaking.


Someone looking through a test tube

Synthetic Living Organisms: Heralds of a Revolution in Technology and Ethics

Dr. Michael Levin • October 12, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. EDT


Progress at the intersection of biology, computer science, and cognitive science is revealing the remarkable plasticity of living systems and their interoperability with technology. Synthetic bioengineering enables regenerative medicine, as well as the creation of entirely new living organisms, like “Xenobots.” Advances in the field blur the lines between machines and organisms. Emerging questions in bioethics extend well beyond safety-driven limitations on research and ask how we will handle a forthcoming and inevitable plethora of hybrid creatures, which will be unlike us in many ways and have no comfortable place on the phylogenetic tree that guides our policies. Dr. Levin will illustrate that these alien creatures raise profound questions about the fundamental nature of our own bodies and minds, with numerous ethical ramifications.

Dr. Michael Levin is Distinguished Professor and Vannevar Bush Professor of Biology at Tufts University. He serves as Director of the Allen Discovery Center and the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. His interdisciplinary teams are learning to control tissue growth and regeneration — to heal, to repair, and potentially to create new forms of life itself.

Dr. Bryan Cwik looking over shoulder

Biotechnology and Global Health: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr. Bryan Cwik • November 4, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. EDT


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed myriad vulnerabilities and inequities in global health. One major lesson that the world must learn is how biotechnology and access to biotechnical infrastructure have impacted the course of the pandemic and the distribution of its burdens. Discussions of global-health ethics often (and rightly) focus on lack of basic health care infrastructure. Although it is not a substitute for shortfalls in clinical resources, biotechnology plays an important role in global health. Dr. Cwik will discuss how addressing major ethical challenges in global health requires diffusion of biomedical technology and technical capacity to address issues, such as inequitable access to vaccines.

Dr. Bryan Cwik is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and University Studies at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. He studies biomedical ethics and political philosophy. He has published on gene editing, climate change, and intellectual property, and is currently at work on a book on the ethics of biotechnology.

Dr. James Franklin

Quantification in Ethics

Dr. James Franklin • November 30, 2021 at 4:30 p.m. EDT


Ethics is usually thought of as involving no quantification – it is about discussing principles and resolving dilemmas with arguments just in words. But many ethical decisions require a degree of quantification, precise or imprecise. Just because humans have an equal ethical worth (itself not quantifiable), they sometimes need to be counted, as in taking a course of military or healthcare action that minimizes number of deaths. More subtle cases include compensation calculations, monetary debts, and healthcare allocation using quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). The talk gives an overview of where quantification is needed in ethics and how it meshes with non-quantitative considerations.

Dr. James Franklin was Professor in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. His research interests include the philosophy of mathematics, the history of ideas (especially probability) and extreme risk theory. His books include Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia and An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics. He was awarded the 2005 Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics. He taught the world’s first course on Professional Issues and Ethics in Mathematics.

Sponsors of Ethically Speaking

  • Center for Ethics, UCF
  • Colleges of Graduate Studies, UCF
  • College of Science, UCF
  • College of Community Innovation and Education, UCF
  • CREOL, The College of Optics and Photonics, UCF
  • College of Arts and Humanities, UCF
  • Office of Compliance, Ethics, and Risk, UCF
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Physics
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Psychology
  • Department of Biology
  • Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Department of Materials Science and Engineering