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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Regan Lectures

The Regan Lectures are funded by the New York Life Insurance Company in honor of William Regan III and a gift from Ann and William Regan. They are aimed at bringing the larger community to SCU to hear top-flight speakers on ethical issues in many fields.

Past lecturers have included John T. Noonan Jr., judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and eminent scholar of Catholic moral theology, Leon Panetta, former White House chief of staff and former director of the CIA, and Janet Napolitano, former Arizona governor and former secretary of Homeland Security.

Upcoming Lectures


Previous Lectures

2022-2023 -- Ethics and Misinformation

Joan Donovan, Ph.D., public scholar and disinformation researcher, co-author, Research Director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy

Dr. Donovan spoke about the connection between ethics and misinformation and the philosophical frameworks for how to research, report on, and understand this moment in internet history and American politics.

Watch the video

2021-22 -- High Conflict: Why we get Trapped and how we get out

Amanda Ripley, author and former NY Times investigative reporter

Author, Amanda Ripley discussed her latest book, High Conflict which examines people who have been involved in situations where there is acute conflict, political or otherwise, and what we can learn from these situations and the outcomes.

2018-2019 -- Silicon Valley and the Challenge of Ethics: Prognosis for a Sick Patient

Kara Swisher, tech columnist, New York Times

The 2016 election was a watershed moment for ethics and Silicon Valley. Before then, the Valley prided itself on facilitating connectivity and organizing information as steps in service to social good. But the election revealed an unseen dark heart also at work in this. Russian intelligence operatives gamed Facebook to spread disinformation. Bots on Twitter instantly spread lies to millions. Huge data breaches surrendered the privacy of millions. Even the primary business model of Silicon Valley – you give us your data; we’ll give you the power of technology – has been called sharply into question on ethical grounds. And these are only some of the ethical challenges that have arisen in an industry at the heart of global politics, economics, and culture.

Kara Swisher’s talk proved to be a special occasion for the public to reflect on what has brought Silicon Valley to this point and what the prognosis is for its ethical future.
Listen to the talk

2016-2017 -- Moral Frameworks for Synthetic Biology in the Age of Biohacking

Mildred Cho, professor, Stanford Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics and associate director, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics

At a time when gene editing kits can be purchased online for $150, and when pathogenic viruses can be synthesized in vitro from mail order oligonucleotides based on publicly available DNA sequences, it is clear that existing regulatory frameworks are ill-equipped to handle the new and rapidly evolving reality of biotechnology. However, the ability of non-professionals and professionals alike to use genetic modification techniques such as CRISPR outside of traditional institutional settings also reveals cracks in the moral frameworks that guide research, and even challenges the definition of a scientist. This talk explores whether “DIY” biology is science, whether DIY biologists have any role-related moral obligations, and what the bases of moral obligations are for “traditional” or “professional” synthetic biologists.
Watch the video


2014-2015 -- The Meaning of Mercy: A Reflection on a Central Theme of Pope Francis

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga

Cardinal-Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Coordinator, Pope Francis' Council of Cardinals

The Ethics Center is delighted to feature Cardinal Rodriguez as our Regan Lecturer for the 2014-15 academic year. One of the most influential leaders in the Catholic Church today, Cardinal Rodriguez is coordinator of the unprecedented eight-member Council of Cardinals named by Pope Francis to provide counsel on Church governance. We have asked the Cardinal to speak on the theme of mercy in light of Pope Francis' emphasis on this theme, and such issues as the migration of children from Central America to the United States, the Vatican Synod on Pastoral Care of the Family, and economic inequality.
Watch the video

2013-2014 -- Conscience and the Complex World of Catholic Health Care

Ron Hamel, Senior Ethicist, Catholic Health Association

Over the last few years, Catholic health care institutions in the United States have confronted a host of complex issues involving conscience. Some issues of conscience involve agonizing clinical questions over reproductive health. Other issues pertain to the doctor-patient relationship. Still other issues arise in the context of large institutional settings. Should Catholic hospitals have to comply with the contraceptive policy of the federal government? Should Catholic hospital networks that take over a secular hospital be able to require that treatment in the taken-over hospital be offered only in a manner consistent with Catholic moral principles -- even if the taken-over hospital is the only health care facility in a remote area? As chief ethicist of the huge network of Catholic health care institutions in the United States, Ron Hamel has been working on the full range of these issues for years. His talk is sure to shed light on these complex matters.

Dr. Hamel earned his doctorate in theological ethics from Fordham University, New York. His area of specialization is health care ethics. He has lectured widely to health care professionals, has served on numerous hospital ethics committees, was a member of the Health Care Ethics Commission of the Archdiocese of Chicago, serves as resource ethicist to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists and is a fellow in the Institute of Medicine of Chicago. He has authored many articles in health care ethics and has edited several books. Among them are "Introduction to Christian Ethics: A Reader" (Paulist, 1989), "A Matter of Principles?" (Trinity, 1994), "Must We Suffer Our Way to Death?" (SMU, 1995), "Three Levels of Managed Care" (Sheed & Ward, 1997), "Making Health Care Decisions: A Catholic Guide" (Ligouri, 2006), and "Artificial Nutrition and Hydration and the Permanently Unconscious Patient: The Catholic Debate"(Georgetown, 2007).

In October 2001, Dr. Hamel received the Kevin O'Rourke award from the Gateway Catholic Ethics Network in St. Louis for his contributions to Catholic health care ethics.

2012-2013  The Two Faces of Anonymity – the ethical, legal and constitutional implications of anonymity in the digital age

Judge Alex Kozinski*

Since 2007, Alex Kozinski has served as the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Born in Bucharest, Romania, the son of Holocaust survivors, Kozinski immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1962. He earned his undergraduate degree at U.C.L.A. and graduated from U.C.L.A.’s School of Law in 1975. Only ten years later, Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Ninth Circuit Court.

Kozinski is known for his incisive intellect and witty, sometimes irreverent writing and speeches. (In 2002, in a case involving Mattel and MCA Records, Kozinski concluded his opinion with the line "The parties are advised to chill.") It would be unlikely for someone to graduate from a U.S. law school without coming across some of Judge Kozinski’s opinions; other readers may have come across his writing in The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. And there is this: Aaron Swartz, the cyberactivist whose recent death is being mourned by many, is listed as the organizer of "The Unofficial Judge Alex Kozinski Site."

*Judge Kozinksi retired from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2017 after more than a dozen women made allegations against him of sexual misconduct.

2011-2012 One Bullet Away: Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making in Combat

Nathaniel Fick

Ethics in Combat
Service, the Military, and the Common Good

2010-2011 -- The Dangers of Corporate Education Reform

Diane Ravitch


Whence Morality: Evolution, Culture, Religion?

Francisco Ayala*

Francisco Ayala is a professor of biological sciences, ecology, and evolutionary biology at UC-Irvine.

*Professor Ayala resigned in July 2018 from his position at the University of California, Irvine, after a university investigation substantiated sexual harassment claims against him.

2008-2009 -- Autonomy and the History of American Bioethics

Albert Jonsen

Albert Jonsen is a biomedical ethicist and author. He is Emeritus Professor of Ethics in Medicine at the University of Washington, School of Medicine, where he was chairman of the Department of Medical History and Ethics from 1987-1999. Currently he is co-director of the Program in Medicine and Human Values at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. His talk is also part of the Health and Science Horizons Lecture Series.

Funding for this lecture is provided by the New York Life Insurance Company in honor of William Regan III and a gift from Ann and William Regan. It is aimed at bringing the larger community to SCU to hear top-flight speakers on ethical issues in many fields. Past lecturers have included John T. Noonan Jr., judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and eminent scholar of Catholic moral theology, Leon Panetta, former White House chief of staff and now director of the CIA, and Janet Napolitano, former Arizona governor and now secretary of Homeland Security.

2007-2008 -- The Catholic Conscience, Bioethics, and the Public Square

Edmund D. Pellegrino

Read about the talk

Dr. Pellegrino is chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics and professor emeritus of medicine and medical ethics at Georgetown University.

Funding for this lecture is provided by the New York Life Insurance Company in honor of William Regan III and a gift from Ann and William Regan. It is part of Science and Health Horizons, a series of events designed to enrich student, faculty, and community understanding of modern health care topics.

2005-2006 -- A Survival Guide for Thinking Catholics: Conscience and the Roman Catholic Life

Thomas Reese, S.J.

Thomas Reese, S.J., a widely quoted expert on the Catholic Church, was seen on television throughout the world as an insightful commentator on the papal funeral and election last year. He is the author of three books on the church, Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church(Harper & Row, 1989), A Flock of Shepherds: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (Sheed & Ward, 1992), and Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church (Harvard University Press, 1997).  From 1998– 2005 he was editor of the Jesuit magazine America.  He is a visiting scholar at Santa Clara University.

April 20, 2004 -- Neuroethics: The Neuroscience Revolution, Ethics, and the Law

Hank Greely

In the not-too-distant future, a brain scan may be able to reveal whether a person is prone to depression or violence. Should that information be used by the criminal justice system? By insurers? By airport security personnel? New technologies might produce accurate lie detectors, bias detectors, or memory probes. How could those be used in court?

Advances in neuroscience may also lead to the potential for enhancing brain functions, such as memory. What are the ethical and legal implications of this new knowledge?

Hank Greely, director of Stanford University's Center for Law and the Biosciences and chair of the Steering Committee of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, will offer his observations on these issues in "Neuroethics," a talk April 20, 6 p.m., at the Adobe Lodge on the SCU campus. Greely, a professor of law at Stanford, is also a professor, by courtesy, of genetics.

The presentation will be preceded by a reception at 5 p.m., in the Adobe Lodge. The program is sponsored by the Ethics Center and the High Tech Law Institute of the SCU School of Law.

Funding for this lecture is provided by the New York Life Insurance Company in honor of William Regan III and a gift from Ann and William Regan.

Feb. 10, 2004 -- After the Recall: California and the Common Good

Kevin Starr

Kevin Starr, one of today's leading commentators on the Golden State, will speak on the recall's aftermath and the endangered connection between California and the common good, Tues., Feb. 10, 7 p.m. in the Music Recital Hall on the SCU campus.

Starr, the California state librarian, has been writing the acclaimed six-volume series, Americans and the California Dream (Oxford University Press), over a period of 30 years. In reviewing one of the books, the Philadelphia Inquirer predicted, "Kevin Starr bids fair to become the foremost chronicler of that often fabulous region, imposing upon the dramatic elements of California history a novelist's imagination and a cosmopolitan and sophisticated intelligence."

Starr is University Professor and Professor of History and Policy, Planning, and Development at the University of Southern California, and a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times.


April 29, 2003 -- "Cleaning Up the Oceans: A Global Ethical Challenge"

Speaker: Leon Panetta chairs the Pew Oceans Commission, an independent group of American leaders conducting a national dialogue on the policies needed to restore and protect living Marine resources in U.S. waters. Panetta, who served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, directs the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy at the University of California at Monterey Bay.

Respondent: Robert J. Wilder - director of conservation programs, Pacific Whale Foundation, and a distinguished lecturer and visiting scholar at U.C. Santa Cruz. Wilder is author of Listening to the Sea: The Politics of Improving Environmental Protection.

Respondent: Pietro Parravano - a member of the Pew Oceans Commission is a Half Moon Bay fisherman and fisheries policy leader. He also is founder and president of the Institute for Fisheries Resources, and a board member of the Marine Conservation Network.

The world's oceans are in crisis. Everyone shares the world's oceans -- and no one is in charge of cleaning up pollution, restricting wasteful fishing practices, or ensuring the health of the many species of marine life that inhabit the open oceans. The result is a crisis of the commons: Some species of fish and marine mammals are being fished and killed at such rates that whole populations may crash.

Within the 200 mile band of coastal waters in the U.S. "exclusive economic zone," federal and local governments have some control. But in order to protect existing species and restore those in danger of extinction, many measures are needed -- law, regulation, and political leadership.

That coastal zone is the focus of a new report -- the first independent review of marine policy in 30 years -- to be produced by the Pew Oceans Commission. The commission's report will be presented to Congress later in 2003. At roughly the same time, a government commission will present its review of coastal marine management. These historic reviews of marine policy may produce change -- but only if policy makers can get past the difficult ethical questions involved in deciding who will pay the costs of cleanup and protection, and how to ensure that protection measures taken in the 200-mile zone are matched by measures to protect the open oceans, where no single agency or country is in charge.


May 14, 2003 -- The Ethics of Ethical Advice: Confessions of an Ethical Advisor

Karen Lebacqz

Karen Lebacqz, Professor of Theological Ethics, Pacific School of Religion, has served on the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects; as a consultant to the director of health for the state of California; as a member of the ELSI-based Genome Project at the Graduate Theological Union's Center for Theology and Natural Sciences; and as a member of the Ethics Advisory Board of Geron Corp, a biotechnology company.

Dr. Lebacqz will reflect on the promises and pitfalls of professional ethicists' involvement in both public and private decision making.


November 13, 2003 -- Catholic Judges and the Death Penalty

John T. Noonan Jr.

John T. Noonan Jr., judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and eminent scholar of Catholic moral theology, will reflect on "Catholic Judges and the Death Penalty" as the fall quarter Regan Lecturer, Thursday, November 13, 6 p.m., in the de Saisset Museum on the Santa Clara University Campus.

Noonan, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Catholic University, has long been interested in the relationship between religion and government. He is the author of The Lustre of Our Country: The American Experience of Religious Freedom (University of California Press, 1998).

Noonan is the recipient of seven honorary doctor of law degrees. He has served on the Ninth Circuit since 1985.

Previously, he practiced law with the National Security Council (1954-55) and Herrick Smith Donald Farley & Ketchum (1955-60).

Noonan has also been a professor of law at Notre Dame University and U.C.-Berkeley, as well as a visiting professor at Stanford University, UCLA, and Harvard University.


January 17, 2002 -- "Expanding the Role of Ethics in Legal Education and the Legal Profession"

Deborah Rhode

Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, Stanford University.

A panel discussion of Deborah Rhode's book, In the Interests of Justice: Reforming the Legal Profession, featuring Ellen Pansky, Margaret Russell, Alan Scheflin and Gerald Uelmen. Moderated by David Perry, with responses by Deborah Rhode.


April 5-6, 2002

"Necessary Secrets: Privacy, Confidentiality and Privilege in Mental Health Services"

"Children's Adaptations to Illness, Death and Loss"

"Order in the Court: Making Sense of Mental Health Ethics and the Legal System"


April 18, 2002 -- "Was Abraham Ethical? Should We Admire His Willingness to Sacrifice His Son?"

Carol Delaney

Associate Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford University.


October 29, 2001 -- "When Cultural Values Clash with Universal Rights: Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?"

Susan Moller Okin

Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society and Professor of Political Science, Stanford University