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Ethics Center hosts discussion on oil industry

Oct. 8, 2010

KALAMAZOO--The Center for the Study of Ethics in Society celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and kicks off its fall season on Tuesday, Oct. 12, with a panel discussion on ethics and the oil industry.

The discussion, set for 7 p.m. in Room 159 of the Bernhard Center, is titled "Do Oil and Ethics Mix?" Panelists will engage in a wide-ranging discussion of the ethics involved in the quest for oil in light of this summer's oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and the Kalamazoo River. They will address what standards of risk and safety should be in place when it comes to a high-risk activity like the oil industry; what type of oversight is needed and by whom; whether society can accept the risks to the environment and the economy; and who should pay for the cleanup after an accident.

Dr. Norman Hawker, WMU professor of finance and commercial law, will act as moderator. Panelists will include Dr. Peter Parker, WMU professor of paper engineering, chemical engineering and imaging; Dr. Michael Pritchard, professor of philosophy and the center founding director and current co-director; and Dr. Elaine Englehardt, professor of ethics and philosophy at Utah Valley University.

Plans call for Hawker to give a brief narrative and timeline of this summer's oil spills, both here and in the gulf, as well as a brief outline of the legal liabilities facing the two companies involved, BP and Enbridge. Parker, Pritchard and Englehardt are expected to address the general problem of tradeoffs involved with safety from engineering and ethical standpoints.

Other fall 2010 ethics discussions include:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 3, Dr. Shirley Bach, ethics center associate director, "The Immortal Cells of Henrietta Lacks: Medical Research Ethics Then and Now," 7 p.m., 204 Bernhard Center.

  • Monday, Nov. 15, 25th Anniversary Celebration, featuring a presentation by Pritchard, "Teaching Ethics: The Hastings Center Goals After 30 Years," 4 p.m., Room 211, Bernhard Center; reception, 5 p.m., Room 210, Bernhard Center; and presentation by Bach, Dr. Joseph Ellin, professor emeritus of philosophy and center publications editor, and Dr. James Jaksa, professor emeritus of communication and former center associate director, "Reflections on the Role of the Ethics Center at WMU."

  • Friday, Dec. 3, Dr. Josh Knobe, assistant professor of cognitive science and philosophy, Yale University, "Recent Discoveries by Graduate Students in Experimental Philosophy," 5:15 p.m., Room 2018, Fetzer Center.

For more information, visit the WMU Ethics Center online.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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