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Exploring Ethics

In conjunction with the Center for Ethics in Science and Technology, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center welcomes guests to encounter science from an ethical viewpoint. Held on select Wednesdays, from October through June, this ongoing series brings together community leaders of various backgrounds to examine current scientific issues from diverse perspectives. Bring your own questions and join in the discussion!


Select events are held 5:307PM in the William & Grayson Boehm Community Forum at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Please see the full list of topics and locations listed below and refer to The Center for Ethics website for more information.

The program is free but registration is required.

To RSVP: Click on the links below for each program

For more information: call (858) 822-2647 or send an email to with the following information:

  • Date & topic
  • Name
  • Phone number & email address
  • Indicate if you would like to be added to the Ethics Center mailing list

Upcoming Topics

February 4, 2015 - 5:30 p.m.

Preventing HIV by Understanding Patterns of Transmission

Recent advances in medical technology have made it possible to rapidly obtain genetic information related to a variety of health care conditions. There are both risks and benefits associated with these advances in technology. While the genetic information can help us to better understand, diagnose, and treat illness, these data also present risks to personal privacy. For instance, investigators have found that it is possible to personally identify several participants in such studies. Thus, without the participants agreeing to share their personal information, these data were discoverable to scientists who had expertise to properly analyze the data. This forum will specifically discuss genetic data related to HIV infection and how this information, routinely collected in persons engaged in HIV healthcare, may be used to improve HIV prevention efforts. We will also discuss the potential to use these data to identify the persons engaged in these studies (i.e., sufficient to identify a participant as HIV infected and connected to ongoing HIV transmissions in the community). We strive to engage the community in a discussion of acceptable and unacceptable levels of risk associated with the use of these data and their potential to significantly limit HIV transmission in our community.

Held at the Community Forum in the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.

Click here to register for February 4.



View videos of past lectures here:

February 25, 2014 - Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies

December 4, 2013 - Winning the War Against Cancer in the Genomics Era

November 7, 2013 - Neuroscience and Video Games

October 2, 2013 - Lessons from a One-Eyed Surgeon

August 7, 2013 - Drones and Other UAVs

June 5, 2013 - Women in Science

April 3, 2013 - Elephants or People?

March 6, 2013 - Global Climate Change and Infectious Disease

February 6, 2013 - Lessons from San Diego's Bees and Bays

Past Topics



June 4

Ethicists Confront Cancer: When the Professional Becomes Personal

In 2006, Dresser was diagnosed with cancer. Having cancer was both a personal calamity and an education. Despite years of teaching and writing about medical ethics, she found herself unprepared for the experience. She views herself as one of the lucky people whose treatment was successful. After returning to work she wanted to share what she had learned. With six colleagues who had been cancer patients or cared for spouses with cancer, Dresser authored a book called Malignant: Medical Ethicists Confront Cancer. In Malignant, ethicists tell their cancer stories. They describe how their views on medical ethics changed after personal cancer experiences, and point to neglected issues in cancer care. In the midst of serious illness, people can be helped and harmed in ways that ethicists, medical professionals, and the public must understand. Held at the Community Forum in the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.


May 14

Immunotherapy: A Promising New Approach to Treating Cancer

Dr. June will discuss the emergence of immunotherapy as an approach to treat cancer. The approach is less toxic than many previous forms of therapy and when effective, has long term effects that appear to be curative. Carl June, MD, is considered by many to be the most influential academic scientist in the biopharmaceutical industry.  Held at Weiss Theatre of the La Jolla Playhouse.


April 2

Communicating through the Cancer Journey: Can We Talk?

Talking about cancer is difficult for all involved, whether it is the person with cancer, their family or their health care providers. Dr. Wayne Beach will open this program with real-world examples relevant to the questions of how communication occurs among patients, family members, and providers, what concerns are raised, and how they are responded to, in the context of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Held at Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine.


February 25

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

Cases of cancer doubled globally between 1975 and 2000, and will double again by 2020, nearly tripling by 2030. In America, one in two men and one in three women will get cancer during their lifetime; one in four will die. In The Emperor Of All Maladies, Mukherjee delivers a timely message, and he presents it with such clarity and verve that audiences will feel enlightened, even uplifted, despite these grim figures.



December 4

Winning the War Against Cancer in the Genomics Era: Is It About Time? 

Breakthroughs in genomics and targeting therapies have now reached the clinic and will revolutionize the practice of oncology. However, in order to change outcomes in cancer, we can no longer use old paradigms for treating patients and designing clinical trials. In effect, genomics is a disruptive technology because it has unveiled a reality for cancer that makes standard operating procedures obsolete. Yet we continue to retrofit traditional treatments into this new reality. This can and must change if we are to transform the lives of patients with cancer. Dr. Razelle Kurzrock, known for creating the largest Phase 1 clinical trials department in the world, will lead the talk.


November 7

Neuroscience and Video Games 

Video games are increasingly in the news. Rapid advances in brain research are also enabling neuroscientists, in collaboration with game developers, to develop games that contribute to observable educational and therapeutic innovations. While potentially beneficial, it is important to ask about the ethical and social implications associated with the merging of neuroscience with game development and use.


October 2

Lessons from a One-Eyed Surgeon

Half a century ago, working out of a small hospital in Uganda, Denis Burkitt brought together investigators from all over the world in his quest to understand the "African lymphoma." Together, they unraveled a cancer mystery that no single researcher would ever have solved on his or her own. In the end, Burkitt and his team not only saved an untold number of young lives, but also taught the world how powerful true scientific collaboration can be. The success of this model raises questions for us today: Are cultural, academic, and institutional barriers slowing the process of medical science? If so, do each of us, in our own way, have an ethical imperative to remove them?


August 7

Drones and Other UAVs: Benefits and Risks

New technologies can raise challenging ethical dilemmas, and drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are no exception. These aircraft may be autonomously operated by onboard computers or directed remotely by a human operator. UAVs are used for many purposes, ranging from crop dusting farmland to military operations. Join our UAV experts as we explore the benefits, perceived concerns, real risks, and public safety.

Special thanks to AUVSI San Diego for in-kind support of this program.


June 5

Women in Science

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson's landmark book, Silent Spring. Much has changed in the past 50 years, but questions should be asked now about how far we have come and how far we have to go. To help us navigate thses important issues, we will be joined by Linda Lear, the best known biographer of Rachel Carson.


May 1

Silent Spring and San Diego Students

Students at multiple colleges and universities in the San Diego region were challenged to write essays about their reflections prompted by Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring. Winners of the community-wide competition will be announced and join us in a discussion of a variety of timely and important questions for the San Diego community.


April 3

Elephants or People?

Many ethical dilemmas faces those who seek to preserve endangered species, and especially those who wish to preserve them or reintroduce them into their natural habitats. In some cases, it is human beings who have so encroached upon these habitats that the animals being protected or reintroduced—such as elephants, wolves, and tigers—pose a potential threat to crops, livestock, and even humans themselves. In other situations, it is other species introduced into particular habitats by humans that have caused native species to become endangered. In such cases, the only means of successfully reintroducing or maintaining native species is through the complete eradication of the invading species. What are those concerned with the preservation of native species to do in such situations?