Academic Symposium

April 11-13, 2019

Naples, FL

This inaugural symposium of the Culture of Life Institute brings together a small group of scholars to examine the future and purpose of ethical reflection and theory in light of the new technological power to reconfigure the limits and possibilities of human action, including, according to some, the power to take control of evolution and remake human nature. If technology allows humans to control human nature, what remains of the validity of ethical systems which assume a fixed or constant human nature and narrowly circumscribed vision of human possibility and action?

The Culture of Life Institute is committed to the existence and knowability of natural law and the relevance of natural law to issues in bioethics, life issues, marriage and family, public policy, and law. Since we hold that natural law is knowable by unaided natural reason, we welcome rigorous argument and the full range of human intelligence, including various disciplines of study and distinct schools of thought.


Papers from the conference will be published as the inaugural issue of the Institute’s journal, The Personalist


Jennifer Kimball Watson, Be.L

Director, Culture of Life Foundation 


Symposium Director:

R. J. Snell, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow in Natural Law and Ethics, Culture of Life Institute


Keynote Speaker:


Dr. William Hurlbut
The Challenge and Opportunity of Gene Editing: Scientific, Ethical and Regulatory Considerations


William B. Hurlbut, MD, is Adjunct Professor and Senior Research Scholar in Neurobiology at the Stanford Medical School. After receiving his undergraduate and medical training at Stanford University, he completed postdoctoral studies in theology and medical ethics, studying with Robert Hamerton-Kelly, the Dean of the Chapel at Stanford, and subsequently with the Rev. Louis Bouyer of the Institut Catholique de Paris.

His primary areas of interest involve the ethical issues associated with advancing biomedical technology, the biological basis of moral awareness, and studies in the integration of theology with the philosophy of biology. He is the author of numerous publications on science and ethics including the co-edited volume Altruism and Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, and Religion in Dialogue (2002, Oxford University Press), and “Science, Religion and the Human Spirit” in the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science (2008). He was also co-chair of two interdisciplinary faculty projects at Stanford University, “Becoming Human: The Evolutionary Origins of Spiritual, Religious, and Moral Awareness” and “Brain, Mind, and Emergence.”

In addition to teaching at Stanford, he has also worked with NASA on projects in astrobiology and was a member of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Working group at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. From 2002-2009 Dr. Hurlbut served on the President’s Council on Bioethics. He is the author of “Altered Nuclear Transfer” (2005, Stem Cell Reviews) a proposed technological solution to the moral controversy over embryonic stem cell research.  

Dr. Hurlbut serves as a Steering Committee Member of the Templeton Religion Trust.


Symposium Participants:


Pilar Calva, M.D.

Harrison Kleiner, Ph.D.

Lawrence Masek, Ph.D.

Charles T. Rubin, Ph.D

Amy Richards, Ph.D.

Mark Shiffman, Ph.D.

Christopher Tollefsen, Ph.D.

Peter Wicks, Ph.D.