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Zombie ethics forum is dead serious fun

By Leslie King | Emory Report | Oct. 5, 2012

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On Halloween, the Center for Ethics will host "Zombies and Zombethics" to explore topics like neuroethics, Tibetan death meditation, a panel discussion on "The Walking Dead" series and more. Photo courtesy of the CDC.

Zombies and Halloween go together. But zombies, Halloween and ethics?

The Center for Ethics symposium, "Zombies and Zombethics!," explores the intersection of zombies and ethics on Halloween, Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Ethics Center Room 102.

"Prominent scientists and scholars will use the example of zombies as a lighthearted vehicle to ask serious ethical questions — the nature of free will, the ethics of quarantine, the nature of death and resurrection, public preparedness," says Paul Root Wolpe, Center of Ethics director. "Zombies have become a fun and educational vehicle for exploring serious issues."

"Why zombies? Because they are mindless, so it seems OK to dispose of them," explains Wolpe. "Vampires and werewolves are thinking (if altered) human beings; witches and warlocks aren't fictional; and ghosts aren't human."

Subtitled "Walking with the Dead: An Ethics Symposium for the Living Halloween 2012," the event will tackle topics like neuroethics, Tibetan death meditation, a panel discussion on "The Walking Dead" series and more.

Some of the questions to be considered are:

  • Why bother being "good" when the end is near?

  • When is a human being no longer a person?  

  • Does it all come down to the brain?

  • What is free will?

  • How should health care resources be allocated when pandemics hit?

  • What does end-of-life care look like for those for whom biological death is not the end?

From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. there will be lunch and a zombie walk.

Speakers include Steve Schlozman, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "Zombies have become the model for all kinds of medical conversations," Wolpe says. "(Schlozman) teaches a course using zombies as a model for brain dysfunction."

An afternoon session, "The Zombie Apocalypse as a Platform for Public Preparedness: Entertaining and Effective?" features Rollins School of Public Health Dean James Curran; Martin Cetron, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of Global Migration and Quarantine; Alexander Isakov, executive director of Emory's Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response; and Center for Ethics Associate Director Kathy Kinlaw. Other Emory faculty members speaking at the symposium include John Dunne from religion, Darryl Neal from psychology, Bob McCauley from philosophy, and other Center for Ethics faculty. Speakers include Eddy Nahmias, associate professor of philosophy at Georgia State University; W. Scott Poole, associate professor of history at the College of Charleston; and John W. Morehead, director of the Western Institute for Intercultural Studies.

Seating is limited and preregistration is required. Registration closes when all seats are filled or by Oct. 19.