Medical Ethics, Science Fiction, and What it Means to be Human

Feb 20, 2021
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Michael P. MurphyLoyola University Chicago

Jeffrey BishopSaint Louis University

Presented by the Lumen Christi Institute’s Newman Forum. Open to current high school students. This event is cosponsored by the University of Saint Mary of the Lake at Mundelein Seminary, the Archdiocese of Chicago Vocation Office, and Duc in Altum schools collaborative.  


In a world of genetic engineering, what does it mean to be human? Do rapid medical advancements tempt us to ‘play God’?

What if you could implant a device that would improve your memory? Would you do it? Should you do it? Should you be allowed to take the ACT with a “memory prosthesis?”

Should insurance companies be able to analyze your genetic code and offer you different rates based on when they predict you will die? Or even deny you insurance altogether?

How can we tally up the moral and ethical implications of medical advances when they're moving so fast, they seem to come straight out of science fiction novels? 


Join us on Saturday, February 20th for a half-day, online conference, “Medical Ethics, Science Fiction, and What it Means to be Human.” Professor Jeffrey Bishop (SLU) will guide us through the philosophical and theological problems connected to technological advancement. Professor Michael Murphy (Loyola Chicago) will show us how science fiction can help us think about ethical issues from a creative perspective. 


While it may seem strange, the Catholic Church’s intellectual tradition may give us the resources we need to think about what we should do when technological advance has offered us the opportunity to “be as Gods” (Genesis 3:5).


Cost is $15 per participant. Scholarships are available. Group discount (flat rate of $100) for groups of 7+ student participants!  Group leaders are invited to be discussion group leaders, if they so choose. Duc in Altum affiliates receive an additional discount. Please contact Austin ( or Madison ( for more information on large group procedures.



9:00am -- Welcome & Prayer

9:10am -- 1st Lecture (35 minutes)

9:50am -- 1st Q&A (15 minutes)

10:05am -- short break

10:15am -- 2nd Lecture 

10:55am -- 2nd Q&A

11:10am -- Discussion Group (35/40 mins, w/time for break built in)

12:00pm -- Final Panel w/both Lecturers

12:20pm -- Closing Prayer (10 minutes)


We will introduce the prompts for our Spring Essay Contest at the conclusion of the conference!

Michael Murphy is Director of Catholic Studies and Director of Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage.  He earned his doctorate in Theology, Literature, and Philosophy from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, an MA in English from San Francisco State University, and undergraduate degrees in English and Great Books from the University of San Francisco. His research interests are in Theology and Literature, Sacramental Theology, and the socio-political cultures of Catholicism, but he also writes about issues in eco-theology and social ethics. Dr. Murphy, an Advanced Lecturer in the Theology Department, is a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow. His first book, A Theology of Criticism (Oxford), was named a "Distinguished Publication" in 2008 by the American Academy of Religion.

Jeffrey P. Bishop is the Tenet Endowed Chair in Health Care Ethics, professor of philosophy and professor of theology at Saint Louis University. He holds an MD from the University of Texas and a PhD in philosophy from the University of Dallas. Bishop's scholarly work is focused on the historical, political, and philosophical conditions that underpin contemporary medical and scientific practices and theories.  He has written on diverse topics from transhumanism and enhancement technologies to clinical ethics consultation and medical humanities. Dr. Bishop is the author of The Anticipatory Corpse: Medicine, Power, and the Care of the Dying and is currently working on a second book with colleagues M. Therese Lysaught and Andrew Michel tentatively titled, 'Chasing After Virtue: Neuroscience, Economics, and the Biopolitics of Morality'.