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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

An Ethics for the Coming Storm: A Theological Reflection on Climate Change

boisi center for religion and american public life

Coming Storm

Laurie Zoloth
Northwestern University

Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Time: 6:00-7:30 pm
Location: Fulton Hall, Room 511  

Abstract: Prophecy has two duties: it must imagine the future and it must offer a choice, the warning contingent on human moral agency. In this world, and at this time, the duty of prophecy is not theoretical, for humanity faces a stark reality, one that is already beginning to unfold. Climate change threatens the world of stability that undergirds all institutions, all texts, and all practices. While a drastically changed climate is a new challenge in science and policy, the drama of drought and refugees is not a new problem in religious texts or traditions. The biblical account of creation sends humans into a chancy world; the famines that drive the biblical narrative send populations sweeping across the Middle East, in a land promised, but fragile. As our world begins to shift under the burden of a dramatically warming climate, it is the duty of prophecy – to imagine and to warn – that animates both science and theology. 


Laurie Zoloth is the Charles McCormick Deering Professor of Teaching Excellence. She has been the president of both the American Academy of Religion and the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. Her research is in the areas of bioethics; religion and science; feminist ethics; post-modern Jewish philosophy and Jewish ethics, especially the work of Emmanuel Levinas, Hannah Arendt and justice theory. She was the founding director of the Brady Program in Ethics and Civic Life at Weinberg College, a program which explored the connection between academic philosophy and the duties of citizenship. She was the founding director of the Center for Bioethics, Science, and Society at Feinberg School of Medicine, which addressed issues in emerging bioscience. She is a member of the faculties in Reproductive Medicine, Jewish Studies and Systems and Synthentic Biology. In 2014 she was elected a Life Member at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge. She is the President of the Northwestern Faculty Senate.

From 1995 to 2003 she was professor of ethics and director of the Jewish Studies Program at San Francisco State University. In her capacity as a scholar of religious studies, she was founding member of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning and of the Society for Jewish Ethics, serving on the founding board and as vice president in 2002.  In her capacity as a clinical bioethicist, she help to create the National Kaiser Permanente Bioethics committees and work for a decade at the East Bay Children’s Hospital. She has been a member of the NASA National Advisory Council, the nation's highest civilian advisory board for NASA, for which she received the NASA Public Service Medal, the NASA Planetary Protection Advisory Committee. She was the founding chair of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Bioethics Advisory Board and served in that capacity for seven years. She was on the Executive Committee of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, as well as being on its founding board.  She has served on numerous NIH committees, including the International DSMB for AIDs research, study, and review committees and a DSMB for Minority Research. Zoloth has testified for NAS committees on stem cell research, mitochondrial research, and synthetic biology. She has been an elected Fellow of the Hastings Center since 2002. She currently serves on the National Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC), on the NASA Flight IACUC, and on the Harvard ESCRO for Stem Cell Research.




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