Professor Snead Joins Thought Leaders at World Meeting

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carter snead faculty The Dalai Lama. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Notre Dame Law Professor Carter Snead. They all have this in common: Each has been invited to speak at The Rimini Meeting over the years. The Rimini Meeting is one of the largest, most highly regarded cultural events in the world.

At the 2008 meeting, held in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, Professor Snead joined Duke University Professor of Theological Ethics Stanley Hauerwas (named “America’s Best Theologian” by Time Magazine in 2001) in a panel discussion on science, medicine, ethics, and the law on August 24. The meeting included a week-long series of events, including panel discussions, art exhibits, musical performances, and more. Over 700,000 people attended.

In addition to the Dalai Lama and Justice Samuel Alito, speakers at previous meetings have included Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, and Notre Dame Law Professor Paolo Carozza.

Snead’s presentation, entitled “Law, Science, and the Incommensurability of Persons and Particles” critically examined the claim “… that modern science itself should be the only resource to which we appeal in governing ourselves on bioethical questions of public import." After discussing some of the core features of modern scientific reasoning, Snead argued that the concepts and principles at the heart of modern science are fundamentally incompatible with the humanistic premises on which deliberations about law and public policy on bioethical questions depend. He concluded that “the active concepts in this deliberation are unintelligible in scientific terms, and ¬ the liberal principles of equality, freedom, justice, and dignity are clearly not part of the scientific framework. For that matter the concept of ‘person’ itself is not understandable as a scientific category. Thus, the responsible conclusion would be that science can only offer insight into background factual predicates, but cannot resolve the normative question at the heart of the matter.”

Snead’s scholarship explores the possibility, mechanisms, and wisdom of the governance of science, medicine, and biotechnology according to ethical principles.

In 2002 Snead accepted the position of general counsel for the President’s Council on Bioethics. In that capacity, he advised the chairman and council members on the legal and public policy dimensions of numerous ethical questions arising from advances in biomedical science and biotechnology. He was the principal drafter of the council’s 2004 report, “Reproduction and Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies,” a comprehensive critical assessment of the governance (both public and private) of the activities at the intersection of assisted reproduction, human embryo research, and genetics. Snead continues to serve the council as an expert consultant.

In 2007, Snead was appointed (along with Dr. Edmund Pellegrino, Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics) to be the Permanent Observer for the U.S. Government at the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee on Bioethics (CDBI). In that capacity, he assists the CDBI in its efforts to elaborate international instruments and standards for the ethical governance of science and medicine.
In 2008, the director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) appointed Snead to a four-year term as one of 36 independent experts on UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee (IBC). The committee is the only forum in the United Nations system devoted to reflection on bioethics and public policy.

Contact: Professor O. Carter Snead, 574-631-8259,

For more information about Professor Snead, visit his faculty profile page.