Challis lecture in Philosophy – The new sciences of sex and reproduction – School of Humanities Challis lecture in Philosophy – The new sciences of sex and reproduction – School of Humanities

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Challis lecture in Philosophy – The new sciences of sex and reproduction

Four researchers from the School of Humanities at the University of Sydney will be joined by the ABC’s Big Ideas over 2 nights.*



Wednesday 9 August | 5:00pm

The new sciences of sex and reproduction 

  • Paul E. Griffiths, Challis Professor of Philosophy in the School of Humanities
  • Luara Ferracioli, Associate Professor of Philosophy in the School of Humanities
Hosted by Natasha Mitchell, ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas

Society has traditionally categorised people as male and female, parent and child using simple biological criteria. The emergence of new social identities and new possibilities for medical intervention have both challenged this practice. Today we must explicitly debate and make choices about how these categories should be understood.

Philosophers Paul Griffiths and Luara Ferracioli are contributing to these debates through their research. Griffiths is examining how the relatively simple biology of reproduction gives rise to the complexities and indeterminacies of individual sex, and how new ways of changing human bodies add to that complexity. Ferracioli is examining how new reproductive technologies, including the realistic prospect of babies gestated entirely outside a human body, impact the legal and ethical assignment of parenthood.

Following two brief presentations Natasha will lead a discussion of these issues with the presenters and the live audience. 

About the speakers

Luara Ferracioli is Associate Professor in Political Philosophy at the University of Sydney and ARC DECRA fellow. She was awarded her PhD from the Australian National University in 2013, and has held appointments at the University of Oxford, Princeton University, and the University of Amsterdam. Her first book  Liberal Self-Determination in a World of Migration (Oxford University Press) was published in 2022 and her new book Parenting and the Goods of Childhood (Oxford University Press, 2023) is forthcoming.

Paul Griffiths is Challis Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney and a Domain Leader at the Charles Perkins Centre, one of the university’s main biomedical research institutes. Trained in philosophy of science, Paul specialises in assembling multi-disciplinary teams of philosophers and STEM researchers to address conceptual and theoretical questions in the life sciences.

He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Royal Society of NSW, and a recipient of the RSNSW Medal for History and Philosophy of Science. He has been awarded both a Laureate Fellowship (2018) and a Federation Fellowship (2007) by the Australian Research Council and numerous other research grants by the ARC, the US National Science Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation. His books include What Emotions Really Are (1997), Sex and Death (1999, with Kim Sterelny) and Genetics and Philosophy (2013, with Karola Stotz).

Natasha Mitchell is a multi-award-winning journalist, radio presenter, podcaster, and audio storyteller specialising in science & society. She is host of the ABC Radio National’s flagship live events program and podcast Big Ideas, was founding host and producer of the internationally renowned radio show and one of the ABC’s first podcasts, All in the Mind, which won the Grand Prize and four Gold World Medals at the New York Radio Festivals, amongst other awards.

Natasha hosted the ABC’s flagship daily social affairs program Life Matters, and was recently founding host and producer of Science Friction, awarded Best Science and Medicine podcast at the Australian Podcast Awards. Natasha served as a board member and vice president of the World Federation of Science Journalists and was recipient of the prestigious MIT Knight Fellowship. She has facilitated many public forums around Australia, including four science dialogues with the Dalai Lama and guests. She has an engineering degree with first class honours from Monash University, and a postgraduate diploma in science communication from the ANU.


About the Challis professorships

The Challis Professorships at the University of Sydney have been named in honour of John Henry Challis, whose bequest to the University allowed for the establishment of the University’s first professorships in the areas of Law, Medicine, Veterinary Science, Biology, Civil Engineering, English Literature, History and Philosophy.

* Challis Lecture in History | Thursday 10 August, 5pm

The appointment of Professors Paul Griffiths and Chris Hilliard to the positions of Challis Professors in Philosophy and History has provided the opportunity for these two events. This lecture, together with the Challis Lecture in History (to be delivered by Professor Chris Hilliard) is part of the ABC’s ‘Big Ideas‘ series and is hosted by the School of Humanities at the University of Sydney. 

To be held on Campus at the Chau Chak Wing Museum which will be open from 10am-5pm on the day of the event.
All welcome.
Please click here for CCW map.


More information 

Please join us after the Lecture for light refreshments



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Aug 09 2023


5:00 pm
Chau Chak Wing Museum


Chau Chak Wing Museum
Nelson Meers Auditorium


Click here to register

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