Personhood Beyond the Human – Yale University, December 6-8 2013

A conference on “Personhood Beyond the Human” will be held at Yale University, December 6-8, 2013. The event will focus on personhood for nonhuman animals, including great apes, cetaceans, and elephants, and will explore the evolving notions of personhood by analyzing them through the frameworks of neuroscience, behavioral science, philosophy, ethics, and law.

The conference will be co-sponsored by the Nonhuman Rights Project and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies in collaboration with the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.

Special consideration will be given to discussions of nonhuman animal personhood, both in terms of understanding the history, science, and philosophy behind personhood, and ways to protect animal interests through the establishment of legal precedents and by increasing public awareness.

By the close of the conference, attendees will have gained an enhanced understanding of the neurological, cognitive, and behavioral underpinnings of personhood and those traits required for such consideration; personhood theory; the history of personhood consideration and status (both in terms of philosophical and legal conceptions); and the legal hurdles and requirements for granting personhood status outside of the human species.

The Nonhuman Rights Project will be presenting our research from the past five years including research on the varying legal causes of action that the Nonhuman Rights Project will use to argue legal personhood for specific nonhuman animals.

Keynote Speaker, Peter Singer has challenged traditional notions of applied ethics for over thirty years. He is world famous for giving the impetus to the animal rights movement. Today he holds the chair of ethics at Princeton University. Singer has also held twice the chair of philosophy in his native land at Monash University where he also founded the Centre for Human Bioethics.

Peter Singer is a rationalist philosopher in the Anglo-American tradition of utilitarianism. He teaches “practical ethics”, which he defines as the application of a morality to practical problems based on philosophical thinking rather than on religious beliefs. In 2009 Singer would make it to the Time magazine list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World”.

Keynote Speaker, Steven M. Wise is President of the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, Inc. and director of its Nonhuman Rights Project.

He holds a J.D. from Boston University Law School and a B.S. in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary. He has practiced animal protection law for 30 years throughout the United States and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.

Steve teaches “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Vermont, Lewis and Clark, University of Miami, and St. Thomas Law Schools, and has taught “Animal Rights Law” at the Harvard Law School and John Marshall Law School.

He is the author of four books: Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for Animals (2000), Drawing the Line – Science and the Case for Animal Rights (2003), Though the Heavens May Fall – The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery (2005), and An American Trilogy – Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River (2009), and working on a fifth, which will be a memoir about the Nonhuman Rights Project.

He has authored numerous law review, encyclopedia, and popular articles. His work for the legal rights of nonhuman animals was highlighted on Dateline NBC and was the subject of the documentary, A Legal Person.

He regularly travels the world lecturing on animal rights jurisprudence and the Nonhuman Rights Project, and is a frequent guest on television and radio discussing animal rights law and the Nonhuman Rights Project.

George Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads the Rights of Non-Human Persons program. As Canada’s leading agenda-driven futurist/activist and an award-winning blogger, he writes and speaks widely about the impacts of cutting-edge science and technology.

George is the Director of Operations for Commune Media, an advertising and marketing firm that specializes in marketing science. He is the co-founder and president of the Toronto Transhumanist Association and served on the Board of Directors for the Humanity Plus from 2004-06. George was the organizing chair for TransVision 2004, an international conference addressing the scientific, political and social issues surrounding human biotechnology.

George has been interviewed by such publications as The Guardian, the BBC, Radio Free Europe, and Beliefnet. He made an appearance on the CBC’s The Hour and has been profiled in NOW and This Magazine. He has also written for such publications as The Humanist, Canadian Freethinker, Cryonics Magazine and various Thomson & Gale university texts. He is also an accomplished music performer, composer and recording engineer.


Linda MacDonald Glenn is a bioethicist, healthcare educator, lecturer, consultant and attorney. Her extensive experience and passion for the issues facing the legal, nursing, and healthcare professions make her a compelling and thought-provoking lecturer.

Formerly a fellow with the Institute of Ethics of the American Medical Association, and current Women’s Bioethics Project Scholar, Linda Macdonald Glenn’s research encompasses the legal, ethical, and social impact of emerging technologies and evolving notions of personhood.

Linda currently holds faculty appointments at the University Of Vermont College Of Nursing and Health Sciences, Department of Medical Laboratory and Radiation Sciences, and the University of Sciences in Philadelphia, Department of Biomedical Writing. An active lecturer, Linda has spoken at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Loyola University at Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School and various law schools. She has also addressed numerous public and professional groups internationally.

Prior to returning to an academic setting, Linda MacDonald Glenn consulted and practiced as a trial attorney with an emphasis in patient advocacy, bioethical and biotechnology issues, end of life decision-making, reproductive rights, genetics, neuroethics, parental/biological issues (aka nature vs. nurture), and animal rights. She was the lead attorney in several precedent-setting bioethics legal cases.

Linda has advised governmental leaders and agencies, and published numerous articles in professional journals. Her most recent articles include “To Sail Beyond the Sunset: Navigating the Uncharted Territory of Converging Technologies” in the Fall 2005 ASBH exchange and “Keeping An Open Mind: What Legal Safeguards are needed?” in the recent American Journal of Bioethics on Neuroethics (March/April 2005).

In addition to her current educational, lecture and consultation work, Linda is writing several articles regarding evolving notions of personhood and maintains an ongoing blog ( as a Women’s Bioethics Project Scholar.


Lori Gruen has been involved in animal issues as a writer, teacher, and activist for over 25 years. Her relationships with scholars thinking about animals, activists working to protect animals, and, perhaps most importantly, with many different animals, uniquely inform her perspective on how we need to rethink our engagement with other animals.

Gruen is trained as a philosopher and works broadly on topics in practical ethics and political philosophy.  She has taught at the University of Colorado, the University of British Columbia, Lafayette College, the University of North Carolina, Stanford University, New York University, and Wesleyan University. She has published and lectured widely on topics in animal ethics, including the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on the Moral Status of Non-Human Animals and the illustrated book Animal Liberation: A Graphic Guide (with Peter Singer and artist David Hines). She is currently working on a book exploring human relations to captive chimpanzees which draws lessons from the lives of some of the chimpanzees she has come to know, respect, and love.


Patrick Hopkins an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET, is a philosopher and ethicist who combines a life-long love of science fiction with academic scholarship on very real-world issues of science and technology. After receiving a B.A. in experimental psychology from the University of Mississippi, he worked as a research assistant at the Yerkes Primate Research Center in Atlanta and later in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee in Memphis.

While still enamored of science, Hopkins decided he was better suited for studying the cultural, moral, and theological dimensions of science and technology rather than actually doing scientific research. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis and had a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Applied Ethics at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He now teaches at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

Professor Hopkins has published a number of articles on biomedical ethics, science and technology studies, gender studies, and religious studies. He has edited a book on gender and technology, Sex/Machine: Readings in Culture, Gender, and Technology, and is currently working on a companion volume focusing on race, ethnicity, and technology as well as a book on the relationship between technology and nature.

James Hughes Ph.D., the Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, is a bioethicist and sociologist at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut where he teaches health policy and serves as Director of Institutional Research and Planning. He holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago, where he also taught bioethics at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. Dr. Hughes is author of Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future , and is working on a second book tentatively titled Cyborg Buddha. Since 1999 he has produced a syndicated weekly radio program, Changesurfer Radio.

He is a Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of Humanity+, the Neuroethics Society, the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities and the Working Group on Ethics and Technology at Yale University.

Dr. Hughes speaks on medical ethics, health care policy and future studies worldwide.


Kevin LaGrandeur is Associate Professor of English at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), and Director of Technical Writing Programs.  He began exploring the intersections between digital technology, culture, philosophy, and English studies in the early 1990’s and was an early adopter of digital technology in the English classroom.  Dr. LaGrandeur has written many articles and conference presentations on digital culture; Artificial Intelligence and ethics; and literature and science.  His publications have appeared in journals such as Computers & Texts, Computers and the Humanities, and Science Fiction Studies; in books such as Eloquent Images: Word and Image in the Age of New Media; and in popular publications such as United Press International (UPI), where he recently published an Op-Ed piece on future protocols for developing Artificial Intelligence, called “The Mars Landing and Artificial Intelligence.”  His recent book on the premodern cultural history of AI is titled Androids and Intelligent Networks in Early Modern Literature and Culture (Routledge, 2012).  His more recent conference presentations have been on transhumanism and the posthuman.

Dr. LaGrandeur has been awarded a variety of grants based on his work, including a Summer NEH grant to participate in a research seminar on computers and English Studies(1995), a fellowship from Hofstra University’s Center for Teaching Excellence to develop a training course for faculty on computer-assisted instruction (1997), a software grant from the Daedalus Corporation to help develop computer-interactive writing courses at Hofstra University (1993-96), an NYIT/New York State DAV Grant (2001) to develop online course materials for Disabled Veterans, and an NYIT Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology Grant (2001-2002) to develop Web Design/Web Communication curriculum; he was also a participant in the NYIT/NY State Virtual Learning Space Grant (fall 2002) to help develop online training site for NY State teachers, and has been awarded several grants to work on the book mentioned above.  He has been on the educational technology committees of two universities, spent two years as the chair of one of them, and was also on the educational technology grant review committee for NYIT.


Natalie Prosin has served as Executive Director of the Nonhuman Rights Project since 2011 after having been actively involved as a volunteer since 2008. She graduated summa cum laude from Northeastern University in 2005 with a B.A. in Political Science and Human Services. She holds a Masters in Public Policy from Brown University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School.

While in law school, Natalie was appointed Lecturer in Law at Boston College, and co-taught Environmental Law and Policy to undergraduate students at Boston College.

She was also founder and President of the Boston College Law School chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund where she successfully spearheaded a campaign in which the entire school switched to using cage-free eggs in their six cafeterias and catering services.

She has worked for the Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C. and Meyer Glitzenstein and Crystal.


Monica Miller is the Legal Working Group Leader of the Nonhuman Rights Project.  At the NhRP, Monica has conducted extensive research and has written legal memoranda and preliminary law review articles on topics including common law equality, common law habeas corpus, manumission, pet trusts, and legal guardianship.  She has worked with the NhRP since 2010.

Monica graduated from Pitzer College in 2008 and from Columbia University in 2009 with a Masters in Public Administration for Environmental Science and Policy. She graduated cum laude from Vermont Law School in 2012.

In college, Monica founded the Pitzer Animal Welfare Society, and in law school she served as co-chair of the Animal Law Society. She also created the “Veg Pledge” program at Vermont Law School, which encourages student groups to go vegetarian throughout the school year. Monica also formed the Secular Law Students Association, which brought speakers such as Michael Newdow to the school. Monica was a Dean’s Fellow at Vermont Law School where she taught first-year legal writing. She was a semi-finalist in the 2012 Animal Law Moot Court Competition.

In pursuit of her concern for civil rights and constitutional law, Monica is also a legal consultant at the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center assisting in First Amendment rights and constitutional equality litigation.

Monica is a member of the California Bar and is a pending member of the DC Bar.


Mark Walker is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at New Mexico State University, where he occupies the Richard L. Hedden Endowed Chair. He serves on the Board of Directors of the IEET, on the editorial board of the Journal of Evolution and Technology, and served on the Board of Directors of Humanity Plus from 2002 to 2006. He founded Permanent End International (2004-2007), a nonprofit organization that promoted poverty reduction through aquaculture. Dr. Walker’s teaching and research interests include ethics, epistemology, philosophy of religion and philosophy of science. His current primary research interest is in ethical issues arising out of emerging technologies, e.g., genetic engineering, advanced pharmacology, artificial intelligence research and nanotechnology.


Wendell Wallach is a consultant, ethicist, and scholar at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. He chairs the Center’s working research group on Technology and Ethics and is a member of other research groups on Animal Ethics, End of Life Issues, Neuroethics, and PTSD. Wendell co-authored (with Colin Allen) Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong (Oxford University Press 2009), which maps the new field of enquiry variously called machine ethics, machine morality, computational morality, or friendly AI.

Formerly, he was a founder and the President of two computer consulting companies, Farpoint Solutions and Omnia Consulting Inc. Among the clients served by his companies were PepsiCo International, United Aircraft, and the State of Connecticut.

Wendell also serves on the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT and is an associate editor for the journal TopiCS in Cognitive Science. His hobby/avocation is building stained glass windows. He is presently writing a book on the societal, ethical, and public policy challenges arising from technologies that enhance human faculties by altering the mind/body. Another book in progress explores the ways in which cognitive science, new technologies, and introspective practices are altering our understanding of human decision-making and ethics.


Elizabeth Stein is an animal welfare attorney with an office in New Hyde Park, New York. Her practice focuses primarily on representing and assisting individuals, rescue groups, and not-for-profit corporations with animal-related legal issues. She served as the Co-Chair of the Nassau Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee and sits on the New York City Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee. Liz lectures and writes extensively on various aspects of animal law and has appeared on radio and television shows to discuss such issues.

Recognizing the need to change the status of animals from property to legal persons, Liz began volunteering for the Nonhuman Rights Project in 2009. Since that time, she has worked extensively on researching and analyzing many of the legal issues that will be addressed in the first lawsuit brought by the NhRP.

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