Saturday, April 30, 2016

Powerpoint on Animal Experimentation

I was recently asked to make an audio-narrated PowerPoint that reviews this article of mine, to be used in a UCSD course on non-animal-based medical research:
Nobis, Nathan. "The harmful, nontherapeutic use of animals in research is morally wrong." The American journal of the medical sciences 342.4 (2011): 297-304.
This PowerPoint with audio narration is available in a readily accessible online format here. The file can also be downloaded here and here.

Biomedical Research using Non Animal Models

For scientific, ethical and economic reasons, cell-based, computational and other non-animal study methods are being increasingly developed and implemented by biomedical researchers. Additionally, federal regulations and guidelines state that researchers proposing animal-based methods in research must demonstrate that they have considered the methods that can avoid or minimize animal use. In some cases in the U.S. and abroad, the use of alternatives to animals in experiments is required. Yet, there is currently little training on the availability and efficacy of these critical research tools and reports show that researchers and administrators are often not familiar with these techniques. This course will prepare the students for entering biomedical research fields and bridge an important gap in the current training. This course is intended for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in biomedical sciences programs, university and industry faculty and staff researchers, bioethicists, grant reviewers, and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee coordinators and members. No prerequisite is needed. Course Goal and Objectives The development and utilization of non-animal methods (often called “alternatives”) in biomedical research, testing and education is a burgeoning field. The course will introduce students to the range of non-animal research methods available, their efficacy, how to identify and implement them and policies affecting their use.
Course Number: BIOL-40313   Credit: 3 units in Biology

Nathan Nobis
Ethics & Animal Research questions

Weekly assessments
Following each week’s lecture(s), student will complete quizzes to assess their comprehension of the content covered.  Quizzes will include six questions, four multiple choice and two short answer.

Sample Questions
Multiple choice

Q1. Some people argue that animal research is justified by its benefits: the benefits outweigh the harms. What are some potential challenges with this argument?
A.      There’s no obvious way to quantify the benefits and harms.
B.      No all research is beneficial to all humans.
C.      The argument just assumes, without argument, that it’s not wrong to harm animals for human benefit.
D.      All the above.

Q2. Some people argue that animal research “necessary”, and so is not wrong. What are some potential challenges with this argument?
A.      Whether an action is necessary or not depends on what you are trying to achieve.
B.      Just because an action is necessary to achieve some goal, doesn’t mean that action is morlly permissible.
C.      At least some, perhaps much, animal research is not necessary to positively impact human health problems: there are other ways to do that.
D.      All the above.

Q3.   Some people argue that there are “no alternatives” to animal research and so is not wrong. What are some alternatives to animal research?
A.      Not doing animal research.
B.      Clinical research and public health research.
C.      Research involving cells and tissues.
D.      All the above.

Q4. Some argue that animal research is not wrong because animals are not rational or not moral agents, that is, make moral decisions. What is the least controversial objection to this argument?
A.      Animals are rational, and they do make moral decisions.
B.      Rational beings make the moral rules and they can do what they want to non-rational beings.
C.      Babies and senile people are not rational or are moral agents, but harmful experimentation on them would be wrong, so just because something or someone isn’t rational or a moral agent doesn’t make harming them morally permissible.
D.      Human beings are not wrong to harm because they are rational or moral agents.

Short answer
Q1. Why might animal research be wrong even if animals don’t have “moral rights” or are “equal” to humans or as “important” as humans? That is, why are those concerns distractions to the basic moral questions about animal research?

Q2.  What are some reasons why harmful, non-therapeutic experimentation on you might be morally wrong? Why might some of these reasons apply to animals?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

One of my favorite books for teaching ..

By Peg Tittle
Published by Pearson Higher Education
Published Date: May 5, 2004


What If. . . Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy is a brief, inexpensive collection of over 100 classic and contemporary “thought experiments”, each with an accompanying commentary, that explore philosophical arguments and often address a genuine problem in life. The value of the book is in its simplicity in both format and tone: Each thought experiment is accompanied by commentary that explains importance of the experiment, and questions to provoke thought and discussion, all encapsulated within two pages. The book is direct, clear and conversational but does not dilute difficult ideas.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Honoring and Celebrating Tom and Nancy Regan

In 2016, the board of the Culture & Animals Foundation (CAF) invited activists, thinkers, and artists who’d been influenced by the work of the animal rights philosopher Tom Regan, and his wife and partner Nancy, to reflect on their legacy and that of the Culture & Animals Foundation. This video features Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, the late philosopher R. G. Frey, philosopher Gary Comstock, author Kim Stallwood, and philosopher Nathan Nobis.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Monday, March 07, 2016

1000 Words on Ethics and Abortion

The Ethics of Abortion

Author: Nathan Nobis
Category: Ethics
Word Count: 1000
Abortion involves the intentional killing of a fetus to end a pregnancy. These fetuses are human, biologically.1 It seems that fetuses are beings, albeit completely dependent beings: what else would they be? So, abortion involves the intentional killing of a human being. Killing human beings is often deeply wrong, so is abortion wrong? If so, when? And why? In this essay, we’ll look at some potential answers to these questions.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

800 Words on Ethics and Abortion

800 words on abortion, for The Philosophers' Magazine, Issue 72 on "50 New Thoughts in Philosophy":


Nathan Nobis is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA USA, and author of many articles on topics in bioethics, including abortion.

Abortion involves killing a fetus to end a pregnancy. These fetuses are human, biologically, and are beings. So, abortion involves the killing of a human being, which is usually wrong. So is abortion wrong?  

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Forthcoming Book


Contains my paper, "Tom Regan on 'Kind Arguments' Against Animal Rights and For Human Rights."Lexington Books
Pages: 320 • Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-3190-0 • Hardback • March 2016 • $100.00 • (£70.00)
978-1-4985-3191-7 • eBook • March 2016 • $99.99 • (£70.00) (coming soon)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review of a book on Race and Pharmaceutical Development 

The American Journal of Bioethics

Volume 15Issue 10, 2015

Review of Jonathan Kahn, Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in the Post-Genomic Age1

Book Review

Review of Jonathan Kahn, Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in the Post-Genomic Age1

Full text HTML
Full access
Nathan Nobisa*
pages W4-W5

Monday, July 20, 2015

Philosophy Comes to Dinner: Arguments About the Ethics of Eating

Now available for pre-order on Amazon: 

Philosophy Comes to Dinner: Arguments About the Ethics of Eating Paperback – December 2, 2015

ISBN-13: 978-0415806831  ISBN-10: 0415806836 

My and Dan Hooley's paper "An Argument for Veganism" is in this book. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Help Wanted

Intro Philosophy Books and Race

Nathan Nobis (Morehouse) writes in with a request:
I am seeking help with a small research project regarding race and philosophy. This project would be to (a) make a list of introductory philosophy and ethics textbooks and anthologies and (b) review those books to see what content they have regarding race. This is to find out what readings various anthologies contain that address issues about race. If you would be interested in helping with this project, please email me at

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Animals & Ethics 101

A book in process, based primarily on the "lectures" I developed for an online animals and ethics course. This will be an open access text, freely available electronically. Here's a draft of the back cover text:
Ethics & Animals 101 helps readers identify and evaluate the arguments for and against various uses of animals, such as:
Is it morally wrong to experiment on animals? Why or why not? 
Is it morally permissible to eat meat? Why or why not? 
Are we morally obligated to provide pets with veterinary care (and, if so, how much?)? Why or why not?
And other challenging issues and questions. 
Developed as a companion volume to an online Animals & Ethics course,  it is ideal for classroom use, discussion groups or self study.  The book presupposes no conclusions on these controversial moral questions about the treatment of animals, and argues for none either. Its goal is help the reader better engage the issues and arguments on all sides with greater clarity, understanding and argumentative rigor. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

More Experimental Bioethics

"Expectations for methodology and translation of animal research: a survey of health care workers,"

Ari R Joffe, Meredith Bara, Natalie Anton and Nathan Nobis, BMC Medical Ethics 2015, 16:29

"Health care workers (HCW) often perform, promote, and advocate use of public funds for animal research (AR); therefore, an awareness of the empirical costs and benefits of animal research is an important issue for HCW. We aim to determine what health-care-workers consider should be acceptable standards of AR methodology and translation rate to humans. . . . HCW have high expectations for the methodological quality of, and the translation rate to humans of findings from AR. These expectations are higher than the empirical data show having been achieved. Unless these areas of AR significantly improve, HCW support of AR may be tenuous."