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Alice Dreger        

Bioethicist; Author; Historian

Alice Dreger is a writer, historian, and journalist, and most of her work centers on the epistemology of democracy. She is always working to find out what's true in the hope that it will lead people to treat each other better. She is the inaugural winner of the Courage Award from the Heterodox Academy, and has also won awards for research, writing, teaching and public service.

Dreger's bylines include the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, WIRED, Slate, the Atlantic, Pacific Standard, Aeon Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, New Statesman, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Her best known book is "Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice," which argues that the pursuit of evidence is the most important ethical imperative of our time. Funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship and published by Penguin Press, the book has been praised in reviews in The New Yorker, Nature, Science, Forbes, New York Magazine, Human Nature, and Salon.

Dreger's work is often aimed at getting past partisan politics. She I earned my Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University, and is a recipient of an Outstanding Leadership Award in Comprehensive Sexuality Education from SIECUS, Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), and the Healthy Teen Network.

Dreger frequently delivers keynotes and plenaries, and to date has given about 200 invited lectures. Her TEDx lecture, Is Anatomy Destiny, has been viewed over a million times, and she have appeared as a guest expert on media programs such as Oprah, Savage Love, Good Morning America, and NPR, and in many original documentaries, including for A&E, ABC, Discovery, PBS, and HBO.

Speech Topics


Galileo’s Middle Finger: Why Social Progress Depends on the Protection of Academic Freedom

This talk draws from the speaker’s new book, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, and explores the ways in which freedom of research is under assault from multiple fronts, including identity politics activism, the corporatization and branding of universities, and social media shaming campaigns. The speaker, who has twenty years’ experience both as an intersex patient rights activist and as an academic historian, will use case studies to talk about the dangers researchers face today. She will also speak to how researchers can work individually and collectively to try to protect themselves. She argues they must do so not for their own sake, but for the sake of social progress in our fragile democracy.

Good Causes, Bad Acts: Scrutinizing Ends and Means in Medical Activism

This talk draws from the speaker's new book, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, and focuses on cases where progressive activists have used problematic means to go after researchers whose findings they believed harmful to their identities or beliefs. It explores an important dimension sometimes ignored in today’s discussions of academic freedom.

Reasons to Add—and Reasons NOT to add—an “I” to LGBTQ in Health Care

Some well-meaning people have moved to add ‘I’ (for intersex) to LGBTQ in health care conversations and settings. This talk explores the reasons for and benefits of such a move, and also the potential harms to patients and points of troubling confusion that may arise from it. The speaker draws on her twenty years of work in the intersex patient rights movement and also from collaborations with pediatricians who treat children born with less typical forms of sex development.

Should We Try to Engineer Physical "Normality" in Children?

Doctors are often quick to offer “normalizing” interventions when a child has a body that challenges social norms. Surgeons offer their services to “fix” children born with atypical genitals and to separate children born conjoined. Endocrinologists offer growth hormone to healthy children who are short. What’s wrong with that kind of approach? This lecture answers that question and will suggest that what would work better is attention to outcomes data (to know what really “works” for these children) and attempts at changing society. The speaker draws on her background as an historian of medicine and patient advocate.

Who Should Count as a Woman on the Playing Field? The Question of Intersex and Trans in Sports

This talk begins with a review of how many sports have historically been divided by gender (man/woman), although we’ve generally pretended the division is by sex (male/female). The more that we learn about gender and sex, the more we know the drawing sex and gender divisions is not so easy. So what should happen in sports? This lecture explores this question, taking into account biology, the nature of sport (including the value of fairness), and social justice concerns. The speaker, who has consulted on this question with the International Olympic Committee’s Medical Commission, will parse out the issues and offer a few possible solutions.

News


The Big Problem With Outlawing Gender Conversion Therapies ...

Can we respect the expressions of gender-crossing children without being so “ affirming” of their declarations that we accidentally steer them to a transgender ...

'Galileo's Middle Finger,' by Alice Dreger - The New York Times

“Galileo's Middle Finger” is many things: a rant, a manifesto, a treasury of evocative new terms (sissyphobia, autogynephilia, phall-o-meter) and an account of ...

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