Erik Parens

Hastings Center News

Parens Elected Hastings Center Fellow

Erik Parens, a senior research scholar at The Hastings Center, was elected a Hastings Center fellow on December 8, 2023.

Hastings Center Fellows are a group of more than 200 individuals of outstanding accomplishment whose work has informed scholarship and public understanding of complex ethical issues in health, health care, science, and technology.

Since he joined Hastings in 1992, Parens has led a wide range of collaborative and interdisciplinary projects, including ones that have explored the ethical questions that arise with the use of technologies such as surgery, psychopharmacology, and gene editing to shape ourselves. Also among those projects have been ones that have explored how sciences, such as genetics and neuroscience, shape how we understand what it means to be a self. One of his recently completed projects (funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation) brought researchers, who use genomics to study social outcomes as complex as educational attainment, into dialogue with some of their fiercest critics; among that project’s products was a working group consensus report called “Wrestling with Social and Behavioral Genomics.” Another of his recently completed projects (funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities), created a series of events aimed at broadcasting the basic but profound idea that, with supportive environments, people can flourish in all sorts of bodyminds: The Art of Flourishing: Conversations on Disability. He is director of The Hastings Center’s Humanities Research Initiative.

Parens is the author of Shaping Our Selves: On Technology, Flourishing, and a Habit of Thinking, (Oxford University Press, 2015) and is editor or lead co-editor of five other books: Human Flourishing in an Age of Gene Editing (Oxford University Press, 2019),  Surgically Shaping Children: Technology, Ethics and the Pursuit of Normality, Johns Hopkins (University Press, 2006), Wrestling with Behavioral Genetics: Science, Ethics and Public Conversation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights (Georgetown University Press, 2000), and Enhancing Human Traits: Ethical and Social Implications (Georgetown University Press, 1998).

He has served as a consultant to several government and nongovernmental bodies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, and the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. 

Parens received his PhD from the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought and his BA from Chicago’s Committee on General Studies in the Humanities. 

Learn more about Erik Parens.