Russell Blackford – curriculum vitae
Phone: +61 2 49518035
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org OR Russell.Blackford@newcastle.edu.au
Academic background and professional qualifications
Areas of specialisation
Moral, legal, and political philosophy, including metaethics and philosophical bioethics; philosophy of religion.
Areas of competence
Metaphysics, including philosophy of mind and philosophy of personal identity; philosophy of science; metaphilosophy; cultural representations of philosophy, science, and technology.
Book chapters and articles
Opinion pieces, etc.
Academic and other journals
I am Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Evolution and Technology (JET), an online peer-reviewed journal published by the US-based Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. JET is the leading journal dealing with issues relating to emerging technologies and the human future. (JET was an “A” ranked journal under the old ERA journal rankings promulgated in Australia in October 2011.)
I was for many years on the editorial board of Science Fiction Studies, and have recently (August 2016) accepted an invitation to join the editorial board of the newly-launched Journal of Posthuman Studies.
I have acted as a peer reviewer for a wide range of journals, including:
In recent years I have been a frequent contributor to Free Inquiry, New Philosopher, and The Philosophers’ Magazine, as well as to the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Portal. I also contribute to the Cogito philosophy blog, hosted by The Conversation.
Recent and current research
One strand of my research relates closely to my doctoral dissertation in philosophy, completed at Monash University, on emerging technologies and human enhancement. The dissertation was approved in 2008, and I formally graduated in 2009. It is entitled Human Enhancement: The Challenge to Liberal Tolerance. I argue that an unnecessarily restrictive approach has been taken to the regulation of such technologies as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, human cloning, and genetic engineering.
I have since completed an extensively revised version, which was published by MIT Press in 2014, under the title Humanity Enhanced: Genetic Choice and the Challenge for Liberal Democracies.
I continue to work in philosophical bioethics and in related areas of legal and political philosophy, particularly examining issues to do with the legal regulation of biomedical technology. As a legal and political philosopher, I also carry out research relating to secularism, liberalism, and freedom of speech. See, in particular, my 2012 book from Wiley-Blackwell, Freedom of Religion and the Secular State. This examines the relationship between religion and politics, arguing for a neo-Lockean model of state power. In his back-cover endorsement, A.C. Grayling says: “This is a must-read: Blackford has given us a forceful and persuasive book that will have a big impact on the debate it addresses.”
My more general interest in philosophy of religion is reflected in 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists, co-edited with Professor Udo Schüklenk of Queen’s University (Canada). This contains new essays by high-profile atheists (philosophers, creative writers, and others). It was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2009.
More recently, Professor Schüklenk and I have co-authored 50 Great Myths About Atheism, published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2013. It examines many misconceptions, as we see them, about atheism and atheists. Though presented in a format intended to be accessible to a broad educated audience, this book includes searching critiques of religion and orthodox theology, culminating in a detailed argument for the reasonableness of atheism. 50 Great Myths About Atheism carries back-cover endorsements from Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer, and Polly Toynbee.
Much of my current research revolves around questions and anxieties relating to the future of humanity, including the promises and threats of advanced technology. With Dr Damien Broderick (a distinguished Australian author, academic, and futurist, now based in San Antonio, Texas), I have edited Intelligence Unbound: The Future of Uploaded and Machine Minds, which was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2014. This deals with a range of issues involving machine intelligence, raising questions in philosophy of mind, philosophy of personal identity, and philosophy of technology.
My newest book is The Mystery of Moral Authority (published by Palgrave Pivot in late 2015, with a 2016 copyright date). This deals with fundamental issues in moral philosophy, including metaethics. I defend a position that understands morality as a social technology, while agreeing with moral error theorists that the nature of morality is the subject of pervasive misunderstanding.
Dr Broderick and I are currently working together on another edited collection under contract to Wiley-Blackwell - in this case on the notorious problem of philosophical progress.
Public and community service
Prior to undertaking a Ph.D in philosophy at Monash University from 2004 to 2008, I had already enjoyed a distinguished career involving experience in law, management and governance, policy development, and labour relations. For this, I have an entry in Who’s Who in Australia. I had also established a profile as a professional writer, literary critic, and public intellectual.
In addition to books and formal articles, I have written many shorter pieces, including op-ed contributions in a range of forums. Among these are: Free Inquiry (for which I write a regular column; this magazine, published by the Center for Inquiry in the US, claims an international circulation of over 30,000 copies), ABC Religion and Ethics Portal, The Drum, The Guardian (Comment is Free), and Policy Forum. I am also a frequent contributor to the semi-popular philosophy periodicals New Philosopher (Australia) and The Philosophers’ Magazine (UK).
I am a frequent contributor to The Conversation as an invited member of its Cogito philosophy blog. This site plays a valuable role in facilitating contributions by academics to the sphere of public debate. My most recent pieces published on The Conversation’s website are:
I contribute to the work of the Center for Inquiry and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies – organisations with which I am formally affiliated – and I am a Fellow of the latter organisation.
I have been a speaker at many conferences and symposiums, and at major international conventions such as The Amazing Meeting (the annual scientific skeptic convention formerly hosted in Las Vegas by the James Randi Educational Foundation) in 2013 and the bi-annual World Humanist Congress in 2014 (held in Oxford on that occasion). I have made many media appearances, including my participation in a debate on the subject “Atheists Are Wrong” – broadcast on national television by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2011.
In February 2014, I was inducted into the International Academy of Humanism. The other inductees on that occasion were Carolyn Porco, A.C. Grayling, Susan Jacoby, Maryam Namazie, Philip Kitcher, Maryanne Garry, Wendy Kaminer, Leo Igwe, and Lawrence Krauss.
From 2010 to 2015 (inclusive, though I did not take an active part in the judging in 2012), I served as a member of the jury for the annual Norma K. Hemming Award, awarded for excellence in Australian speculative fiction that explores the themes of race, gender, sexuality, class, or disability.
In 2014, I also acted as the judge for the Moral Landscape Challenge, a competition established and funded by Sam Harris for the best essay challenging the argument of his 2010 book The Moral Landscape.
Locally in Newcastle, NSW, I have been active since 2010 in working with a variety of community organisations, including the Hunter Writers’ Centre (I stepped up to chair the HWC's board of directors at a difficult time for the organisation in 2012-2013) and, from 2013 to the present time, the Newcastle Writers’ Festival. In respect of the latter, I have played mainly an informal role in advising and assisting where I can, drawing on my background in law, management, and governance, and on my network of literary contacts. This has included being instrumental in bringing some authors to Newcastle. I also have an official role in governance as one of the festival's small group of formal members, to which its board is responsible.
I was born in Sydney, and grew up in the Lake Macquarie area, near Newcastle, NSW. I lived in Melbourne from February 1979 until December 2009, when I returned to Newcastle.
In addition to my interests in philosophy and philosophical bioethics, I am a professionally published author, and a well-known scholar and critic, in the field of science fiction and fantasy. (My professionally published fiction notably includes a trilogy of original novels for the Terminator franchise: collectively known as Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles.) My other interests include travel and cinema.