Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor of Philosophy

North Carolina State University     


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Gary Lynn Comstock, Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University, conducts research on ethical questions in the biological sciences. He is especially interested in animal minds and the moral relevance of what's known and not known about the brains  and behaviors of nonhuman animals. His research and teaching have each won awards.  The essay, "The Shrimp Hypothesis," was selected as Best Paper of the 2022 Interspecies Comparisons of Welfare conference at the London School of Economics. The New York Times article, "You Should Not Have Let Your Baby Die," received Honorable Mention in the PEA Soup 2017 Ethics Prize competition.  In 2015, he was chosen as an NC State Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher of the Year.  An active collaborator, Comstock coauthored with Peter Singer and Adam Lerner, "Why the Court Should Free Happy" (2022), coauthored Chimpanzee Rights: The Philosophers' Brief (Routledge, 2019) with eleven colleagues, and coedited The Moral Rights of Animals (Lexington, 2017). He wrote Research Ethics: A Philosophical Guide to the Responsible Conduct of Research (Cambridge, 2013) and Vexing Nature? On the Ethical Case Against Agricultural Biotechnology (Kluwer, 2000).  

For two years (2007-09), Comstock was ASC Fellow of the National Humanities Center. He continued there for three years (2009-2012) as Editor-in-chief of On the Human, one of the Center's online projects. Comstock directed the OpenSeminar in Research Ethics, and is editor of two more books, Life Science Ethics (2002; 2nd ed., 2010) and Is There a Moral Obligation to Save the Family Farm? (1987). He served on the committee that coauthored On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition (2009).

Prior to his current position, Comstock directed the NC State research and professional ethics program, and was assistant, associate, and professor of religious studies at Iowa State University. There he produced two editions of a textbook, Religious Autobiographies (1994; 2nd ed., 2003), won his College's Award for Excellence in Outreach, and contributed to establishing the Bioethics Institute, a faculty development workshop that helped some five hundred scientists to integrate discussions of ethics into their courses. He is past president of the Society for Agriculture and Human Values and a popular speaker who has lectured across Europe and in Russia, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and Belize. His work has been translated into Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, German, and Bulgarian.

Comstock served as principal investigator, co-PI or consultant on some thirty grants totaling more than a million dollars, including major awards from the European Commission, the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, and the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council.  He earned graduate degrees from the University of Chicago after completing undergraduate work at Wheaton College where he met his wife, Karen Werner Comstock, the quilt designer. They have four children.

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Photo courtesy of Jon Rucker