Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor of Philosophy

North Carolina State University     


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Gary Lynn Comstock was appointed as Professor of Philosophy at North Carolina State University in 2002. He teaches courses in ethics and conducts research on a wide range of ethical questions as well as on effective methods of teaching critical thinking. 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. He has received awards and honors for both teaching and research. In 2015, he was chosen as an NC State Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher of the Year and in 2020 named Alumni Association Distinguished Undergraduate Professor.  His essay, "The Shrimp Hypothesis," was selected as Best Paper of the 2022 Interspecies Comparisons of Welfare conference at the London School of Economics. His New York Times article, "You Should Not Have Let Your Baby Die," received Honorable Mention in the PEA Soup 2017 Ethics Prize competition.  Comstock works with the ThinkerAnalytix  team producing How We Argue, a critical thinking course spun out of the Harvard Philosophy Department. He created How We Evaluate, an interactive textbook in  advanced  argument analysis.

An active collaborator, Comstock has written with Peter Singer and Adam Lerner legal briefs and an op-ed, "Why the Court Should Free Happy" (2022). With eleven philosophers, he coauthored Chimpanzee Rights: The Philosophers' Brief (Routledge, 2019). 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).  He coedited The Moral Rights of Animals (Lexington, 2017).

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 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, North America, 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