David Koepsell

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David Koepsell
Born 1969
New York, USA
Nationality American
Occupation Author, teacher, attorney

David R. Koepsell (born 1969) is an American author, philosopher, attorney, and educator whose recent research focuses on how ethics and public policy deal with emerging science and technology. His background is diverse: he has been a practicing attorney, been employed as an ontologist, been a university professor and has lectured worldwide. He is currently a Visiting Professor of Research Ethics at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Director of Research and Strategic Initiatives at Comisión Nacional de Bioética (CONBIOETICA) Mexico, an adjunct Professor at University at Buffalo and a Senior Fellow and Education Director of the Center for Inquiry - Transnational, based in Amherst, NY.


Koepsell earned his PhD in philosophy (1997) as well as his doctorate in law (1995) from the University at Buffalo, where he studied with Barry Smith and currently serves as an adjunct Professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction.[1] He has lectured worldwide on issues ranging from civil rights, philosophy, science, ontology, intellectual property theory, society, and religion. Koepsell was appointed Assistant Professor of Philosophy at TU Delft in September 2008 and was promoted to Associate Professor in September 2013. He is an associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He is the co-founder, with Edward Summer, of Carefully Considered Productions, an educational media not-for-profit corporation. Koepsell also serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom.[2]

Major theses[edit]

In stark contrast to the work of Michael R. Heim, who has promoted a Platonic dualism in his discussions of cyberspace and virtual reality, Koepsell has argued for a Searlean realism about all expression. Cyberspatial entities are expressions of the same type as any other intentionally produced, man-made object. Koepsell's work uses 'legal ontology' and common sense ontology to examine social objects. In the process, Koepsell criticizes the distinction between patentable and copyrightable objects as artificial, and argues for an open source approach to all intellectual property.[3][4]

Koepsell's research interests focus on the nexus of ethics, law, and science.[5] Specifically, while at Yale as a Visiting Fellow (2006–2007), he investigated ethical questions involved in the practice of bioprospecting and patenting elements of the human genome. Koepsell argues that there are two forms of commons, a) fiat and b) natural, otherwise called "commons by choice" and "commons by logical necessity." He has recently argued that DNA, like radio spectra, sunlight, and air, falls into the category "commons by logical necessity", and that attempts to own genes by patent are unjust.[6] His book on the subject, entitled Who Owns You, was published by Wiley-Blackwell in March 2009.[7] While it was endorsed by Nobel Prize winner John Sulston as a "lucid and compelling deconstruction of current practice in the patenting of human genes, exposing inherent contradictions in the process and offering practical ways to resolve them,"[8] a starkly contrasting review of Who Owns You? has also recently been published.[9] In an interview for Singularity University, he applauded the court decision in the Myriad Genetics case that "a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated," while manipulation of a gene to create something not found in nature could still be eligible for patent protection.[10][11][12]

When it comes to the intersection of religion with politics and public policy, Koepsell maintains that "The United States Is Not a Christian Nation" - in fact, he made the title of his paper for the Secular Humanist Bulletin.[13] More recently the Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying "I think [Benjamin Franklin] would have been dismayed by religious fundamentalism in government. He was a free thinker about many things and at least a skeptic about the afterlife and the divinity of Jesus. He was a scientist, a man of letters and a man of Earth."[14]

Published books[edit]

  • 2012 Breaking Bad and Philosophy, with Robert Arp, (ed.) Popular Culture and Philosophy series, (Chicago: Open Court). ISBN 978-0812697643
  • 2011 Innovation and Nanotechnology: Converging Technologies and the End of Intellectual Property, (UK: Bloomsbury Academic). ISBN 978-1849663434
  • 2009 Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes. (UK: Wiley-Blackwell). ISBN 978-1405187305 [note 1]
  • 2007 Science and Ethics: Can Science Help Us Make Wise and Moral Judgments? Co-edited with Paul Kurtz, (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Press) ISBN 9781591025375
  • 2003 John Searle's Ideas About Social Reality: Extensions, Criticisms, and Reconstructions, co-edited with Laurence Moss, (Oxford UK: Blackwell) ISBN 978-1405112581 [note 2]
  • 2002 Reboot World, (New York: Writer’s Club Press) (fiction)
  • 2000 The Ontology of Cyberspace, (Chicago: Open Court). [note 3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reviews include:
    • Steven Poole, non-fiction choice, The Guardian, Oct., 17, 2009
    • C.H. Blake, Choice Reviews Online, Dec 2009
    • Molly C. Kottemann, in Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, Dec 2009, Vol 82, No. 4, pp. 233-34
    • Kristien Hens, Center for Biomedical Ethics and Law, in Ethical Perspectives Vol 17, Issue 1, p. 124, March 2010
    • Daniel Puente-Rodríguez, in Asian Biotechnology and Development Review Vol. 13, Issue 1, March, 2011
    • Randall Mayes, Journal of Evolution and Technology, Dec. 20, 2009, Vol. 20, Issue 2
    • Christian Jongerneel, in De Ingenieur, 21 Augustus 2009, 12
    • Cheryl Lajos in The Librarian's Review of Books
    • John Portnow, in Journal of High Technology Law, 2009-2010
    • Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H, in Metapsychology Online Reviews, Vol.14, Issue15
    • Aaron Fellmeth, in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 2009.25.10
  2. ^ Review, by Elizabeth McCardell, in Metapsychology Online Reviews, Mar 17th 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 12)
  3. ^ Reviews include:
    • Rita F. Lin, in Harvard Journal of Law and Technology Vol. 14, No. 1 (2000), pp.335-344
    • Thomas V. Finnerty, in Journal of High Technology Law (2005)
    • Christopher C. Robinson, "Democracy in Cyberia," in Theory and Event Vol 5, Issue 3
    • Arthur L. Morin, Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies (2002)
    • "Children of the Revolution: The Developing Genre of Cyberlaw Commentary" by Terence P. Ross in 4 Green Bag 2d, p.453 et seq. (2001)
    • Citations, Google Scholar


  1. ^ "Graduate School of Education". University of Buffalo. 
  2. ^ "About the Center". Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Floridi, Luciano, The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information (Blackwell, 2003) p. 165
  4. ^ Koepsell, David (2010). "Back to Basics: How Technology and the Open Source Movement Can Save Science". Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy Vol. 24 Iss. 3. Taylor & Francis. 24: 181–190. doi:10.1080/02691728.2010.499478. Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  5. ^ George P. Fletcher and Steve Sheppard, American Law in a Global Context (Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 394
  6. ^ Rights to One's Own Genes: DNA As a Commons. Presentation at IEET and IHEU Conference. May 12, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Who Owns You: The Corporate Gold-Rush to Patent Your Genes". 
  8. ^ Harrington, Rich. "Goodreads Review of Who Owns You: The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes". 
  9. ^ Holman, Chris. "Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews: An Electronic Journal - Review of Who Owns You: The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes". 
  10. ^ Halley, Drew (8 November 2010). "Who Owns You? 20% of the Genes in Your Body are Patented". Singularity Hub.com. Singularity University. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  11. ^ Liptak, Adam (June 13, 2013). "Supreme Court Rules Human Genes May Not Be Patented". New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2013. 
  12. ^ Kendall, Brent; Bravin, Jess (June 13, 2013). "Supreme Court Says Human Genes Aren't Patentable". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 13, 2013. 
  13. ^ Koepsell, David (Summer 2005). "The United States Is Not a Christian Nation". Secular Humanist Bulletin. Council for Secular Humanism. 21 (2). Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Italie, Hillel (January 15, 2006). "Ben Franklin: A Man of Many Facets". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 

External links[edit]