Saturday, October 07, 2006

New Research Statement

I'm getting ready for the job market, updating my CV and research portfolio. Below is a new research statement, reflecting my new publications and plans. So if any of the teeming multitudes who arrives here via a search for "Monkey orgasm" have a job to offer me, check this out and give me a call. The full portfolio and new CV are on the sidebar

Research Statement

My research is in environmental and medical ethics. These interests are not really distinct. Both areas are places where the philosophy of science intersects with practical, and often the same set of epistemic norms and ethical values are at stake in each. Indeed one of my main interests is in tracing issues as they cross from the human world of medical ethics to the nonhuman world of environmental ethics. Right now I have two published papers about genetic engineering, a topic that comes up in both medical and environmental contexts. The first paper, published in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal makes a direct comparison between the environmental and the medical arena, arguing that the difference in levels of caution we exercise regarding genetic engineering in these two areas is unjustified. The second paper, forthcoming in the volume Ethical issues is the Life Sciences, argues that in the case of agricultural genetic engineering, the real motivation is not attitudes toward caution at all, but attitudes toward economic liberty.

My thinking about environmental ethics has led me to publish some in environmental aesthetics. My first work there was an article for Philosophy and the Contemporary World on efforts to place environmental ethics on the foundation of environmental aesthetics. Here too, there is an analogy between the human and nonhuman world, because I argue for the superficiality of the aesthetics of the environment using an analogy to the aesthetics of human beings. This paper led to a book review in Environmental Ethics of models of the appreciation of natural environments, and now an essay which has been conditionally accepted to Environmental Values, which adds a new model to the discussion of nature appreciation, drawn from Buddhist thinking, which I label the Theregāthā model.

My immediate plans are to make the alterations to the paper on the Theragāthā model that have been requested by the publishers before they accept the paper. After that I want to return to the issue of genetic enhancement. I just reviewed a recent book by law professor Maxwell Mehlman which advocated an elaborate, draconian regime to enforce regulation on human genetic enhancement. I plan to expand the review, which appeared in Metapsychology Online, into a full defense of the right to genetic enhancement. My argument would come largely from the right to control of your body and doctor patient confidentiality, with additional support coming from an examination of just how intrusive any attempt to regulate one’s genes would be. I hope to get this piece into a top rank journal like Ethics or The Journal of Philosophy.

In the longer term, I hope to keep my efforts in environmental ethics focused on agricultural ethics and resource management. The debate over the moral status of wild nature, while it has produced much of theoretical interest, has proven to be largely irrelevant to the most important environmental issues. Global climate change, for instance, is clearly the most pressing issue of the day, but all that can be said about it from the standpoint of wild nature is that there can be no more wild nature. I do see more hope for the discussion of moral status in medical ethics, and I actually believe that theoretical work can be illuminating here. The stem cell debate has shown dire need for understanding how conflicting ideas about moral status should affect public policy. Here again, I think it would be nice to look at human issues in the context of the nonhuman. What we need, and what I hope to contribute to developing, is a theory of moral status that uses a unified system of standards to judge humans at all stages of life, animals, plants, ecosystems, nations, and even hypothetical entities like intelligent computers or space aliens.

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