Professor Les Kaufman
Slow news days send hungry journalists back to the old springheads of mystery and metamorphosis: dark matter, how the brain really works, human cyborgs, life on other worlds. The nature of humanity’s relationship with Nature — the oldest campfire subject on the books, and kissing cousin to the meaning of life —
Continue reading Loaves, Fishes, and the Human Side of Ecosystems
Professor Vigdis Broch-Due
It is a commonplace that East African pastoralists like Turkana of Northern Kenya identify themselves with their animals. However it really goes far beyond that. To grasp not just the emotional intensity of Turkana bonds with their cattle but the ways in which their life projects are intertwined, is to feel the
Continue reading Animal In Mind: People, Cattle and Shared Nature on the African Savannah
The trajectory of the development of emerging enhancement technologies suggests that it is not premature to begin considering ethical issues associated with robust human enhancement—i.e. creation of people with highly augmented or highly novel capacities through technological modification of (or integration with) their biological systems. Robust human enhancement raises justice, equity and access issues; parental rights and child welfare issues; naturalness and species boundary issues; individual and social benefit and risk issues; personal choice and liberty issues; and public policy issues related to regulation and research funding.
Continue reading Enhancing Moral Status?
When it comes to birds, difference looms in classifications of “things that fly”—in particular at the most inclusive levels termed in scientific biological classification the class, order, and family. But might the nature of particular birds bring them into the spotlight for attention regardless of culture, setting them up for similar conception (discrimination, naming, specificity in taxonomy), even if perception inevitably is fundamentally cultural?
Continue reading The Nature and Culture of Birds
A trans-species perspective is an all-encompassing stance towards nature that embraces the continuity and comparability of all species’ lives. It shapes the way we view ourselves in relation to other animals and involves changing our current model of those relationships from one of separation and condescension to one of communalism and respect. Given the mass extinctions, global destruction of habitat, environmental degradation, and continued mass exploitation of other animals, nothing short of a shift in human psychological perspective is needed to turn things around.
Continue reading A Trans-Species Perspective on Nature
Would the controlled extinction of carnivorous species be a good thing?
Viewed from a distance, the natural world often presents a vista of sublime, majestic placidity. Yet beneath the foliage and hidden from the distant eye, a vast, unceasing slaughter rages. Wherever there is animal life, predators are stalking, chasing, capturing, killing, and devouring their
Continue reading The Meat Eaters
This is a précis of an argument that I developed in an article called “Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards?” The article was published in 2009 and may be found on my web set at http://philosophy.wisc.edu/sober/recent.html. An expanded version of the argument is the first chapter of a book that I’m publishing at the end
Continue reading Common Ancestry and Natural Selection in Darwin’s Origin
I have been studying the same group of monkeys, known as northern muriquis, in a small forest in southeastern Brazil for nearly 28 years. When I began my research they were called Brachyteles arachnoides. Subsequently, and within the lifetimes of many of the individuals in my original study group, they were reclassified as a new
Continue reading The Challenge of Comparisons in Primatology