International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

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MONDAY, JULY 6  /  09:00 - 10:30  /  DS-1420
Individual papers
Environmental Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Evolution and (Aristotelian) virtue ethics

John Mizzoni (Neumann University, United States)

It is well known that virtue ethics has become very popular among moral theorists. Even Aristotelian virtue ethics continues to have defenders. Bernard Williams (1983, 1995), though, has claimed that this “neo-Aristotelian enterprise” might “require us to feign amnesia about natural selection.” This paper looks at some recent work on virtue ethics as seen from an evolutionary perspective (Michael Ruse 1991, William Casebeer 2003, Donald J. Munro 2005, John Lemos 2008, and Jonathan Haidt & Craig Joseph 2007) and explores whether Williams’ evolutionary challenge can be met. Against Williams’ challenge, I argue that “the first and hardest lesson of Darwinism,” as Williams calls it, has indeed found “its way fully into ethical thought” (Williams 1983). And virtue ethics—in several varieties, not only Aristotelian—fits it rather well with an evolutionary perspective on human origins.

Environment and quantum Darwinism

Deniz Ölçek (Middle East Technical University, Turkey)

Environment is not a passive surrounding, but an active whole which consists of inter-related centers of life, individuals and subsystems. In Cartesian worldview, it is understood as a non-participatory structure which preserves its identity through time. It was perceived merely as a medium. Moreover, our interaction with it considered very limited and from an anthropocentric point of view. Today, we know that such unevolving essential description is not significant as physics, biology, ecology, they are all underlining the entangled, temporal nature of the world. Quantum Darwinism addresses that all living and nonliving entities, from macro objects to DNAs and to subatomic particles are open for external influences and that environment is an active, organic web able to monitoring itself, and the natural selection is not occurring in the biological level but also in quantum level. Thus, in all the fragments of reality – environment as what we live in – there are many levels of selection. This paper aims to revise the idea of an active environment in the light of the concept of Quantum Darwinism, first described by the Polish Physicist W. H. Zurek (1993), showing how selection occurs in different levels. Additionally, it briefly aims to discuss if this active, relational view of environment linking physics, evolutionary biology and ecology may be inspirational to ecocentric ethics.

Ethical dimensions in contents linked to ecosystem services in ecology teaching

Dalia Melissa Conrado (Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil); Nei Nunes-Neto (Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil)

Although very much used in current conservation policies, the concept of ecosystem services present some problems, such as commodification of nature or different ethical perspectives and values underlying discourses on it. Besides, this concept can be considered value-laden, because it is dependent on ideologies and human judgments. In this work we will argue for a strong emphasis on the ethical dimensions of ecosystem services concept in the context of ecology teaching. As a step towards this, we support the argument that the content in science education, in general, and in ecology teaching, in particular, should be conceived in a wider way than is traditionally done. Traditionally, the content is restricted to a conceptual dimension. However, as some authors have argued, educational contents should include also other elements, such as values and attitudes. Based on this wider understanding of content, the following particular subject matters associated to ecosystem services, could be approached in ecology teaching: biodiversity, production of biomass and ecosystem stability, global changes, resilience, health and human well-being, monoculture and genetic variability, among others. This seems to imply, then, that to approach ecosystem services in ecology teaching, there should be an integration between, by one hand, scientific (ecological) concepts and theories, and, by the other, ethical values. Particularly, to understand ecosystem services in this way would have an interesting consequence to practices in ecology teaching, in general: ecology should be taught linked to ethics. As a more radical consequence, ecology teaching strategies should not only be designed to generate a better theoretical understanding or technical intervention on ecological and social-ecological systems, where ecosystem services are embedded, but, significantly, should also provide ways to act – in an ethical informed manner – in these very systems.