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Grant number like: RZ-50373-05

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Hastings Center (Garrison, NY 10524-4125)
Gregory E. Kaebnick (Project Director: November 2004 to June 2009)

Collaborative Research
Research Programs

$100,000 (approved)
$100,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2005 – 8/31/2008

The Ideal of Nature: Appeals to Nature in Debates about Biotechnology and the Environment

A volume of scholarly essays, and other related publications, examining the ways in which "nature" and "the natural" are appealed to in political and philosophical arguments. (24 months)

This project will consider how ideas about "nature" or "the natural" are invoked in contemporary moral and policy debates over medical biotechnology, agricultural biotechnology, and the environment. Although a number of recent books, articles, and government reports have offered appeals to nature in scholarly as well as popular forms, there has been no sustained comparative look at how appeals to nature compare with each other in the different social debates where they appear. Without this comparative work, we lack an adequate understanding of how they function in moral and political arguments and do not understand whether or how moral and political debate can accommodate them. The project proposed here will fill this gap, and therefore help to clarify some of the underlying and most controversial issues in debates about the appropriate use of biotechnology and the preservation of the environment. The work will be structured around three two-day conferences at which participants will examine, respectively, how ideas about "nature" are understood and used, whether and why nature or natural states of affairs should be valued, and whether and how appeals to nature can be incorporated in public policymaking. The project will produce a volume of scholarly essays, a scholarly report summarizing major issues and findings, web postings of the group's work and other useful resources, and an overview of issues for policymakers, media, and others interested either in biotechnology or the environment.