I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Lewis & Clark College. Last year, while on sabbatical, I am Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Calgary. My main areas of research interest are in the philosophy and history of science though I have strong interests in aesthetics and ethics. In the history of philosophy, I am especially fascinated by the American pragmatists and their descendants. Here is my CV.
My research has tended to focus on foundational issues related to the sciences especially in evolutionary biology and ecology. In my published work, I have examined a variety of topics including: the strategies that scientists employ to use highly idealized models in the face of limited data; the nature of species, communities, and ecosystems; the role of consensus, dissent, and advocacy in science and policy. Some of my papers are downloadable here.
My research is wide-ranging. Here are some of my current projects. First, I am interested in what psychology, behavioral ecology, and evolutionary biology have to say about our emotions and their expression. In addition, I am want to see what light they shed on emotions in moral judgment and emotional expression in the arts. Over the summer, I am finishing a book manuscript In a Sentimental Mood: Emotion, Evolution, and Expression on these topics. Second, my earliest work concerned how idealized ecological models could be used to predict, explain, and conserve extremely complicated ecological systems. If our models are so oversimplified why should we trust them when it comes to making policy? I return to these questions anew in a short book I will writing on the year entitled Ecological Models for Cambridge University Press. Third, another topic that I am working on is moral psychology and climate skepticism. "On the Contrary: How to Think about Climate Skepticism" is an essay in which I diagnose these problems and offer ways to de-politicize this and other environmental issues.
Last, in the tradition of American pragmatism, I believe philosophy can be deeply practical. As recent examples, in 2009 I participated in a working group on the topic of "managed relocation" which is the deliberate movement of species due to anthropogenic climate change. This working group met to discuss the scientific, legal, and ethical challenges that managed relocation presents and our essay on the topic "Managed Relocation: Integrating the Scientific, Regulatory, and Ethical Challenges" has appeared in Bioscience. Here is a press release regarding the paper. In 2013, I participated in a conference and working group on de-extinction at Stanford University. In 2015, I participated in a workshop on denialism in science at Wake Forest University. In 2016, I participated in workshops at the Environmental Law Institute which brought together scientists, journalists, lawyers and one philosopher to discuss how to communicate scientific uncertainty more effectively. And, if you are curious, I was recently on the radio show Philosophy Talk in a discussion regarding the nature of wilderness and whether, and to what extent, Homo sapiens is simply another part of the natural world.
Philosophy in its best moments is about instilling intellectual accountability. As William James noted, "A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices." To understand our beliefs and values is important not only for intellectual reasons but for deeply practical reasons. Beliefs and values have effects — some beneficial and some not. It thus is of profound importance to be responsible for one’s view of the world and my teaching is first and foremost an attempt to bring students to understand and respect that responsibility.