Wahida Khandker - Darwinism and modern ecological perspectives on the problem of despotic and invasive species
Beneath the ecological study of the place of any species within an ecosystem, operates a range of assumptions about the modes of interaction of individuals, populations, environments, and the processes of adaptation at a genetic level. I want to consider the shifts in species status from success to threat, in terms of the development of a hierarchy of species roles commencing with Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. Although we see Darwin attempt to demonstrate the self-shaping dynamic of evolution, later iterations of this in contemporary conservation biology, as exemplified in the case of the ‘despotic’ Noisy Miner, assume for themselves the directing hand of artificial selection (manifested in ‘ecosystem management’) in order to determine the fates of different species. Darwin himself only tentatively rejected any idea of final causes or purposes from evolution, but the debate recurs in modern biology about the drivers and direction of evolution. Furthermore, contemporary approaches to ecosystem management continue to make teleological assumptions about the roles of different species in their habitats and equally debatable judgments about what constitutes a self-contained, or containable, ecosystem.
Dr Wahida Khandker is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research focuses on intersections between process thought, particularly the work of Henri Bergson, and biology. She is the author of Philosophy, Animality, and the Life Sciences (Edinburgh University Press, 2014), and Process Metaphysics and Mutative Life: Sketches of Lived Time (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming). She is also co-editor of a new book series, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy.
“Darwinism and modern ecological perspectives on the problem of despotic and invasive species” is part of the Visual Cultures Public Programme Autumn 2019 - Living Extinctions, co-organised by Wood Roberdeau & Lynn Turner with the support of the Goldsmiths Critical Ecologies research stream.
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