THURSDAY EVENING, 21 FEBRUARY-SUNDAY AFTERNOON, 24
UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME, NOTRE DAME, INDIANA
The goal of the first Lilly Fellows National
Research Conference is to identify where ecology, history, philosophy,
and theology intersect, and to explore how that intersection might affect
and shape environmental ethics and environmental policy.
The conference will begin with an examination
of a concept central for many years to the study of ecology - the "balance
of nature." In the past, ecologists often assumed a dichotomy between
a pristine, stable nature and disruptive human activity. Many contemporary
ecologists, however, conceive of nature as undergoing continual change.
Ecologists increasingly include humans and their activities within a model
of a changing environment. They find the "flux of nature" a
more accurate metaphor than the "balance of nature" to describe
the shifting patterns of species interaction and ecosystem function.
In the second section of the conference,
historians will lead an examination of the ways metaphors of nature have
changed and how these changes reflect and affect changes in social thought.
In the conference's third section, participants
will explore, within a Judeo-Christian framework, the implications of
contemporary ecology for human action. The theological and ethical implications
that followed from the conception of nature as a stable equilibrium and
of humans as more or less disruptive latecomers have been reasonably clear:
Humans had a moral obligation to nature - perhaps also a religious obligation
- to serve as stewards of a stable, balanced creation. The implications
of the newer ecology are less clear. They involve determining which sorts
and what rates of flux should be prevented and which protected. What,
in other words, is the moral status of different fluxes of nature and
At the conference, leading scholars will
represent their respective disciplines while being committed to exploring
their common ground. The challenge for participants will be to integrate
contemporary scientific perspectives into environmental discourse in history,
theology, philosophy, and ethics.
The conference will consist of plenary talks,
responses, approximately 30 contributed papers by faculty and students,
and break-out discussions.
Last Updated: January