PRESS RELEASE: 07.11.11 Summertime, Vacations at National Parks, Corn, Baseball – They’re All Connected in a New Book About the Meaning of Nature

(Garrison, NY) “All natural,” the way Mother Nature intended it,” “it’s just human nature,” “that’s not natural.” The idea of nature and what we call natural does a lot of work in our society, from advertising, to eating, to treating, to policymaking. But what’s really behind it? What do we mean when we “appeal to nature,” and does it have any moral or policy significance?

Those are some of the questions taken up in The Ideal of Nature, a new book edited by Hastings Center scholar Gregory Kaebnick, published by Johns Hopkins University Press. The book draws on a three-year Hastings Center project funded by the National Endowment of Humanities. “A wide swath of contemporary social debates features what might be called “appeals to nature – claims that nature or a natural state of affairs possess some special value that should be weighed in moral decision-making and perhaps protected in public policy,” Kaebnick writes.

In an era when sports doping, genetic testing, human enhancement, global warming, or nuclear power may compete for the lead news story, understanding what’s at stake when we appeal to nature has particular relevance. “Perhaps the most prominent of these debates is over what humans may do to themselves and to others – from the kinds of relationships they may form with each other to the biotechnological interventions by means of which they can actually change their own or their children’s bodies,” Kaebnick writes.

With provocative essays by 12 contributors, including Kaebnick, the volume examines issues around human nature, humans’ relationship to animals and other species, and the environment. Moving from questions about what the concept of “nature” or “natural” means to how appeals to nature affect public policy, the volume concludes with four timely and engaging essays about using human enhancement in the context of sports as case studies for thinking about appeals to nature.

Contact: Michael Turton, Communications Associate
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