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Russell Powell [32]Russell A. Powell [2]
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Profile: Russell Powell (Boston University)
  1.  93
    Russell Powell & Allen Buchanan (2011). Breaking Evolution's Chains: The Prospect of Deliberate Genetic Modification in Humans. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 36 (1):6-27.
    Many philosophers invoke the "wisdom of nature" in arguing for varying degrees of caution in the development and use of genetic enhancement technologies. Because they view natural selection as akin to a master engineer that creates functionally and morally optimal design, these authors tend to regard genetic intervention with suspicion. In Part II, we examine and ultimately reject the evolutionary assumptions that underlie the master engineer analogy (MEA). By highlighting the constraints on ordinary unassisted evolution, we show how intentional genetic (...)
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  2. Russell Powell (2010). What's the Harm? An Evolutionary Theoretical Critique of the Precautionary Principle. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 20 (2):181-206.
    The precautionary principle (“the Principle”) has been widely embraced as the new paradigm for contending with biological and environmental risk in the context of emerging technologies. Increasingly, it is being incorporated into domestic, supranational, and international legal regimes as part of a general overhaul of health and environmental regulation.1 Codifications of the Principle typically are vague, with their content intentionally left for scholars to debate, decision makers to interpret, and the courts to flesh out through case law. Generally speaking, the (...)
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  3.  68
    Russell Powell (2012). Convergent Evolution and the Limits of Natural Selection. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (3):355-373.
    Stephen Jay Gould argued that replaying the “tape of life” would result in a radically different evolutionary outcome. Some biologists and philosophers, however, have pointed to convergent evolution as evidence for robust replicability in macroevolution. These authors interpret homoplasy, or the independent origination of similar biological forms, as evidence for the power of natural selection to guide form toward certain morphological attractors, notwithstanding the diversionary tendencies of drift and the constraints of phylogenetic inertia. In this paper, I consider the implications (...)
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  4. Russell Powell (2010). The Evolutionary Biological Implications of Human Genetic Engineering. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 37 (1):22.
    A common worry about the genetic engineering of human beings is that it will reduce human genetic diversity, creating a biological monoculture that could not only increase our susceptibility to disease but also hasten the extinction of our species. Thus far, however, the evolutionary implications of human genetic modification remain largely unexplored. In this paper, I consider whether the widespread use of genetic engineering technology is likely to narrow the present range of genetic variation, and if so, whether this would (...)
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  5.  26
    Russell Powell (2012). The Future of Human Evolution. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (1):145-175.
    There is a tendency in both scientific and humanistic disciplines to think of biological evolution in humans as significantly impeded if not completely overwhelmed by the robust cultural and technological capabilities of the species. The aim of this article is to make sense of and evaluate this claim. In Section 2 , I flesh out the argument that humans are ‘insulated’ from ordinary evolutionary mechanisms in terms of our contemporary biological understandings of phenotypic plasticity, niche construction, and cultural transmission. In (...)
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  6. Russell Powell (2009). Contingency and Convergence in Macroevolution: A Reply to John Beatty. Journal of Philosophy 106 (7):390-403.
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  7. Simon Rippon, Pablo Stafforini, Katrien Devolder, Russell Powell & Thomas Douglas (2010). Resisting Sparrow's Sexy Reductio : Selection Principles and the Social Good. American Journal of Bioethics 10 (7):16-18.
    Principles of procreative beneficence (PPBs) hold that parents have good reasons to select the child with the best life prospects. Sparrow (2010) claims that PPBs imply that we should select only female children, unlesswe attach normative significance to “normal” human capacities. We argue that this claim fails on both empirical and logical grounds. Empirically, Sparrow’s argument for greater female wellbeing rests on a selective reading of the evidence and the incorrect assumption that an advantage for females would persist even when (...)
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  8.  59
    Allen Buchanan & Russell Powell (2015). The Limits of Evolutionary Explanations of Morality and Their Implications for Moral Progress. Ethics 126 (1):37-67.
    Traditional conservative arguments against the possibility of moral progress relied on underevidenced assumptions about the limitations of human nature. Contemporary thinkers have attempted to fill this empirical gap in the conservative argument by appealing to evolutionary science. Such “evoconservative” arguments fail because they overstate the explanatory reach of evolutionary theory. We maintain that no adequate evolutionary explanation has been given for important features of human morality, namely cosmopolitan and other “inclusivist” moral commitments. We attribute these evolutionarily anomalous features to a (...)
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  9.  73
    Russell Powell & Nicholas Shea (2014). Homology Across Inheritance Systems. Biology and Philosophy 29 (6):781-806.
    Recent work on inheritance systems can be divided into inclusive conceptions, according to which genetic and non-genetic inheritance are both involved in the development and transmission of nearly all animal behavioral traits, and more demanding conceptions of what it takes for non-genetic resources involved in development to qualify as a distinct inheritance system. It might be thought that, if a more stringent conception is adopted, homologies could not subsist across two distinct inheritance systems. Indeed, it is commonly assumed that homology (...)
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  10.  9
    Russell Powell (2015). The Disvalue of Genetic Diversity, Or: How to Treat a Sandelian Ethos on Steroids. American Journal of Bioethics 15 (6):29-32.
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  11. Russell Powell (2015). Adopting a Technological Stance Toward the Living World. Promises, Pitfalls and Perils. In Sven Ove Hansson (ed.), The Role of Technology in Science: Philosophical Perspectives. Springer Netherlands
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  12.  32
    Russell Powell (2007). Is Convergence More Than an Analogy? Homoplasy and its Implications for Macroevolutionary Predictability. Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):565-578.
    A number of authors have pointed to “convergent evolution” as evidence for the central role of natural selection in shaping predictable trajectories of macroevolution. However, there are numerous conceptual and empirical difficulties that arise in broadly appealing to the frequency of homoplasy as evidence for a non-contingently constrained adaptational design space. Most important is the need to distinguish between convergent (externally constrained) and parallel (internally constrained) evolution, and to consider how the respective frequencies of these significantly different sources of homoplasy (...)
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  13.  57
    Russell Powell & Carlos Mariscal (2014). There is Grandeur in This View of Life: The Bio-Philosophical Implications of Convergent Evolution. [REVIEW] Acta Biotheoretica 62 (1):115-121.
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  14.  33
    Russell Powell (2012). Human Nature and Respect for the Evolutionarily Given: A Comment on Lewens. Philosophy and Technology 25 (4):485-493.
    Any serious ethical discussion of the enhancement of human nature must begin with a reasonably accurate picture of the causal-historical structure of the living world. In this Comment, I show that even biologically sophisticated ethical discussions of the biomedical enhancement of species and speciel natures are susceptible to the kind of essentialistic thinking that Lewens cautions against. Furthermore, I argue that the same evolutionary and developmental considerations that compel Lewens to reject more plausible conceptions of human nature pose equally serious (...)
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  15.  4
    Sune Holm & Russell Powell (2013). Organism, Machine, Artifact: The Conceptual and Normative Challenges of Synthetic Biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):627-631.
    Synthetic biology is an emerging discipline that aims to apply rational engineering principles in the design and creation of organisms that are exquisitely tailored to human ends. The creation of artificial life raises conceptual, methodological and normative challenges that are ripe for philosophical investigation. This special issue examines the defining concepts and methods of synthetic biology, details the contours of the organism–artifact distinction, situates the products of synthetic biology vis-à-vis this conceptual typology and against historical human manipulation of the living (...)
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  16.  84
    Russell Powell, Guy Kahane & Julian Savulescu (2012). Evolution, Genetic Engineering, and Human Enhancement. Philosophy and Technology 25 (4):439-458.
    There are many ways that biological theory can inform ethical discussions of genetic engineering and biomedical enhancement. In this essay, we highlight some of these potential contributions, and along the way provide a synthetic overview of the papers that comprise this special issue. We begin by comparing and contrasting genetic engineering with programs of selective breeding that led to the domestication of plants and animals, and we consider how genetic engineering differs from other contemporary biotechnologies such as embryo selection. We (...)
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  17.  13
    Russell Powell (2015). In Genes We Trust: Germline Engineering, Eugenics, and the Future of the Human Genome. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 40 (6):669-695.
    Liberal proponents of genetic engineering maintain that developing human germline modification technologies is morally desirable because it will result in a net improvement in human health and well-being. Skeptics of germline modification, in contrast, fear evolutionary harms that could flow from intervening in the human germline, and worry that such programs, even if well intentioned, could lead to a recapitulation of the scientifically and morally discredited projects of the old eugenics. Some bioconservatives have appealed as well to the value of (...)
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  18.  6
    Maureen A. O’Malley & Russell Powell (2016). Major Problems in Evolutionary Transitions: How a Metabolic Perspective Can Enrich Our Understanding of Macroevolution. Biology and Philosophy 31 (2):159-189.
    The model of major transitions in evolution devised by Maynard Smith and Szathmáry has exerted tremendous influence over evolutionary theorists. Although MTE has been criticized for inconsistently combining different types of event, its ongoing appeal lies in depicting hierarchical increases in complexity by means of evolutionary transitions in individuality. In this paper, we consider the implications of major evolutionary events overlooked by MTE and its ETI-oriented successors, specifically the biological oxygenation of Earth, and the acquisitions of mitochondria and plastids. By (...)
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  19.  2
    Russell Powell & Carlos Mariscal (2014). George McGhee: Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful. Acta Biotheoretica 62 (1):115-121.
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  20.  61
    Allen Buchanan & Russell Powell (2008). Survey Article: Constitutional Democracy and the Rule of International Law: Are They Compatible? Journal of Political Philosophy 16 (3):326-349.
  21. Russell Powell (forthcoming). The Nature of Species and the Moral Significance of Their Extinction. In Tom Beauchamp (ed.), Oxford Handbook on Ethics and Animals. Oxford University Press
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  22.  10
    Russell Powell (2014). The Philosophy of Human Evolution: Contemporary Debates in Historical Context. Metascience 23 (2):285-291.
    What does human evolutionary theory reveal about the origins of human nature and the constraints it imposes on human cognition, behavior, and society? “The whole field of human evolution is pregnant with philosophical questions of great interest”, Michael Ruse concludes in the final passage of The Philosophy of Human Evolution. This engaging and eminently readable romp through the philosophical landscape of human evolution fills a significant niche in the existing literature. There are numerous scientific texts surveying historical and contemporary problems (...)
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  23.  1
    Tore Nielsen & Russell A. Powell (2015). Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: Food and Diet as Instigators of Bizarre and Disturbing Dreams. Frontiers in Psychology 6.
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  24.  5
    Russell Powell, Steve Clarke & Julian Savulescu (2012). An Ethical and Prudential Argument for Prioritizing the Reduction of Parasite-Stress in the Allocation of Health Care Resources. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 35 (2):90-91.
    The link between parasite-stress and complex psychological dispositions implies that the social, political, and economic benefits likely to flow from public health interventions that reduce rates of non-zoonotic infectious disease are far greater than have traditionally been thought. We sketch a prudential and ethical argument for increasing public health resources globally and redistributing these to focus on the alleviation of parasite-stress in human populations.
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  25.  26
    Russell Powell, Zakat: Drawing Insights for Legal Theory and Economic Policy From Islamic Jurisprudence.
    The rapid development of complex income taxation and welfare systems in the 20th century may give the impression that progressive wealth redistribution systems are uniquely modern. However, religious systems provided similar mechanisms for addressing economic injustice and poverty alleviation centuries earlier. Zakat is the obligation of almsgiving and is the third pillar of Islam--a requirement for all believers. In the early development of the Islamic community, zakat was collected as a tax by the state and the funds were distributed to (...)
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  26.  9
    Thomas Douglas, Russell Powell & Julian Savulescu (2013). Is the Creation of Artificial Life Morally Significant? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):688-696.
    In 2010, the Venter lab announced that it had created the first bacterium with an entirely synthetic genome. This was reported to be the first instance of ‘artificial life,’ and in the ethical and policy discussions that followed it was widely assumed that the creation of artificial life is in itself morally significant. We cast doubt on this assumption. First we offer an account of the creation of artificial life that distinguishes this from the derivation of organisms from existing life (...)
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  27. Russell Powell (2007). The Law and Philosophy of Preventive War: An Institution-Based Approach to Collective Self-Defense. Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy 32:67-89.
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  28.  10
    Russell Powell (2012). Beyond the Blueprint. Philosophy Now 91:18-19.
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  29.  3
    Russell Powell (2014). Is Preventive Suicide a Rational Response to a Presymptomatic Diagnosis of Dementia? Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (8):511-512.
    It may soon be possible to diagnose neurodegenerative disorders, such as early onset Alzheimer's disease, with a high degree of accuracy well before these conditions become symptomatic. In a carefully argued and thought-provoking piece, Dena Davis maintains that preemptive suicide may be a rational option for those confronted with a preclinical diagnosis of impending dementia, and consequently that withholding the results of dementia research until effective treatments become available constitutes an unjustified infringement on patient autonomy. If suicide is indeed a (...)
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  30.  1
    Russell Powell (2015). The Ethics of Biomedical Markets. Journal of Medical Ethics 41 (6):431-432.
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  31.  2
    Tore Nielsen, Russell A. Powell & Don Kuiken (2013). Nightmare Frequency is Related to a Propensity for Mirror Behaviors. Consciousness and Cognition 22 (4):1181-1188.
    We previously reported that college students who indicated engaging in frequent dream-enacting behaviors also scored high on a new measure of mirror behaviors, which is the propensity to imitate another person’s emotions or actions. Since dream-enacting behaviors are frequently the culmination of nightmares, one explanation for the observed relationship is that individuals who frequently display mirror behaviors are also prone to nightmares. We used the Mirror Behavior Questionnaire and self-reported frequencies of nightmares to assess this possibility.A sample of 480 students, (...)
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  32.  1
    Russell Powell (2010). Review of Donald P. O'mathuna, Nanoethics: Big Ethical Issues with Small Technology. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010 (8).
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  33. Steve Clarke, Russell Powell & Julian Savulescu (eds.) (2013). Religion, Intolerance and Conflict: A Scientific and Conceptual Investigation. Oxford University Press.
  34. Russell Powell (2009). Contingency and Convergence in Macroevolution. Journal of Philosophy 106 (7):390-403.
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