Tag Archives: sustainability

Empathy towards the “living planet”: a knowledge paradox in the Anthropocene?

I paradossi di Gaia [Gaia’s paradoxes]

The paradoxes of Gaia for education in the anthropocene
Gaia – EARTH DAY by Alice Popkorn
Starting picture + Goddess by Marcus Ranum

Abstract: Empathy towards planet Earth seems to be the crux of an education paradox in the anthropocene, well exemplified by the story of “Gaia” in the scientific community and in the global society. The image of the world as a living being is probably as old as our species. Ancient views based on Mother Earth have been providing the narrative framework for education in many cultures for thousands years, and some aspects are somehow retraced in today’s sustainability education, although with different nuances and metaphysical assumptions. Around 1970, the idea of Earth as an organism was named “Gaia” and filled with scientific content by James Lovelock. He pointed out signatures of global processes thereby, he argued, the biosphere participates into planetary self-regulation around optimal conditions, just like in the physiology of a giant organism. In the scientific community Gaia would have troubled fortune: as a “hypothesis” or “theory” it was afflicted by serious and insistent objections, and it never got to be acknowledged. At the same time, for the public Gaia never ceased to be terribly attractive. Indeed, its communication effectiveness was emphasized by its advocates, who pointed out its educational potential in sensitizing people to care for the planet. But these aspects, too, were seen negatively by critics: the ‘homeostatic’ properties of Gaia would rather play in favor of passive attitudes and of economic interests of impacting and polluting companies; moreover, the organismal nature of Gaia would stimulate mystical views, ‘pagan religions’, and ultimately an anti-scientific mindset. The solution to this paradox should perhaps be sought in the double direction of reconsidering some human dimensions of scientific work and of setting up scientific education more coherent with the “Nature of Science” in the Anthropocene.

Event: Biodiversità ed estensione dell’empatia [Biodiversity and empathy extension]

The meeting aims to contribute to probe the foundations of an ethical approach to biodiversity and of human responsibility upon the non-human, through a reflection on those long-term transformations of science, society, and philosophical self-representation that have modified the horizon of human relations.
Since the 1960s, the ecological urgency has strongly pushed towards an assumption of responsibility towards the environment. In those years, science itself had warned about climate change and vertiginous biodiversity reduction that are now seen to characterize the current epoch, the “anthropocene”. An integrated reflection on biodiversity arose, capable of overcoming the boundaries of Modern philosophical anthropology, and situating humans into a system of relationships and interdependencies embracing non-human forms–from other living beings to abiotic environmental factors. The peculiar ability of broadening the horizon of empathic experience beyond mirroring seems to be rooted in massive developments of neuroscientific knowledge and technology, as well as in the cognitive and affective construction of our species. A discussion on evolution (natural and socio-cultural) and a renewed reflection on the very concept of human nature are therefore necessary. Just at the peak of science and technology’s manipulative power upon living nature, some authors glimpse the rise of a new opportunity: that of an empathic “age” or “civilization” (Rifkin 2010, De Waal 2010), where relatioships with different forms of “otherness” are managed in an inclusive and relational way.

Other speakers: S. Caianiello (chair), A. Minelli, L. Fogassi, C. Morabito & G. Galloni, G. Fiorito, U. Leone.

Organization: L’evento è organizzato con i fondi del Progetto PRIN 2010-2011 “Ethos e Natura. Modelli storici, problemi teorici e questioni metodologiche”, cofinanziato dal MIUR. Coordinatore nazionale: Prof. Franco Biasutti (Unità di ricerca di Catania, coordinata da G. Bentivegna, su “L’agire morale tra natura e cultura. Lineamenti storiografici e riflessioni teoriche”). Con la collaborazione dell’Istituto per la storia del pensiero filosofico e scientifico moderno del C.N.R., (nel contesto del ciclo “Osservatorio sui saperi umanistici”) e del Centro Interuniversitario “Res Viva”. Inserita nel programma del Dottorato di Filosofia della Federico II (in particolare curriculum di bioetica).

Look for it in the Talks page (with additional links):

2015, Feb 4 (h.9:00) – “Biodiversità ed estensione dell’empatia”, org. by Istituto per la Storia del Pensiero Filosofico e Scientifico Moderno (ISPF), C.N.R., Sezione di Filosofia del Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici dell’Università di Napoli “Federico II”, Naples, IT: I paradossi di Gaia. Conference talk.

Borzoo Pourabdollahian – Towards a sustainable society through serious gaming

CISEPS – Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Economics, Psychology and Social Sciences

Towards a sustainable society through serious gaming

Dr. Borzoo Pourabdollahian
Politecnico di Milano

Thursday, November 27, 12:00pm
Room U6-3143, Piazza dell’Ateneo Nuovo 1, Milano

Borzoo Pourabdollahian - Towards a sustainable society through serious gamingAbstract: The main challenge for societies is to find mechanisms to arouse among their citizens better insights about the importance of sustainability, and, more importantly, to encourage people to change their habits and behaviours towards being “sustainable citizens”. Serious games simulate real environments. They can be used as pedagogical tools in creating sustainable societies: players become motivated to behave in a sustainable manner in order to achieve the ultimate goal of the game, which represents a prosperity phenomenon. The seminar will present the audience with a set of games specifically designed to increase the player’s awareness about those activities and practices which are necessary for every specific sector of a society (e.g. Health, Science, Manufacturing, Education, Business, etc.) to turn sustainable. In particular, we will discuss the mechanisms laid in the design and implementation of each game to get better understanding of the ways in which learning contents are transferred into players’ mind and behaviour, in a scale from abstract knowledge to behavioural changes.

Borzoo Pourabdollahian obtained his PhD from Politecnico di Milano in 2014. His contribution is a guideline towards designing serious games in the areas related to manufacturing education. He has been involved in some projects funded by European Union under 7th framework program. Particularly, GaLA (Game and Learning Alliance) and TARGET (Transformative, Adaptive, Responsive and enGaging EnvironmenT). He has presented several papers in prominent conferences and is currently a reviewer of Journal of Transactions on Education.

Anthropocene Campus: Experiment in Higher Education

I participate in ANTHROPOCENE CAMPUSanthropocene, Berlin, November 14-22, 2014. I have been selected among “100 outstanding post graduates as well as actors from culture, society, and the arts”, nominated by prof. Elena Bougleux (University of Bergamo).

Encouraging new forms of transdisciplinary discourse and research THE ANTHROPOCENE PROJECT 2013/14 at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (HKW) aims to investigate the manifold implications of the Anthropocene hypothesis for cultures of knowledge. If indeed humankind has become the dominant biogeophysical force, effecting changes on a planetary scale, how can the arts, sciences and humanities contribute to a critical awareness, understanding and responsible co-shaping of these transformations? How can creative and problem-oriented modes of knowledge production and educational practices be developed?

Copyright: Globaia, Planet Under Pressure, SEI, SRC, CSIRO. This film was commissioned by the Planet Under Pressure conference, London 26-29 March, a major international conference focusing on solutions. planetunderpressure2012.net

The ANTHROPOCENE CURRICULUM addresses these questions by way of a cross-disciplinary experiment in higher education. Instigated by HKW and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin (MPIWG) the project has brought together a group of 27 renowned university teachers from science, humanities, and art & design to collaboratively develop a set of topics relevant to the Anthropocene in an attempt to encourage cross-disciplinary thinking, mutual learning, and civic commitment as integral part into the curricula of universities and research institutions.

This exemplary curriculum will be put into teaching practice at the ANTHROPOCENE CAMPUS taking place November 14-22, 2014 at HKW in Berlin. One hundred international participants will be given the opportunity to engage in this curricular experiment, contributing their own perspectives and expertise. The Campus provides a transdisciplinary co-learning space for scholars from a wide range of disciplinary, academic, and professional backgrounds and opens up a forum for exploring the scopes, scales, and designs of Anthropocene relevant knowledge. The ANTHROPOCENE CAMPUS will be a central component of a series of public events at HKW – including lectures, workshops, exhibitions, screenings, and artistic events –, by which the two-year ANTHROPOCENE PROJECT will come to its close. An essential part of the output of the ANTHROPOCENE CURRICULUM will be the collaborative production of an ANTHROPOCENE COURSEBOOK.

Emanuele at the Anthropocene Campus:

More pictures at Haus der Kulturen der Welt website.


Bio-Techno-Practice is an International and Interdisciplinary Laboratory devoted to the analysis of concepts emerging from science with philosophical, cultural and sociological relevance, and gathers researchers (scientists and philosophers) from different countries and universities. This allows foreseeing future trends for research and investments by focusing on the convergences among life and human sciences, physics and engineering.

BTP is now working on the concept of ROBUSTNESS by means of international workshops (Robustness I, Robustness II) that will lead to an interdisciplinary publication.
Future of Sci Pract

The Future of Scientific Practice: ‘Bio-Techno-Logos’ ed. by Marta Bertolaso is the first product of the Bio-Techno-Practice project. Focusing on cell dynamics, molecular medicine and robotics, contributors explore the interplay between biological, technological and theoretical ways of thinking. They argue that the direction of modern science means that these areas can no longer be explored independently but must be integrated if we are to better understand the world. The collection makes a strong contribution to current debates in the philosophy of science and the changing role of scientific practice.

Provisional table of contents:

Introduction: Philosophy within Science – Marta Bertolaso
Part I: Towards a Conceptual Clarification of the Biological Dynamics
1 Microscopic and Macroscopic Insights of Dynamic Cell Behaviour – Kumar Selvarajoo
2 Proteins: A Unique Solution to Signal Transmission Efficiency – Alessandro Giuliani
3 How Gene Regulatory Network and Cell Population Dynamics Affect Molecular Explanation in Medicine – Sui Huang
4 Embodied Intelligence in the Biomechatronic Design of Robots – Dino Accoto
Part II: Towards a Clarification of What Scientific Understanding Entails
5 Managing Complexity: The Innovative Aims and Methods of Model-Building in Systems Biology, and their Challenges for Philosophy of Science – Miles McLeod
6 Stratification and Biomedicine: How Philosophy Stems from Medicine and Biotechnology – Zsuzsa Pavelka, Federico Boem and Giovanni Boniolo
7 Are Cells Computers? Can they be Reproduced on Computers? – Vincent C Müller
8 Biological, Technological and Epistemological Aspects of Robotics – Giampaolo Ghilardi
Part III: Towards a Development of a Philosophy of Scientific Practice
9 Technology and Mechanism in Biology – Marco Buzzoni
10 Scientific Understanding and the Explantatory Use of False Models – Antonio Diéguez
11 Prediction and Prescription in Biological Systems: The Role of Technology for Measurement and Transformation – Wenceslao J Gonzalez
12 Scientific Personal Agency – Marta Bertolaso, Giampaolo Ghilardi and Alfredo Marcos

Ambiente e società. Appendice XXI Secolo

2014: scientific coordinator, together with Andrea Romano, of the volume Ambiente e società. Appendice XXI Secolo, Torino: UTET Grandi Opere (scientific director Telmo Pievani), out in September 2014.

We solicited, supervised, and revised to publication 28 chapters by major Italian and International authors on many topics concerning environmental challenges and sustainability.

“Forest Skill” Online Evaluation Panel

2011-2012: I sit in the “Online Evaluation Panel” of the call for solutions “Forest Skill – Developing competences and know-how to create new job opportunities through the intelligent usage of Italian wood heritage”, organized by Fondazione Italiana Accenture and Fondazione Collegio delle Università Milanesi, with the scientific collaboration of Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca, Università degli Studi di Milano and the communicational partnership of FederlegnoArredo and Fondazione UniVerde.

Perspectives on the evolution of evolutionary theory: towards an Extended Synthesis?

CISEPS – Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Economics, Psychology and Social Sciences

PRIN 2007 “The Adaptive Behaviour of Biological Systems and the Scientific Method”

“Riccardo Massa” Department of  Human Sciences Sciences

University of Milano Bicocca

Perspectives on the evolution of evolutionary theory: towards an Extended Synthesis?

Workshop with:

  • Keynote speaker: Gerd B. Müller Professor for Zoology, Department of Theoretical Biology, University of Vienna; Chairman of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Altenberg
  • Discussant: Giuseppe Fusco Professor of Zoology, Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Padova
  • Discussant: Maurizio Casiraghi Researcher of Zoology, Dipartimento di Biotecnologie e Bioscienze, Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca
  • Discussant: Luigino Bruni Professor of Political Economics, Dipartimento di Economia, Università di Milano Bicocca; CISEPS
  • Chair: Telmo Pievani Professor of Philosophy of Science, Dipartimento di Scienze Umane per la Formazione “Riccardo Massa”, Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca; national coordinator of the Research Program “The Adaptive Behaviour of Biological Systems”
  • Chair: Emanuele Serrelli Dipartimento di Scienze Umane per la Formazione “Riccardo Massa”, Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca; Researcher in the Research Program “The Adaptive Behaviour of Biological Systems”

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 h 9.30-12.30
Auditorium – Building U12 – Via Vizzola 5, Milano

The roundtable will put into discussion a particular perspective on todayʼs evolutionary biology, that is the persuasion that a growing body of discoveries and fields of studies is demanding an extension of the Modern Synthesis (MS), which was realized in the 1930s and 1940s around the development of population genetics. Massimo Pigliucci, one of the main advocates of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES), lamented in 2007 that for many evolutionsists «the MS provides the framework for current and future evolutionary biology, with no need to revisit the fundamentals», despite many novelties such as evolvability, phenotypic plasticity, epigenetic inheritance, complexity theory and more, which were unknown at the time of MS. On the other hand, there is a more “continuist” perspective that sees evolutionary theory as already grown, although perhaps in ways different from the establishment of a new synthesis. Furthermore, some researchers are not yet persuaded that the the newly described phenomena have sufficient relevance and empirical support to justify a broad theoretical revision. There are also, although lying completely outside the scientific field of evolutionary biology, perspectives that see the same biological mechanisms as symptoms of the need for an entirely new theory to supplant the neo-Darwinian synthesis (e.g. Fodor & Piattelli Palmarini, 2010). We invited Gerd B. Müller, editor with Massimo Pigliucci of the book Evolution: The Extended Synthesis (MIT Press, 2010) and author of an essay on “Epigenetic Innovation” therein, to present the open project of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis. Different perspectives will surely emerge and interact thanks to the discussion with two affirmed Italian biologists with an interest in the theoretical reflection on the development of evolutionary theory: Giuseppe Fusco and Maurizio Casiraghi. Economist and CISEPS member Luigino Bruni will bring the debate on suggestions and possible implications for evolution-inspired modeling of social and cultural processes: a field which is more and more known as “cultural evolution”, although still in need of much conceptual development. Moderators of the roundtable will be Telmo Pievani and Emanuele Serrelli who will present and put into productive discussion the results of the biennial research program “The Adaptive Behaviour of Biological Systems”, co-funded by the Italian Ministero dellʼIstruzione, dellʼUniversità e della Ricerca Scientifica (framework PRIN 2007).

Gerd Müller’s keynote address

Giuseppe Fusco’s commentary

Maurizio Casiraghi’s commentary

Luigino Bruni’s commentary