CFPL Origin(s) of Design in Nature

Gordon, R., L. Stillwaggon Swan & J. Seckbach, Eds. (2011). Origin(s) of Design in Nature.
Dordrecht, Springer.

Deadline: 10 September 2010

Abstract: There is a large gap in our understanding of how organisms create themselves. There is also much to learn about how mindedness arose in some of these organisms through evolution. We are eager to identify fruitful ways of framing a discussion informed by
both science and philosophy that will shed light on the questions of design in living
systems. Specific questions include: How does the genotype produce the phenotype?
What is the role of the environment, including the physics of the universe, in this
process? How does the development process change over time, leading to the evolution
of organisms? Which natural processes or pressures led to the development of cognitive
functions in some of these organisms? We intend to take a fresh and interdisciplinary
look at the science of the origins of life, design, and mind in evolution, the source of so
much conflict and confusion impacting the public.

If you’re interested, or want to learn more, contact Liz Stillwaggon Swan,liz.swan AT

Psychological violence a crime in France

Reports here and discussion (in French) here on the new law passed in France, which identifies psychological violence as a criminal offence:

Politicians from the left and right supported the passing of a law which singles out “repeated” verbal actions intended to hurt the victim’s rights and dignity or their physical or mental health. As well as a jail sentence, offenders could be ordered to pay a fine of up to €75,000 (£66,600).

When I first heard about this (on the BBC world service news show last night) there was criticism of this law as ’empty law making’ – critics claimed that it would be hard to in fact prosecute and get convictions, and the law was likely therefore to be ineffective.

Even if so, it didn’t seem to me to be empty law making – such a law could help reinforce that such psychologically abusive forms of behaviour are unacceptable, or might help individuals subject to such abuse feel reasonable in seeking help…

I also thought there were some philosophically interesting/troubling parts to the law (as it is reported). Why the focus on what the perpetrator in fact intends, rather than on what effects could be reasonably forseen? Why ‘repeated’ verbal actions – could not a one off insult or threat be seriously damaging? Why only verbal actions – might gestures or other behaviour be psychologically abusive?

Any thoughts…?