My research focuses on American political thought, the history of science, the politics of scientific communication, and the nature of race and identity.
My dissertation focuses on America’s relationship to Darwinian evolution. I argue that scholars have inadequately viewed Americans’ beliefs about evolution to be the product of religious reaction or educative failure. A fuller interpretation would pay attention to the role of politics and the intersection of law and society. In the nineteenth century, massive inequalities and privileges were prefaced upon scientific conceptions of human inequality. Southern slaveholders believed, like Aristotle, that science and nature demonstrated a natural inequality among humans. Upon these notions about nature, great edifices of political and social power were built. In America, Darwinian evolution became intertwined with scientific discussions about race as well as the politics of radical Republicanism after the Civil War. Though natural history had previously formed part of slavery’s defense, natural history became associated with abolitionists and became distasteful to the southern planters, who had previously appealed to the mantle of scientific authority. These “political controversies” led to a decline in the trust that citizens had in scientists and educators.
My research examines the incentives that people have to value religious and scientific authority, the way that citizens acquire knowledge, and the role of partisanship in explaining citizens’ trust in scientific communication and education. My work points to the importance that conceptual categories play in deciding what kinds of arguments count as “reasonable” in democratic discussions.
I am also working on a project related to cosmopolitan ethics. The cosmopolitan ethic which embraces all of humankind under one umbrella of moral consideration is prefaced upon the fundamental moral equality of all humans. However, recent discoveries of the capabilities of nonhuman animals demonstrate the difficulty of grounding a cosmopolitan ethic upon the biological or natural distinctiveness of humans.
I received my PhD in Political Theory from the University of California, San Diego. I completed an MA in Political Science from UCSD, and I have BAs in History, Philosophy, and Political Science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I live in San Diego with my wife, Jami, son, Henry, and daughter, Anne.