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Department of History and Philosophy of Science

 

PhD student

College: Downing

Supervisor: Tim Lewens and Marta Halina (adviser) 

Thesis topic: Evidence, risk, and uncertainty in the science and ethics of astrobiology. 

Tentative title: Life in the Shadows: The N = 1 Problem in Astrobiology and Beyond.

Thesis outline: Thus far, astrobiologists have only been able to confirm the existence of life observable on Earth. Is this an obstacle for scientific progress in astrobiology, and if so, how troublesome is it? Dubbed the N = 1 problem in biology, scientists and philosophers alike have reasoned that life on Earth is an untrustworthy source of astrobiological evidence, as it arguably represents just a single example of life in the universe. The purpose of my thesis is to clarify the nature of this problem. Is the reason for concern merely to be restricted to biological evidence available on a single planet, or should astrobiologists consider biological knowledge to be principally unreliable when it comes to inferences on unknown forms of life? How should astrobiologists account for unconceived biological alternatives, i.e., ‘unknown biologies’, in order to identify evidence of life elsewhere? Clarifying these questions is not merely a matter of truth and falsehood. They intimately affect how we come to think of the threats to life on Earth posed by alien life and how we estimate the risk that Earth becomes inhospitable for life.

Research interests: Philosophy of astrobiology, habitability, and extinction sciences; scientific pessimism, epistemic ignorance, and the long-term future of science; ethics of human extinction, existential risk, and environmental ethics.

 

Conferences & Talks 

2022 – 'Against Biological Solipsism', presentation at the 'CHESS' seminar series on the philosophy of space science, University of Durham. 

2020 – 'What is Unavailable Evidence?', presentation at the virtual conference 'Lakatos' Undone Work', London School of Economics. 

2019 – 'Bacterial Texts', presentation at the seminar series 'Keine Forschung', Kein Museum, Zurich. 

2018 – 'Cyborgs, Zombies & Monsters: Eine Biopolitik des Nichthumanen', presentation at the conference series 'International Afternoon', Zurich University of the Arts.
 

Supervisions 

2021/22 – HPS Part II Paper 6: Ethics and Politics of Science and Medicine. 
 

Prior Education 

2020 – London School of Economics: M.Sc. in Philosophy and Public Policy, Distinction. 

2019 – University College London: M.Sc. in History & Philosophy of Science, Distinction. 

2013 – University of the Arts Bern: B.A. in Fine Arts. 
 

Non-Academic Background  

2018/20 – Zurich University of the Arts, School of Commons: Co-Founder & Board Member. 

2017 – documenta 14: Art Educator. 

2016 – Manifesta 11: Art Educator. 

2015/18 – Zurich University of the Arts, Dept. of Cultural Analysis: Publishing Assistant. 

2013/15 – Vice Magazine Switzerland: Editor. 
 

Awards  

2020 – Doctoral Scholarship, The British Society for the Philosophy of Science. 

2019 – STS Best Dissertation Prize for the best history and philosophy of science dissertation, University College London. 

2019 – STS Alumni Prize for outstanding contribution to life in the department, University College London. 

2017 – Critic in Residence fellowship, Studio Das Weisse Haus, Vienna. 
 

Engagement

2021/today: Course programmer & facilitator at Effective Altruism Cambridge.  

2018/19 – Student representative, dept. of Science & Technology Studies STS, University College London. 

2015 – Swiss Ambassador for the Surprise Magazine to the European Homeless Cup in Berlin. 

 

Research

 

 

 

Contact Details

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