C (Keje) Boersma MSc

C (Keje) Boersma MSc


I’m a PhD candidate in philosophy, working on my dissertation in environmental philosophy and philosophy of technology. I explore what the concept of the anthropocene or “age of humans” means for our ability to reflect critically on contemporary scientific and technological developments involving human intervention into nature. I conduct this exploration by looking at gene drives, a technology currently developed with the aim of spreading genetic traits through wild populations.

While the gene drive debate is permeated by considerations of ethics and responsibility, it lacks a thorough consideration of the particular problem field I envision. Following Preston’s (2017; 2018) suggestion that gene drives are an anthropocene technology, I understand this problem field as revolving around the elusive but important relation between, on the one hand, a debate about an event (the anthropocene) that suggests a newfound understanding of the human-nature relation as the end of the human-nature distinction due to past and present human planetary influence, and, on the other hand, the ontological and moral implications of a particular technoscientific development (gene drives), the intelligibility and meaningfulness of which rely entirely on the idea of nature and the human-nature distinction.

In the first part of my dissertation, I empirically support an account of how current gene development works and is represented through a framing analysis of the gene drive literature and two ethnographic case studies of bioengineering groups working on gene drives (chapter 1). The second part is devoted to the philosophical exploration of the aforementioned problem field. I argue against a view of the anthropocene as the end of nature and in favor of viewing it as epitomizing human intervention into nature (chapter 2). I then develop an account of the foundations for an environmental ethic for the anthropocene that does justice to this view of the anthropocene as revolving around human interventioism (chapter 3). Here, I also provide detailed analyses of the work of James Baird Callicott and Steven Vogel in terms of their attempt at responding to the anthropocene in environmental philosophy. Finally, I reflect on the question what kind of view on technology and gene drive technology specifically is warranted in light of the account I develop (chapter 4).

I am supervised by dr. Bernice Bovenkerk (https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Bernice-dr.-B-Bernice-Bovenkerk.htm) and dr. David Ludwig (https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/David-dr.-DJ-David-Ludwig.htm).

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions about my research: keje.boersma@wur.nl. *Profile photo was made by Ben Hale.

Watch the video below for an impression of the considerations characterizing the gene drive discussion.