Abstract: An Evolutionary Objection to Ethical Objectivism

The idea that there is right and wrong is incredibly intuitive. Charity is right. Slavery is wrong. But if right and wrong exist what does this entail and how do we know what if something is right? If morality exists it must be an objective morality. The right action in a specific scenario cannot be right for one person and not right for another. Another requisite of morality is categorical action guiding power. To do what is right you may have to act against your desires, thus morality must be able to motivate  independently of desire. We cling to the idea of morality because if morality didn’t exist then. Surely, without morality there would be no reason for people not to just kill each other on sight or lie without a care.

However, we cannot accept morality exists simply because we fear a world without it. Like everything else we believe exists we must have reasoning beyond intuition. There is no positive reason why morality exists. In fact, many moral actions can be explained by evolution. Research in affective and cognitive neuroscience has show that “moral” instincts have evolved overtime. This summer, I plan to read and analyze studies and articles on the evolution of moral behavior. 

Beyond scientific research, there is significant philosophical evidence against morality. J.L. Mackie argues that the idea of motivation independent of desires is too weird to fathom. In addition to my scientific research, I will research philosophical objections to ethical objectivism and find the intersection of this research and the scientific research I have accumulated.

Research in Renewable Energy: Germany vs. The United States

Germany is one of the world’s leaders in the use and research of renewable energy. The country has made aggressive efforts to cut down their usage of nuclear and fossil fuel power, while increasing the amount of energy harvested from wind, biomass, and solar sources. This movement is called energiewende, meaning energy transition, and scientists say this sort of energy revolution is necessary in order to avoid a climate crisis. The United States, while also investing in renewable energy, has not reached the level of global leadership that Germany has. This research answers how, and why, Germany and the United States differ in their approach and success to alternative energy sources by examining both German and American research papers. This project compares the rationale behind the research of each experiment, as well as the implications of the results, to see whether any differences between the countries become evident.

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Abstract: Asian Representation in American Film

For my research project, I plan to study Asian representation in American film over time. Specifically, the quality of that representation. My goal is to see if the portrayal of Asians in film has changed. If it has changed, is it a positive or negative change? Once I’ve found a trend I plan to investigate further to find out why that change is happening. If, for example, Asian characters are being portrayed with more emotional depth and are being stereotyped less, then I’d follow-up by looking at the catalyst for that change. Was there a growing demand by the Asian community for diverse characters? Was there pressure from civil rights groups? Or was there push-back from the actors and actresses themselves? To answer these questions I plan to create a rubric to evaluate whether an Asian character. portrayal is stereotypical or aims to add depth to the character. I will be looking at nine typical Asian stereotypes: The perpetual foreigner, the martial artist, the nerd/geek, the sexualized female (geisha girl)/asexual male, being inferior/subservient, the mystic, a yellow peril, and being physically caricatured. I plan to apply this rubric to Asian character roles that have been nominated for an Oscar as well as top-grossing movies in the past with Asian roles. I will then look through the data to determine trends in representation and will seek to explain them using various sociological lenses.

Funding Models for Clean Energy Startups

Even though clean energy has experienced a rapid rise in popularity in recent years, funding firms (e.g., venture capital, private equity) have struggled to identify and fund startups that are successful in this field. Through a case study analysis of successful and unsuccessful clean energy startups, this research will answer the question of why startup funding outlets have failed to recognize key factors that determine the success and profitability of clean energy startups. With climate change and environmental issues such a prevalent issue from both an economic and a social perspective, it is vital to understand why the clean energy funding model has failed in this industry even at a time when clean energy is becoming more competitive and more popular when compared to other forms of energy.