Stotz and Griffiths, Biohumanities
suggested by those labels. The ELSI label has a particularly strong connotation that
biologists provide the facts while humanists and social scientists are confined to
discussing the implications of those facts. In contrast, biohumanities research aims to
feed back into our understanding of biology itself. Moreover, in the biohumanities vision,
while history and philosophy of biology may provide resources for addressing `ELSI'
issues, that is not their primary aim.
We see four major aims for research in the Biohumanities: understanding biology,
constructive science criticism, contributing to new visions of biology, and contributing to
critical science communication. First, and most generally, biohumanities is concerned
with understanding biology. Although the biohumanities are of potential value to both
biology and society, this is not the sole or main justification for engaging in this research.
Science is fascinating and important, and it is worth understanding science even if
understanding it does not have an immediate practical payoff, just as evolution is worth
understanding whether or not doing so contributes to crop improvement or drug
development. As in the biosciences themselves, it is hard to imagine Biohumanities
researchers doing their best work without an intrinsic interest in the material they study.
Second, biohumanities understands itself as a critical enterprise. Constructive 'science
criticism' (Pigliucci and Kaplan, 2006, 8) stands back from the urgencies of actual
research to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of current approaches. Thus, as C.
Kenneth Waters has remarked, the aims of philosophical analysis include "to articulate
scientific concepts in ways that help reveal epistemic virtues and limitations of particular