Derek Turner

Professor of Philosophy
Associate Director of the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment

Joined Connecticut College: 2001

B.A., American University
M.A., Ph.D., Vanderbilt University


Philosophy of science

Philosophy of biology

Environmental philosophy

Derek Turner regularly teaches Introduction to Philosophy, Logic, Bioethics, Environmental Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Biology, and Darwin. He also enjoys teaching courses on the history of philosophy. In Spring 2014, he taught a new course on the science and ethics of extinction.

A past winner of the John S. King Award for Excellence in Teaching, Turner is Associate Director of the College’s Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment.

Turner’s research focuses on philosophical issues in historical science, especially paleontology and the earth sciences. He is the author of "Making Prehistory: Historical Science and the Scientific Realism Debate" (2007) and "Paleontology: A Philosophical Introduction" (2011).

Turner has had visiting fellowships at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Philosophy of Science and most recently at the KLI in Klosterneuburg, Austria. He has also written on a variety of topics in environmental philosophy: the ethics of radical environmental activism; the precautionary principle; NIMBY (“Not In My Backyard”) activism; as well as rewilding and de-extinction. The NIMBY project was a joint effort with Simon Feldman.

He is also a founding editor and contributor to a new blog for phlosophy of paleontology: Extinct

Visit his personal website:


"Paleontology: A Philosophical Introduction" (2011)

"Making Prehistory: Historical Science and the Scientific Realism Debate" (2007)

Representative papers in environmental philosophy

“The restorationist argument for extinction reversal,” in The Ethics of Animal Modification and Recreation: Reviving, Rewilding, Restoring, edited by Helena Siipi and Markku Oksanen, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 40-59.

“Proportionality and the Precautionary Principle: Comments on Daniel Steel, "The Precautionary Principle and the Dilemma Objection’,” Ethics, Policy, and Environment 16(2013): 338-40.

With Simon Feldman: “Why Not NIMBY?” Ethics, Policy, and Environment 13(2010): 1-16.

“Monkeywrenching, Perverse Incentives, and Ecodefence,” Environmental Values 15(2006): 213-232.

“Are We at War With Nature?” Environmental Values 14(2005): 21-36.

“The Lack of Clarity in the Precautionary Principle,” with Lauren Hartzell (Connecticut College, Class of 2003), Environmental Values 13 (November 2004): 449-460.

Representative papers in philosophy of science

“Causal explanations of historical trends,” in Explanation in the Special Sciences – The Case of Biology and History, edited by Marie Kaiser, Andreas Hüttemann, and Oliver Scholz, Springer, 2014, pp. 255-269.

“Historical Geology: Methodology and Metaphysics” in Baker, V.R., ed., Rethinking the Fabric of Geology: Geological Society of America Special Paper 502(2013): 11-18.

With Rob Inkpen: “The Topography of Historical Contingency,” Journal of the Philosophy of History 6(2012): 1-20.

“Gould’s Replay Revisited,” Biology and Philosophy 26(2010): 65-79.

“Punctuated Equilibrium and Species Selection: What Does it Mean for one Theory to Suggest Another?” Theory in Biosciences 129(2010): 113-123.

“Beyond Detective Work: Empirical Testing in Paleobiology,” in M. Ruse and D. Sepkoski (eds.), The Paleobiological Revolution: Essays on the Growth of Modern Paleontology, University of Chicago Press, 2009, pp. 201-214.

“How Much Can We Know About the Causes of Evolutionary Trends?” Biology and Philosophy 24(2009): 341-357.

“Local Underdetermination in Historical Science,” Philosophy of Science 72(2005): 209-230.

“Misleading Observable Analogues in Paleontology,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 36(2005): 175-183.

“The Functions of Fossils: Inference and Explanation in Functional Morphology,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science C: Biology and Biomedical Sciences 31(March 2000): 193-212.


Visit the philosophy department website.

Majoring in Philosophy. 

Majoring in Environmental Studies.

Contact Derek Turner

Mailing Address

Derek Turner
Connecticut College
Box #5606
270 Mohegan Ave.
New London, CT 06320


306 Blaustein Humanities

Personal Website