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Theorizing biological disruptions: the case of endocrine disruptors

Cover slide from the talk “Theorizing biological disruptions: the case of endocrine disruptors”

The notion of disruption is used broadly in the scientific literature to describe anthropogenic, detrimental effects on living beings, from organisms to ecosystems. However, this notion is missing a proper theoretical and conceptual elaboration. Why do living beings display specific vulnerabilities to some perturbations that are described as triggering disruptions? In particular, what distinguishes endocrine disruptions from mere perturbations? We discuss the notion of disruption in the case of endocrine disruptors by first building on examples. We contend that disruptions are the randomization of natural history outcomes that contribute to viability. In the case of endocrine disruptions, development complexifies the picture, and it was the first argument for the specificity of this phenomenon. Another critical aspect of the analysis is the technological lineages leading to new molecules from the disrupted biological lineages' perspective. By conceptualizing and theorizing disruptions further, we hope to contribute to the scientific knowledge of these phenomena, build bridges between different fields studying different kinds of biological disruptions, and facilitate their understanding by the general public.

Montévil, Maël. 2021. “Theorizing Biological Disruptions: The Case of Endocrine Disruptors.” In Wingspread@30: Birth and Development of Endocrine Disruption Science, Part II — ISHPSSB 2021. https://meetings.cshl.edu/meetings.aspx?meet=ISH&year=21