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2011-2012 Colloquia

Spring 2012

January 20, 2012 - Annual Science Studies Symposium

“What Statistics 101 Doesn't Teach, But Should”
Charles Geyer, School of Statistics, University of Minnesota

January 25, 2012 Wednesday 12 noon 731 Heller Hall
***Note change of time and venue***

“Knowing why it’s appropriate to rely on scientific experts (and when it’s not)”
Frédéric Bouchard
Department of Philosophy, University of Montreal

January 27, 2012

"When Did Physics Begin?"
Francis Everitt, HEPL, Stanford University
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

February 3, 2012

“Causality Principles and Probability in Physics”
Jos Uffink
, Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota

February 10, 2012

"Robots and Machines: Android Automata and Early Industrialization in Eighteenth-Century Europe."
Adelheid Voskuhl
, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

February 17, 2012

"Toxic Archipelago: The Hybrid Causes of Industrial Disease in Japan."
Brett L. Walker, Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies, Montana State University, Bozeman
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

February 24, 2012

Author meets readers
"Evolutionary Restraints:
The Contentious History of Group Selection
Mark Borrello, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota

Ben Kerr, Department of Biology, University of Washington
Robert Richards, Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine, The University of Chicago

March 2, 2012, 12:15 pm
3-125 Mayo
***Note change of time and venue***

"Qualms about Cost-Effectiveness"
Daniel Hausman
, Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Co-sponsored by the Center for Bioethics

March 2, 2012

"Nineteenth-Century Physics and the Natural World:
Thermodynamics, Glaciers, Explorers"
panel discussion
Bruce Hevly
Department of History, University of Washington
Bruce Hunt,
Department of History, University of Texas at Austin
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

March 30, 2012

"Forming a Nation, Re-Framing a Profession: Race, Medical Science, and Physician Understandings of American Identity."
Jeffrey Mullins
, Department of History, St Cloud State University
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

April 6, 2012

"Efficient, Secure, Green: The Shifting Logic of 'Smart' Grids"
Rebecca Slayton
, Program in History of Science and Technology, University of Minnesota
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

April 13, 2012

“The Flow of Time: Stitching the World Together”
Craig Callender
, Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego

April 20, 2012 CANCELED

"Youth and Sex: Science, Religion and Sex Education in Early Twentieth-Century Britain"
Jacqueline DeVries
, Department of History, Augsburg College
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

April 27, 2012
1-132 Carlson School of Management
***Note change of venue***

“Why Causal Structure is More Basic than Global Laws”
Jenann Ismael
, Department of Philosophy, University of Arizona
Co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy

Abstracts for Spring 2012

Charles Geyer, “What Statistics 101 Doesn't Teach, But Should”
Abstract:Introductory statistics courses teach the math not the philosophy, partly in order not to offend, because statistically questionable methodology is widely used in science. This questionable methodology has recently been highlighted in articles with provocative titles such as “The truth wears off: Is there something wrong with the scientific method?” (The New Yorker) and “Why most published research findings are false” (PLoS Medicine). Both parts ofThe New Yorkertitle are wrongheaded. The apparent decline of "statistical significance" in follow-up studies is a well-understood result of publication bias and multiple testing without correction, and it does not show anything wrong with "the scientific method." The PLoS Medicine title needs an addendum: in areas of science that rely heavily on statistics (which is understood in that journal). I will explain where the questionable statistical inferences go wrong using the electric power lines and cancer debacle as an illustration.

Frédéric Bouchard, “Knowing why it’s appropriate to rely on scientific experts (and when it’s not)”
Abstract: Recent public debates about climate change, genetically modified crops, science curriculum and other issues have both strengthened the necessity to appeal to some form of scientific expertise while at the same time relativizing the epistemic authority of its claims. Various social scientists, mostly in the field of STS (science and technology studies), have offered diagnoses of this phenomenon. However, because of the influence of the “strong programme” (and other relativist projects), their contribution has focused exclusively on describing how expertise is marshaled, not why it is legitimate to invoke it. Philosophy has offered rare but significant contributions to this debate. We could group these contributions in two broad families: some (e.g. Hardwig) offer moral underpinnings for expertise while others (e.g. Goldman) offer a detailed epistemic analysis of the types of epistemic asymmetry in expertise relationships.  They are both right in significant respects but neither show how the heterogeneity of the types of objects for which expertise is invoked affects the epistemic authority of expertise. Using Merton’s work as an inspiration, I will show how the types of values involved in scientific practice both buttress its authority concerning certain objects and weaken it for others.  I will explain why the authority of scientific expertise has to be contextualized relative to the risk involved in the process it examines. My approach differs from that of other philosophers who have looked at risk in that I will argue that the genuine means of strengthening the authority of scientific experts on many topics also inadvertently weaken that same authority on risk-related issues.

Jos Uffink, “Causality Principles and Probability in Physics”
Abstract: A common causality assumption in classical physics is that the effects caused by some event occurring at a particular region in space-time will only occur later in time. In relativistic physics, the stronger assumption is made that such effects can only occur at or inside the future light-cone of the region where their cause happens. But since these physical theories are deterministic, the formulation of such causality assumptions did not need a probabilistic setting.
On the other hand, the famous Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen experiment in quantum physics predicts that the outcomes obtained at space-like separated regions may have correlated probabilities which seem to lack any straightforward causal explanation. This has led to a search for the formulation of causality principles within a probabilistic setting that might capture exactly what is at stake in such experiments.
This talk will review some candidates that have often been used for this purpose, like Reichenbach's Common Cause Principle, and Bell's notion of Local Causality, and discuss some of the subtleties involved in formulating a viable causality principle in a probabilistic context.

Author meets reader: Mark Borrello "Evolutionary Restraints: The Contentious History of Group Selection"
Abstract: Borrello’s book is a history of an evolutionary debate, specifically, the theory of group selection. It’s also a 205-page parable about the often messy way science is done.
Much of the evolutionary debate since Darwin has focused on the level at which natural selection occurs. Most biologists acknowledge multiple levels of selection—from the gene to the species. The debate about group selection, however, is the focus of this book.
Tracing the history of biological attempts to determine whether selection leads to the evolution of fitter groups, Borrello takes as his focus the British naturalist V. C. Wynne-Edwards, who proposed that animals could regulate their own populations and thus avoid overexploitation of their resources. By the mid-twentieth century, Wynne-Edwards became an advocate for group selection theory and led a debate that engaged the most significant evolutionary biologists of his time. This important dialogue bled out into broader conversations about population regulation, environmental crises, and the evolution of human social behavior. By examining a single facet in the long debate about evolution, Borrello provides powerful insight into an intellectual quandary that remains relevant and alive to this day.

Daniel Hausman, "Qualms about Cost-Effectiveness"
Abstract: Rationing of health-related resources is inevitable, the only question is how. One apparently attractive proposal is to employ those resources in whatever way will bring about the greatest improvement in health. But using health-related resources in the most cost-effective way is unjust and arbitrary. The injustice is already widely recognized, unlike the arbitrariness, which is the focus of this talk. Existing measures of generic health are a poor basis for health policy because they are not clearly conceptualized, inadequately supported, insufficiently discriminating, and rely on illegitimate averaging of conflicting values.

Craig Callender, “The Flow of Time: Stitching the World Together”
Abstract: Of all the ways time is distinguished from space, perhaps the idea that time flows but space does not is among the most significant and pervasive. Time's flow is firmly entrenched in the manifest conception of time. People commonly speak of the whoosh of time as it goes or flies by.
Not only do people speak and think this way, but most claim that they experience the passage of time. Such is the strength of this experience -- or at least the pull of the manifest theory -- that many distinguished thinkers assume that the positing of a basic physical or metaphysical flow of time is the only action fully respecting it. I'll argue that this is a mistake.  The cosmologist Thomas Gold wrote that "We ought to eliminate this flow idea from the real picture, but before we can eliminate it we ought to understand how it arises. We should understand that there can be a self-consistent set of rules that would give a beast this kind of phoney picture of time."   While I don't think the flow need be phoney or illusory -- instead it could be like color -- I want to begin Gold's project of explaining it without appealing to any basic flow.  Appealing to the hard facts of life in a relativistic world, our environments, and our psychology, I develop a theory of why  "beasts" like us might claim that time flows.

Jenann Ismael “Why Causal Structure is More Basic than Global Laws”
Abstract: There was a time when science was thought of as wholly devoted to the investigation of the causal structure of the world. With the mathematicization of science and the triumph of Newtonian theory, causal vocabulary disappeared from the most fundamental level of physical description. It became the norm to present a fundamental theory as a set of mathematical equations describing global laws of temporal evolution. Since then philosophers of science have struggled to understand how and where causal ideas enter into the description of Nature. In philosophy of physics circles, the discussion has taken the form of attempts to derive causal information from global laws (or laws and initial conditions, or probabilities, or one of the other elements drawn from the first principles of a global theory). There has been dissent from this orthodoxy by philosophers that deny the descriptive completeness of fundamental physics. I now think that even fundamentalists about physics should recognize causal structure as more basic than global laws. I will say why, and assess the philosophical impact of this reversal in the order of priority.

Fall 2011

September 16, 2011
1-102 Hanson Hall
***Note change of venue***

“On the Front Lines of the Scientific Revolution: Novatores vs. Aristotelians”
Daniel Garber
, Department of Philosophy, Princeton University
Co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy

September 23, 2011

"The Evolution of Myths in History of Science: About Galileo, Darwin and Einstein"
Alberto Martinez, Department of History, University of Texas, Austin
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

Also at 5:30 pm in 170 Tate

"From Molecules to Clinics: Chronobiology as Integrative Pursuit"
William Bechtel, Department of Philosophy and Center for Chronobiology, University of California, San Diego

September 30, 2011

"A new look at grouping practices in the life sciences: significant kinds and the epistemic roles of kind concepts"
Miles MacLeod
Konrad Lorenz Institut for Evolution & Cognition Research, Vienna

October 7, 2011

"The bio-logic of plant development and morphogenesis"
Karl Niklas
, Department of Plant Biology, Cornell University

October 14, 2011

"The Road not Taken: Ego-histoire or My Autobiographical Encounter with Pioneering Women Scientists (Two Nobel Laureates and a "Scientist Interrupted)”
Pnina Abir-Am
, Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis University
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

October 21, 2011 Death in a Small Package cover

Author meets readers
"Death in a Small Package"
Susan Jones
, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Minnesota

Prof. Peter Koolmees, Descartes Centre, University of Utrecht
Prof. Dominique Tobbell, HMed, University of Minnesota
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

October 28, 2011

"Lost in Translation: German Theory and the American Concept of Technology between the World Wars."
Eric Schatzberg, Department of the History of Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

November 11, 2011

"Alchemy, Agency, and Magic in the Early Modern Experience of Nature and the Body"
Bruce Moran, Department of History, University of Nevada, Reno
Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

November 18, 2011

Author meets readers
"Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the
Challenge of Learning across Disciplines" Borrowed Knowledge cover
Stephen Kellert,
Department of Philosophy, Hamline University
Ronald Giere, Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota
William Wimsatt,
Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago

November 25, 2011
No Colloquium, Thanksgiving

December 2, 2011

"Towards an Epistemology of e-Biology"
Sabina Leonelli
, University of Exeter

December 9, 2011

Co-sponsored by the Program in the History of Science

Abstracts for Fall 2011

Daniel Garber, “On the Front Lines of the Scientific Revolution: Novatores vs. Aristotelians”
Abstract: The standard master narrative of a scientific revolution in the sixteenth through the eighteenth century has been challenged in recent years. Various arguments have been used to undermine the standard story that the Aristotelian philosophy of the schools was undermined by the so-called “new philosophy” in the early modern period. But interestingly enough, a new master narrative hasn't yet emerged. In my talk, I would like to propose a different way of thinking about the changes that happened in the period. On my view, what is central is a large and diverse group of thinkers who were called “novatores”, “innovators,” mostly by their enemies. In my talk, I would like to explore this category of thinkers, who, from our point of view, had little in common besides the fact that they opposed the Aristotelian philosophy of the schools. The consideration of this group suggests a conception of scientific change rather different from the Kuhnian model of a scientific revolution. In addition to changing our view of scientific change, this perspective puts familiar figures such as Descartes, Bacon and Hobbes into a very different context.

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William Bechtel, "From Molecules to Clinics: Chronobiology as Integrative Pursuit"
Abstract: Across the life sciences researchers working on closely related phenomena (or even the same phenomenon) are often segregated into different fields or disciplines, publish in different journals and attend different conferences, and may be either unaware or incapable of relating to each other’s work. Chronobiology, and especially the study of circadian rhythms, is a clear exception. Researchers from molecular biology, psychology, medical sciences and computational modeling are making productive connections to each other’s work. I will argue that the frameworks of mechanistic explanation that requires both decomposing and recomposing mechanisms and dynamic mechanistic explanation that brings in computational modeling underlies this integration. As I will illustrate, accounts of circadian phenomena are multi-level, relating intracellular molecular components, intercellular and inter-organ coordination within an organism, and behaviors within social organizations on a planet that has a particular day-night cycle. Disrupting these at any level can result in serious affects on health.

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Miles MacLeod, "A new look at grouping practices in the life sciences: significant kinds and the epistemic roles of kind concepts"
Abstract: The purpose of this talk is to open up a new perspective on kind or grouping concepts and their roles in the life sciences, by examining distinctions in their use and application in research contexts. In this respect it argues for a departure from the traditional framework of discussion of these concepts, which is the natural kind debate. Using case studies from mathematical ecology and evolutionary biology, I identify a distinction between what I call significant and non-significant kinds, which tracks in these cases particular functional differences in the way the concepts are treated and applied. These alternative concepts rest on a distinction between kinds employed as likely sources of reliable group-bound information, and those that group phenomena because they represent collectively an important theoretical problem or have predictive and explanatory value without being thought to mark any deeper shared information among members. The distinction also suggests the need for more a more refined understanding of projectability to support the different applications of these kinds, which I explore as type I and type II projectability. In so far as this kind demarcation extends beyond these cases to the life sciences more broadly, and perhaps beyond, they provide some potential resources for understanding why particular groupings rather than others are composed out of the background of similarity that confronts scientists, and the particular features groupings need to have to make them productive in the ways desired.

Karl Niklas, "The bio-logic of plant development and morphogenesis"
Abstract: The development of organic form (morphogenesis) requires signal trafficking and cross talking across all levels of organization to coordinate the operation of metabolic and genomic networked systems. Many biologists are converging on the pictorial conventions of computer scientists to render biological signaling as logic circuits supervising the operation of one or more signal-activated metabolic or gene networks. This approach can redact and simplify complex morphogenetic phenomena and allows for their aggregation into diagrams of larger, more ‘‘global’’ networked systems. This conceptualization will be discussed in terms of how logic circuits and signal-activated subsystems work, and it will be illustrated for examples of increasingly more complex morphogenetic phenomena with particular emphasis on auxin-mediated phenomena (e.g., cell expansion). For each phenomenon, a posited circuit/subsystem diagram draws rapid attention to missing components, either in the logic circuit or in the subsystem it supervises. These components must be identified experimentally if each of these basic phenomena is to be fully understood. The power of the circuit/subsystem approach to modeling developmental phenomena resides not in its pictorial appeal but in the mathematical tools that are sufficiently strong to reveal and quantify the synergistics of networked systems and thus foster a better understanding of morphogenesis. These tools reveal that a deep understand of morphogenesis requires a ‘global’ perspective that unfortunately is unattainable in most cases.

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Stephen Kellert, Author meets readers: "Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines"
What happens to scientific knowledge when researchers outside the natural sciences bring elements of the latest trend across disciplinary boundaries for their own purposes? Researchers in fields from anthropology to family therapy and traffic planning employ the concepts, methods, and results of chaos theory to harness the disciplinary prestige of the natural sciences, to motivate methodological change or conceptual reorganization within their home discipline, and to justify public policies and aesthetic judgments.
Using the recent explosion in the use (and abuse) of chaos theory, Borrowed Knowledge and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines examines the relationship between science and other disciplines as well as the place of scientific knowledge within our broader culture. Stephen H. Kellert’s detailed investigation of the myriad uses of chaos theory reveals serious problems that can arise in the interchange between science and other knowledge-making pursuits, as well as opportunities for constructive interchange. By engaging with recent debates about interdisciplinary research, Kellert contributes a theoretical vocabulary and a set of critical frameworks for the rigorous examination of borrowing.

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Sabina Leonelli "Towards an Epistemology of e-Biology"
The data deluge is upon us, and online databases, visualisation tools and automated data analysis are gaining authority as the best and only ways to cope with the amounts of information available within scientific research. This talk examines some implications of this shift for research practices in the biological and biomedical sciences, and particularly the ways in which experiments are conducted and results are interpreted. Are we witnessing the rise of a new scientific epistemology?

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Colloquia Information

Unless otherwise indicated, the lectures are held on Fridays, in conjunction with the Colloquium in Studies of Science and Technology, at 3:30 PM in Room 170 of the Tate Laboratory of Physics on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota. Please note that this is a different room from last semester. Please join us at 3:15 PM in Room 216 for refreshments.

If you would like to be notified by email of upcoming Center colloquia, please email your request to

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