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Colloquia

Fall 2017

September 8, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

Introductions and
"Technology, Religion, and Postwar Debates About the Order of Creation: How the History of Science and Religion has Led Us Into Error in AnalyzingTechnology and Religion"
Jennifer Alexander, History of Science and Technology, University of Minnesota
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

September 15, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

“'He Will be a Better Citizen as a Legitimate Addict': The Forgotten History of Harm Reduction in America’s First Opioid Epidemic"
David Herzberg
, Department of History, University at Buffalo
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

September 22, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

"When Children are Better Learners than Adults are: Theory Formation, Causal Models, and the Evolution of Learning."
Alison Gopnik,
Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley
abstract

September 29, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Inviting Girls Into the Lab: The Rise of Diversity Advocacy in STEM, 1950–Present"
Amy Bix
, Department of History, Iowa State University
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

October 6, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Cold War Curvature: Measuring and Modeling Gravity in Postwar American Physics"
David Kaiser
, P rogram in Science, Technology & Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

October 13, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Structural Bias and the Commercialization of Medicine"
Rebecca Kukla
, Department of Philosophy, Georgetown University
abstract

October 20, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Fluidity, Elasticity, and Activity: Conceptualizing Air from Boyle to the Early Newtonians"
Victor Boantza
, History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, University of Minnesota
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

October 27, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

"An Epistemology of Scientific Investigation"
C Kenneth Waters
, Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary
abstract

November 3, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Astrology from University Lecture to Print Culture"
Darin Hayton,
Department of History, Haverford College
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

November 10, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

“Absolute Space, Relative Motion, and the Method of Newtonian Physics”
Robert DiSalle
, Department of Philosophy, Western University
abstract

November 17, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Unification and Heuristic Strategies in the Development of Quantum Theory"
Molly Kao,
Department of Philosophy, University of Montreal
Co-sponsored by the CLA Quantitative Methods Collaboration Committee

November 24, 2017
No Colloquium Thanksgiving

December 1, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Active Ignorance and the Rhetoric of Biological Race Realism"
Nora Berenstain
, Department of Philosophy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
abstract

December 8, 2017, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Eurasianism in Soviet Science: The Environmental Views of Aleksandr Fersman"
Andy Bruno,
Department of History, Northern Illinois University
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

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Abstracts for Fall 2017

“When Children are Better Learners than Adults are: Theory Formation, Causal Models, and the Evolution of Learning.”
Alison Gopnik, Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley
Abstract: In the past 15 years, we have discovered that even young children are adept at inferring causal relationships and that they do so in much the same way as scientists, using causal models and inductive inference to construct intuitive theories of the world. But are there differences in the ways that younger children, older children and adults learn? And do socioeconomic status and culture make a difference? I will present several studies showing a surprising pattern. Not only can preschoolers learn abstract higher-order principles from data, but younger learners are actually better at inferring unusual or unlikely principles than older learners and adults. This pattern also holds for children in Peru and in Headstart programs in Oakland, California. I relate this pattern to computational ideas about search and sampling, to evolutionary ideas about human life history, and to neuroscience findings about the negative effects of frontal control on wide exploration. My hypothesis is that our distinctively long, protected human childhood allows an early period of broad hypothesis search, exploration and creativity, before the demands of goal-directed action set in.

"Structural Bias and the Commercialization of Medicine"
Rebecca Kukla, Department of Philosophy, Georgetown University
Abstract: The rapid and massive commercialization and privatization of medical research and practice constitutes a seismic shift in how medical knowledge is built, disseminated, and applied. In this presentation, I examine the epistemological (as opposed to the narrowly ethical) effects of this commercialization. I consider how private interests shape what gets researched, using what methods, and how research results are communicated, as well as how these interests shape clinical practice and even our theoretical understanding of what counts as a disease. I argue that commercialization and private interests result in various epistemically distorting biases being built directly into how we organize medical research and practice, quite independently from anyone’s intentions or conscious goals.

"An Epistemology of Scientific Investigation"
C Kenneth Waters
, Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary
Abstract: Basic accounts of scientific knowledge typically present it as a system for representing the world, often as a system that represents the fundamental structure of the world. This talk presents science as a system centered on investigating the world. It begins by posing the metaphysical possibility that the world has no fundamental structure. The world seems to have lots of structures, but perhaps it has no overall, general structure that spans scales. The talk continues by examining how geneticists and allied biologists systematically investigate, manipulate, and explain aspects of such a world. It shows that the systematicity of these investigations depends on strategies for manipulating and learning about aspects of parts of the world; it does not depend on scientists having a representation of the overall structure of these parts. The talk concludes that we can dispense with the assumption that the parts of the world investigated by these scientists have a general overall structure to be represented. These parts of the world have lots of structure, and investigation depends on them having lots of structure, but it does not depend on them having a general, overall structure.

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“Absolute Space, Relative Motion, and the Method of Newtonian Physics”
Robert DiSalle
, Department of Philosophy, Western University
Abstract: Philosophical discussions of Newton’s theory of absolute space and motion generally focus on metaphysical questions that were raised by philosophical critics, such as Leibniz, who emphasized the relativity of motion. Such discussions generally overlook the fact that, in the course of developing his dynamics, Newton himself pursued the problem of the relativity of motion further than his opponents realized. While they defended the relativity of motion as a general principle, only Newton developed what ought to be called a theory of relativity: a systematic theoretical account of what is objective in the description of physical interactions, and a principled distinction between the objective properties and those that depend on the choice of a frame of reference. On this basis Newton articulated, more clearly than his contemporaries, the conceptual revisions imposed by the relativity of motion on prevailing notions of force, inertia, and causality. Indeed, the history of his thinking shows that Newton introduced the theory of absolute space precisely in order to articulate his theory of relativity, and to apply it to the outstanding problem of “the frame of system of the world.”

"Active Ignorance and the Rhetoric of Biological Race Realism"
Nora Berenstain
, Department of Philosophy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Abstract: Biological race realism is frequently assumed in scientific investigations into presumed connections between race and physical and psychological features such as intelligence, temperament, criminality, and athleticism. I analyze ways scientists and philosophers actively cultivate ignorance surrounding biological race science by using rhetorical tools to portray critiques of biological race realism as in opposition to science itself. These rhetorical strategies involve painting substantive scientific criticisms—such as questions about empirical and methodological issues with data interpretation, unjustified background assumptions, and failure to rule out alternative explanations of data—as motivated purely by ideological concerns. These rhetorical strategies invoke an assumed distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic values in science and misrepresent criticisms of biological race realism as existing wholly outside the realm of epistemic values.

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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 3:35 PM in Room 275 Nicholson Hall.

If you would like to be notified by email of upcoming Center colloquia, please email your request to mcps@umn.edu

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