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Colloquia

Spring 2015

January 23, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Space and time from causality"
Christian Wüthrich
, Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego
abstract

January 30, 2015, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"Gravity Models, Information Flows, and Inefficiency of Early Railroad Networks"
Andrew Odlyzko
, School of Mathematics, University of Minnesota
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

February 6, 2015, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

Ann Johnson, Department of History, University of South Carolina
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

February 13, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall
Annual Science Studies Symposium

“Spanning Cultural Difference in Food and Health”
Craig Hassel, Food, Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota
abstract

February 20, 2015, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"Hare's Calorimotor: Rethinking Thermodynamics in Early 19th-Century America"
Amy Fisher
, Science, Technology & Society, University of Puget Sound
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

February 27, 2015, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"From Plants to Pills: Take Bitter Roots for Malaria"
Abena Dove Osseo-Asare
, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

March 6, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

“A Methodological Role for Explanation in Science: Mechanistic Explanation and the Functional Perspective”
Andrea Woody
, Department of Philosophy, University of Washington
abstract

March 13, 2015
No Colloquium: Spring Break

March 20, 2015
No Colloquium: Spring Break

March 27, 2015, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

Kristin Peterson, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

April 3, 2015, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"Rural Health and Striking Urban Doctors: The Aftermath of Mexico's Attempt to Provide Healthcare for All"
Gabriela Soto Laveaga
, Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

April 10, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Ontology of Colour, Naturalized"
Mazviita Chirimuuta
, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
abstract

April 17, 2015, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"Happy Endings: Narratives of Reproduction in Late Imperial China"
Francesca Bray
, Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

April 24, 2015, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"London's Water Supply before 1800 and the Origins of Network Modernity"
Leslie Tomory, Department of History and Classical Studies, McGill University
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

May 1, 2015, 275 Nicholson Hall

There is no problem of interpersonal comparisons
Erik Angner
, Department of Philosophy, George Mason University
abstract

May 8, 2015, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"The Making of the Modern Dog: Breed, Blood and Britishness"
Michael Worboys
, Life Sciences, The University of Manchester
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

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Abstracts for Spring 2015

"Space and time from causality"
Christian Wüthrich
, Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego
Abstract: Space and time are conspicuous by their absence in fundamental theories of quantum gravity. Causal set theory is such a theory. It follows an eminent tradition of reducing spatiotemporal relations to causal ones. I will illustrate how the causal sets lack all spatial and most temporal structure. The absence of spacetime from the fundamental level of reality poses, however, a deep philosophical and scientific challenge. On the philosophical side, the threat of empirical incoherence looms. The scientific aspect arises from the need for any novel theory to explain the success, such as it was, of the theory it seeks to depose. Both sides of the challenge are resolved if we articulate a physically salient recovery of relativistic spacetime from the underlying fundamental causal sets. I will sketch ways in which this can be achieved.

“Spanning Cultural Difference in Food and Health”
Craig Hassel, Food, Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota
Abstract: Description: https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gifI will explore examples of University outreach/cross-cultural engagement with older, non-biomedical thought systems (African, Chinese Medicine, Indigenous knowledge traditions) bringing profound cultural difference in epistemology and ontology. Spanning these chasms of cultural difference involves cognitive bridge-building, a form of community engaged scholarship wherein habitual attachment to familiar, self-affirming, biomedical mental models is relaxed, allowing for temporary dwelling within unfamiliar, and often unsettling assumptive terrain. Perseverance with such bridge-building creates novel cognitive locations and perceptual lenses through which to reconsider disciplinary issues of the day and to illuminate otherwise opaque cultural/disciplinary “hidden subjectivities” that too often escape conscious attention and peer review. I refer back to nutrition science with its positivist legacy, its history of success with deterministic, acute deficiency disease, and its current struggle with more complex diet-related chronic disease and concepts of well being. I propose that nutrition as a biomedical science would advance by learning and adapting discourses and/or thought styles akin to those within the humanities and/or social sciences.

“A Methodological Role for Explanation in Science: Mechanistic Explanation and the Functional Perspective”
Andrea Woody
, Department of Philosophy, University of Washington
Abstract: Philosophy of science offers a rich lineage of analysis concerning the nature of scientific explanation. The vast majority of this work, aiming to articulate necessary and/or sufficient conditions for explanations, presumes the proper analytic focus rests at the level of individual explanations. In recent work I have been developing an alternative, which I call the functional perspective, that shifts focus away from explanations as individual achievements and towards explaining as a coordinated activity of communities.
            In this talk, I outline the functional perspective and discuss certain virtues and challenges for the framework. In particular, the functional perspective suggests that explanatory discourse should be “tuned” to the epistemic and practical goals of particular scientific communities. To explore the plausibility of this contention, I examine explanatory patterns involving reaction mechanisms in organic chemistry. The aim here is to investigate ways in which such explanations are shaped to support the largely synthetic goals of the discipline. The contrast case will be mechanistic explanations in the biological sciences as recently characterized by philosophers of science. Mechanistic explanations in chemistry seem different in important respects. Most basically, I will argue that this example illustrates how taking the functional perspective may reveal an important methodological role for explanation in science, a role situated ultimately in social epistemology.

"Ontology of Colour, Naturalized"
Mazviita Chirimuuta
, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
Abstract: I Can there be a naturalized metaphysics of colour—a straightforward distillation of the ontological commitments of the sciences of colour? In this talk I first make some observations about the kinds of philosophical theses that bubble to the surface of perceptual science. Due to a lack of consensus, a colour ontology cannot simply be read off from scientists’ definitions and theoretical statements.
I next consider three alternative routes towards a naturalized colour metaphysics.
1) Ontological pluralism—endorsing the spectrum of views associated with the different branches of colour science.
2) Looking for a deeper scientific consensus.
3) Applying ideas about emergent properties that have been useful elsewhere in biology.

“There is no problem of interpersonal comparisons”
Erik Angner
, Department of Philosophy, George Mason University
Abstract: The proposition that interpersonal comparisons of utility are impossible has been part and parcel of mainstream economics for almost a century. These days, the proposition is invoked inter alia in arguments against happiness-based measures of well-being, which average happiness scores across populations in an effort to represent social welfare. In this talk, I will argue that interpersonal comparisons of utility are in fact implicit in virtually all traditional economic social welfare measures as well; if such comparisons are problematic, then, the problem is not unique to happiness-based measures. Fortunately, however, I will argue but that the proposition is a piece of zombie methodology: a methodological prescription that should have been dead and buried a long time ago. Social welfare measures have many problems, but interpersonal comparisons isn’t one.

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Fall 2014

September 12, 2014, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"A Maze of Unintelligibility: Psychotherapy and African American Patients at Saint Elizabeths Hospital, 1900–1940"
Martin Summers
, Department of History, African and African Diaspora Studies Program, Boston College
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
abstract

September 19, 2014, 275 Nicholson Hall

“Generation, Individuation, and Teleology: Malebranche’s and Leibniz’s Divergent Theories of Pre-formation”
Karen Detlefsen,
Department of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania
abstract

September 26, 2014, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"Writing the Origin with Burned Fingers: Darwin's Penance for the ‘Sin of Speculation’"
Alistair Sponsel, Department of History, Vanderbilt University
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

October 3, 2014, 275 Nicholson Hall
Author meets Readers

The Yablo Paradox: An Essay on Circularity.
Author: Roy Cook, Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota
Readers: Stephen Donaho, Department of Philosophy, Normandale Community College and Roy Sorensen, Department of Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis
abstract

October 10, 2014, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"Life on Display: The Exhibits Revolution in U.S. Science and Natural History Museums"
Karen Rader, Department of History, Virginia Commonwealth University
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
abstract

October 17, 2014, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Next Generation Theory of Cultural Evolution"
Marcus Feldman,
Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University
Co-sponsored by the Winton Chair in the Liberal Arts
abstract

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October 24, 2014, 555 Diehl Hall
*** Note different location***

 "Visualizing the Body: The Convergence of Art, Cadaver, & Medical Knowledge"

1:00-5:30pm, Reception immediately following, Wangensteen Historical Library.

1:00-2:00 Michael McVaugh, University of North Carolina
“A Medieval Surgeon's Anatomy”
2:00-3:00 Jole Shackelford, Surgery Department, University of Minnesota
“Andreas Vesalius as Surgeon: Revisiting the authorship of Chirurgia Magna (1568)”
Coffee Break 3:00-3:30
3:30-4:30 Susan Lawrence, Department of History, The Ohio State University
“Working Words: Dissection, Surgery and Clinical Medicine in Eighteenth-Century London”
4:30-5:30 Myriam Nafte, Department of Anrthopology, McMaster University
“Institutional Bodies: Identity, Narrative and the Undisposed Dead”
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

October 31, 2014, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"A Virtuous Theorist’s Theoretical Virtues: Einstein on Physics vs. Math and Experience vs. Unification"
Jeroen van Dongen
, History of Science, University of Amsterdam/Utrecht University
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

abstract

November 14, 2014, 211 Andersen Library,
West Bank Campus, Charles Babbage Institute
*** Note different location***

Open House to celebrate publication of two books:

"Digital State: The Story of Minnesota’s Computing Industry"
Thomas Misa, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota

"Computer: A History of the Information Machine", 3rd ed
Jeffrey Yost, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota

November 21, 2014, 275 Nicholson Hall

"Modeling, representing and experimenting in the study of genetic circuits"
Tarja Knuuttila, Department of Philosophy, University of South Carolina
abstract

November 28, 2014, THANKSGIVING no colloquium

December 5, 2014, 131 Tate Lab of Physics

"Vulnerable Subjects, Vulnerable Knowledge: Children’s Chemical Testing Programs in the United States and European Union"
Arthur Daemmrich, University of Kansas Medical Center
Co-sponsored by the Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
abstract

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Abstracts for Fall 2014

“A Maze of Unintelligibility: Psychotherapy and African American Patients at Saint Elizabeths Hospital, 1900–1940"
Martin Summers, History Department and African and African Diaspora Studies Program, Boston College
Abstract: With its emphasis on the individualization of mental disease, dynamic psychiatry held out the promise of more efficacious treatment modalities. If psychiatrists could get beneath the surface of patients’ symptoms and understand their “meanings and values,” then they had a better chance of facilitating mentally ill individuals’ readjustment to their social environments. This talk is an examination of the use of psychotherapy on African American patients at Saint Elizabeths Hospital, a federal mental institution in Washington, D.C., in the early twentieth century. The psychiatrists and nurses engaged with these patients in ways that both revealed a concern for their mental well-being and a deep sense of racial antipathy. African American patients were not merely objects of medical scrutiny and targets of institutional management however. They interacted with the staff in ways that challenged the medical authority to not only determine the clinical encounter, but to establish particular truth claims about black insanity as well.

"Generation, Individuation, and Teleology: Malebranche’s and Leibniz’s Divergent Theories of Pre-formation"
Karen Detlefsen, Department of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania
Abstract: When some early modern natural philosophers rejected Scholastic substantial forms in favor of a parsimonious, and often explanatorily powerful, mechanistic philosophy, one natural phenomenon they had particular difficulty accommodating was the generation of new living beings. In this talk, I look at how Malebranche and Leibniz deal with this difficulty, and the different ways they draw upon teleology to help them provide theories of generation that can preserve the new mechanism. In the process, I underscore the complexity of theories of teleology in the 17th century.

Author Meets Readers: "The Yablo Paradox: An Essay on Circularity" by Roy Cook
The Yablo paradox, which consists of an infinite sequence of sentences, each of which says that all sentences following it in the list are false, seems to provide us with an example of semantic paradox containing no circularity. In The Yablo Paradox Roy T Cook examines this puzzle in detail, paying particular attention to:

(1) The characterization problem: Determining which patterns of sentential reference—circular or not—generate paradoxes.
(2) The circularity question: Determining whether, and in what sense, the Yablo paradox is non-circular.
(3) The generalizability question: Determining whether the infinitely descending pattern found in the Yablo paradox can be used to construct non-circular variants of other familiar paradoxes.

"Life on Display: The Exhibits Revolution in U.S. Science and Natural History Museums"
Karen Rader
, Department of History, Virginia Commonwealth University
Abstract: Once defined primarily by their collections, by the end of the twentieth century, American natural history and science museums had become institutions defined largely by their displays. This talk will use life science exhibits to illustrate how and why this transformation occurred. Efforts to modernize displays shaped and were themselves shaped by new institutional roles and identities for museums in twentieth-century
science education and in American culture.
Drawing on the speaker’s co-authored book of the same name, the talk will reflect on the controversies that accompanied exhibition building, chronicling how and why curators, designers, and educators worked with and against one another to build displays intended to communicate new ideas about topics like evolution, animal behavior, and radiation to various American publics. Scientists were extraordinarily invested in the success of museums' displays and saw display as an integral element of their own public outreach work and research agendas. In turn, rapidly professionalizing exhibit designers were periodic participants in the research process, supplementing and sometimes prompting research projects through the displays they built.

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"Next Generation Theory of Cultural Evolution"
Marcus Feldman, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University
Abstract: The human cultural niche can influence both biological and cultural evolution. The effects of changes in some norms and values may have unexpected consequences for other norms and values. One example will be shown. The role of culturally determined marriage preferences on cultural niche construction also has entirely unexpected effects. Rarely modeled effects of learning styles on the stochastic dynamics of cultural traits in small populations will be explored using agent-based simulation techniques.

"A virtuous theorist’s theoretical virtues: Einstein on physics vs. math and experience vs. unification"
Jeroen van Dongen, University of Amsterdam/Utrecht University
Abstract: When Albert Einstein formulated the general theory of relativity, he combined a physical and mathematical approach, as Renn c.s. have shown. He retained and explicitly referred to these categories also in his later work in unified field theory, but emphasized their usefulness differently, just as his later recollections of how he found general relativity gradually changed. These altered recollections were not only the consequence of his new, highly mathematical unification program, but also served as an advertisement for that program: Einstein enlisted idealizations of his self as justification for his highly controversial work.

"Modeling, representing and experimenting in the study of genetic circuits"
Tarja Knuuttila, Department of Philosophy, University of South Carolina
Abstract: In philosophical discussion models have traditionally been understood as representations. However, there is a growing body of literature that focuses on the features which modeling and experimentation share with each other.  I will discuss the relationship between modeling, representation and experimentation through the case of mathematical and synthetic modeling within synthetic biology. Synthetic models are engineered genetic circuits that are built from genetic material and implemented in a natural cell environment. Typically, mathematical models have been used as their “blueprints”. As concrete engineered things synthetic models can be considered as experimental objects that share the characteristics of both models and experiments. I will discuss how the triangulation of mathematical and synthetic modeling has led to new insights that would have been difficult to generate by either modeling or experimentation alone.

"Vulnerable Subjects, Vulnerable Knowledge: Children’s Chemical Testing Programs in the United States and European Union"
Arthur Daemmrich, University of Kansas School of Medicine
Abstract: Methods for identifying health risks in children—and the very characterization of children as a vulnerable population—have undergone significant transformations in recent decades. Attention to the risks posed by industrial chemicals has expanded from waste streams to commercial products, and from surveying the environment for known toxins to mapping the ‘body burdens’ of hundreds of synthetic substances—especially potentially endocrine disrupting chemicals—found in humans. This talk presents findings from a historical and sociological research project concerning long-term testing programs in the United States and Europe. In both settings, children came to be understood as vulnerable to synthetic compounds found in breast milk or absorbed through exposure to cleaning compounds and plastic toys. Test methods, especially plans to recruit minority participants through financial incentives, proved more controversial in the United States than in the European Union. At the same time, EU member states carried out competing studies and regulators found it impossible to integrate test results. Furthermore, issues of cooperation among otherwise competing firms and between the industry and government regulators plagued efforts in the United States, while the complexity of fitting children’s testing into a major new regulatory framework for chemicals slowed testing in Europe. The talk presents an analysis of testing programs and offers historical and comparative insight on initiatives intended to generate new regulatory knowledge that is disruptive to existing governance systems and the social roles occupied by physicians, industry, government regulators, and health-oriented NGOs.

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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. Colloquia sponsored by the Program in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine are held in room 131 of the Tate Laboratory of Physics on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota.

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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