Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Attendance is free, and everyone is welcome.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
“What Science Knows will appeal to anyone who wants a sound, readable, and well-paced introduction to the intellectual edifice that is science. On the other hand it will not please the enemies of science, whose willful misunderstandings of scientific method and the relation of evidence to conclusions Franklin mercilessly exposes.”
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
No registration required, all are welcome. Coffee and tea will be provided. Abstracts and further details here.
9:15 - 10:45 Keynote Speaker - Daniel Stoljar: Knowledge and Perception
10:45 - 12:15 Jamin Asay: Truth, Truthmaking and Realism
Comments: Alison Fernandes
12:15 - 1:30 Lunch (not provided)
1:30 - 3:00 Sam Baron: Tense and Two-dimensionalism
Comments: Ian Lawson
3:00 - 3:15 Afternoon Tea
3:15 - 4:45 Glenn Carruthers: A Metacognitive Model of the Sense of Agency over Thoughts
Comments: Melanie Rosen
Friday 20th of November
9:15 - 10:45 Dan Haggard: The Semantic Ladder and Scientific Realism
Comments: Talia Morag
10:45 - 12:15 Raamy Majeed: Problems of Experiential Deflationism for Representationalism
Comments: Lise Marie Andersen
12:15 - 1:30 Lunch (not provided)
1:30 - 3:00 Kelby Mason: The Return of Religious Non-cognitivism
Comments: Matthew Hammerton
3:00 - 4:30 Stef Savanah: The Fundamental Dichotomy of Self Consciousness
Comments: Peter Farleigh
4:30 - 4:45 Afternoon Tea
4:45 - 6:15 Keynote Speaker - Nic Damnjanovic: Revelation for the Masses
Hope to see you all there!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
6 pm - 6.50 pm with discussion 6.50 pm - 7.30 pm
Eastern Avenue Auditorium, The University of Sydney
All welcome, admission free
One of the most obvious facts about the universe is that the past is different from the future. The world around us is full of irreversible processes: we can turn an egg into an omelet, but can't turn an omelet into an egg. Physicists have codified this difference into the Second Law of Thermodynamics: the entropy of a closed system always increases with time. But why? The ultimate explanation is to be found in cosmology: special conditions in the early universe are responsible for the arrow of time. I will talk about the nature of time, the origin of entropy and how what happened before the Big Bang might be responsible for the arrow of time we observe today.
Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in 1993 from Harvard University and has previously worked at MIT, the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Chicago. His research ranges over a number of topics in theoretical physics, focusing on cosmology, particle physics and general relativity. He is the author of From Eternity to Here, a popular book on cosmology and the arrow of time; Spacetime and Geometry, a textbook on general relativity; and has produced a set of introductory lectures for The Teaching Company entitled Dark Matter and Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe. Carroll is a co-founder of the popular science blog Cosmic Variance (cosmicvariance.com). He was recently awarded the 2009 Viktor Hamburger Outstanding Educator award. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, writer Jennifer Ouellette.
This event is jointly sponsored by the University of Sydney’s Centre for the Human Aspects of Science and Technology (CHAST), the Centre for Time and the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, and supported by the Australian Institute for High Energy Physics (AUSHEP).
Monday, November 2, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
AAPNZ2009: 57th annual conference of the New Zealand division of the Australasian Association of Philosophy
Closing Date for Submissions/Registrations: November 1.
AAPNZ2009 will be held at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand from the evening of Monday, December 7 to Thursday, December 10. The Conference will end with the Conference Dinner, to be held on the evening of Thursday December 10.
Registrations and submissions in all areas of philosophy are invited. Please visit the following website for details: http://www.aap-conferences.org.au/.
For information about accommodation in and travel to Palmerston North, please see the Conference Venue section of the website.
If you have any other enquiries, please address them to the conference organiser, Bill Fish, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
As part of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) to mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of the telescope History and Philosophy of Science at UNSW is holding "The Re-Trial of Galileo."
Former Premier Bob Carr, Julian Burnside QC, Anna Katzmann SC, Professor Maurice Finocchiaro, Professor Fred Watson, Monsignor Tony Doherty, Dr. Paul Collins, Dr. Charley Lineweaver and ABC presenters including Robyn Williams, Alan Saunders and Geraldine Doogue.
This event is being filmed by the ABC Compass Program to be shown as an hour long special in early 2010.
Date: Monday 26th October 2009 6:30pm
Venue: Sir John Clancy Auditorium (Gate 9), The University of New South Wales, Kensington campus, Sydney, 2052
RSVP: www.trybooking.com/BPL by 15th October 2009.
Further information: Rebecca Straker (02) 9385 8512
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
- Dambisa Moyo: $20 tickets (single purchase), or $15 if included as part of a multipack if the code ETHICS is used.
- Susan Greenfield: $20 tickets (single purchase), or $15 if included as part of a multipack if the code ETHICS is used.
- IQ2 Debate: $20 tickets (single purchase), oor $15 if included as part of a multipack if the code ETHICS is used.
- The Multipack of the three events above is being promoted as a 'Sunday Pass' at $45.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Interdisciplinary Conference, organised by the Research School of the Social Sciences, Australian National University, November 12-14, 2009 at Sparkle Helmore Lecture Theatre, Law School
The call-for-paper deadlines have been extended until September 30
1. Keynote Speakers
Peter Godfrey-Smith (Philosophy, Harvard)
Dalton Conley (Sociology, NYU)
Paul Seabright (Economics, IDEA, France)
Brian Boyd (English, Auckland)
2. The Origin Cycle
In addition, the conference will host the Australian premier of “The Origin Cycle”: a connected series of compositions written for and to passages of the Origin, and sung by Jane Sheldon. More details on this unique event will be provided in the next CFP/conference information notice.
There is no fee for conference attendance. But space at the lecture theatre is limited, so those intending to attend should e-mail Professor Kim Sterelny (email@example.com) to notify him of your interest. If lack of space is a problem, he will let you know.
Themes for the Conference may include (but are not restricted to): evolution and complexity; evolutionary models of cultural change; the cultural importance of Darwinian ideas; the role of primate legacies in human social worlds. Contributed papers are invited: they should be of about 40 minutes duration, allowing about 20 minutes for questions/discussion. Those offering a paper should e-mail Sterelny ((firstname.lastname@example.org)) with a brief abstract and a brief biographical note (a link to an academic website suffices) so he can group similar-themed papers together. Offers should reach him by September 30 (for preference); he will confirm acceptance early October.
There is a reasonable amount of accommodation available on campus at University House and Liversidge. (There may be somewhat cheaper, but less upmarket accommodation available at the various student halls of residence). But this can be booked out quite early. So those intending to come are urged to book early (http://accom.anu.edu.au/UAS/186.html; http://www.anu.edu.au/unihouse/)
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
11.00-12.30 Show-and-Tell (5-10m each)
2.00-2.30 Brett Calcott (ANU), "Levels of Selection and Individuality in Evolution: Conceptual Issues and the Role of Artificial Life Models" (15m talk, 15m discussion)
2.30-3.00 Jack Justus (Sydney), "A Case Study in Concept Determination: Ecological Diversity."
3.30-4.15 Rachael Brown (ANU), "Reassessing the Modern Synthesis = Reassessing Behavioural Biology?"
4.15-4.30 Charles Wolfe (Sydney), “Montpellier Vitalism”
4.30-4.45 John Wilkins (Sydney), Précis of “Species: A History of the Idea”
5.00-6.00 Reception and booklaunch for ‘Species: A History of the Idea”
Anyone interested in attending the meeting should contact email@example.com
The Future of Philosophy of Science
The Future of Philosophy of Science
Wednesday 14 - Friday 16 April 2010
Tilburg University, The Netherlands
The conference language is English.
Selected papers will be published in a special issue of European Journal for the Philosophy of Science (subject to the usual refereeing process). The submission deadline is 1 July 2010. The maximal paper length is 7000 words.
A few travel bursaries for graduate students are available (up to 200 €). If you wish to be considered please submit a CV and a travel budget in addition to your extended abstract.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Hosted by the Monash University School of Philosophy & Bioethics, as part of its Philosophy in Australasia project.
Saturday, August 22, 11:30am-12:30pm, ACMI cinema 2
John Armstrong (University of Melbourne), “Searching for Civilisation”
What is civilisation, really? It can mean a lot of different things: technlology, art, medicine, education, cooking, economic or political progress; and sometimes it has been a fig leaf for imperialism. I want to get beneath the surface: What are the more personal issues at stake here? Why should civilisation matter to me? I trace the idea to its core: the hope of integrating material needs and ‘higher longings’ (beauty, love, wisdom). But is this hope realistic? This is a great issue of both private life and public culture.
Sunday, August 23, 5:30-6:30pm, ACMI cinema 1
Neil Levy (University of Melbourne, and Oxford Centre for Neuroethics), “Free Will and the Brain”
Articles in popular science frequently claim that scientists have shown that there is no such thing as free will. The findings upon which these claims are based are often interesting, as I will show, but they don’t threaten the existence of free will in any way. Nevertheless, I will argue that we can learn a great deal about human decision-making processes, and the ways in which they go awry, from the sciences of the mind. I will show how we can use cognitive science to understand the loss of self-control in pathological cases like addiction as well as in more ordinary cases.
Saturday, August 29, 2:30-3:30pm, ACMI cinema 1
Michelle Boulous Walker (University of Queensland), “Reading Essayistically: Toward an ethics of reading and an open-ended philosophy”
An exploration of what an open-ended philosophy might be from the perspective of how we read. If reading is a performance that can be judged in ethical terms, then reading essayistically (or in the mode of the essay) suggests a model of open-ended rumination that takes its time and returns – time and time again – to the matter at hand. Such a reading thwarts our modern preoccupation with speed and haste, and opens us to the wondrous space of a slow engagement that welcomes thought. Just as the essay engages its topic in ways that meander luxuriously through time and space, so too does reading essayistically open philosophy – or thought – to an indeterminate space from which the ethics of a “receptive attitude” or “patient attention to the other” may emerge. As such, philosophy can be enticed to relax its anxiety to know and to know fully (in the manner of the neurotic), and come that bit closer to being an infinite and wondrous engagement with life.
Sunday, August 30, 3:30-4:30pm, ACMI cinema 1
Russell Grigg (Deakin University), “In the Name of the Father: understanding monotheism and fundamentalism”
Why have the reports of the death of God turned out to be greatly exaggerated? Why has the appeal of religion proved so tenacious? I will discuss some of the deep psychological reasons for the continuing hold that religion, specially monotheism, has over the human mind. I would like to offer some ideas about the psychological forces behind two recent phenomena: the rise of fundamentalism and the emergence of new forms of spiritualism.
For more details about the Festival, and to make bookings, please go to www.mwf.com.au < http://www.mwf.com.au> .
We are currently inviting applications for one-semester visiting fellowships at The University of Sydney, for either second semester (August to November) 2010 or first semester (February to May) 2011. This program is associated with The Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science (SCFS), a research centre sponsoring work into the logical, philosophical and historical foundations of science (further details below). We are hoping to receive applications from leading historians and philosophers of science (including the special sciences and biomedical sciences) at any post-PhD career stage. This is the fourth round of such fellowships and we anticipate being able to offer them each year.
It is expected that there will be up to four fellowships per year, and each fellowship will come with a travelling allowance of up to AUD 6,000. These fellowships will provide opportunities for academics on sabbatical from their home institution to spend a semester in a productive and collegial research environment (in a beautiful city), to work with members of the SCFS and with other visiting fellows. The stipend is to help offset some of the travelling and living-away-from-home expenses. The successful applicants will be expected to work on a specific research project that is of interest to members of the SCFS. One of the aims of the SCFS is to strengthen international links in history and philosophy of science, so expressions of interest from researchers outside Australia are particularly encouraged.
Applications should including a cover letter, a CV, and a brief outline of the proposed research project (including why you wish to pursue the research at the University of Sydney and which members of the SCFS team you anticipate collaborating with). Applications should be sent (preferably electronically) to:
Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry
A14, Main Quadrangle
University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW, 2006
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
by 30th September 2009.
ABOUT THE SYDNEY CENTRE FOR THE FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE
The SCFS is an interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Sydney. We draw together researchers from philosophy, history, history and philosophy of science, science and medicine, with research concentrations in and around foundations of physics, decision theory, history and philosophy of biology, history of early modern science, and history of medicine. Senior members of the SCFS include, Warwick Anderson, Stephen Bartlett, Alison Bashford, David Braddon-Mitchell, Mark Colyvan, Clio Cresswell, Ofer Gal, Stephen Garton, Stephen Gaukroger, Paul Griffiths, Jenann Ismael, Ian Kerridge, Dominic Murphy, Hans Pols, Huw Price, Dean Rickles, Nick Smith, and Karola Stotz. We also have a number of mid-career and junior faculty, as well as several postdoctoral fellows and graduate students associated with the SCFS. Further details can be found on our website: http://www.usyd.edu.au/foundations_of_science/ <http://www.usyd.edu.au/foundations_of_science/>
Thursday, August 6, 2009
This reading group is designed to take advantage of the visit of Prof Lenny Moss, University of Exeter, to explore the connections between contemporary biology and the philosophical debate over the place of the normative in the natural world. Prof Moss holds PhDs in cell biology from UC Berkeley and philosophy from Northwestern University and his research examines contemporary biology from the perspective of post-Kantian philosophical anthropology (see: http://huss.exeter.ac.uk/sociology/staff/moss/). His visit is part of an ongoing collaboration between the researchers at the University of Exeter and a five-year ARC-funded project on postgenomic biology and human nature headed by Prof Griffiths and Dr Karola Stotz. Two visiting students from Exeter will also be participating in the seminar.
Amongst the other seminar convenors, Dr David Macarthur is editor of the recent Normativity and Nature: Toward a Liberal Naturalism (Columbia 2008) and has published extensively on these themes. Dr Charles Wolfe brings expertise on the history of biological thought about the role of purpose in nature, and is currently editing a special issue of History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences on the idea of the organism.
The seminar will meet Friday 1-3 except on two dates when it will meet Wednesday 11-1 to accommodate Prof. Moss’s other commitments while in Australia.
Contact Paul Griffiths
Times and (tentative) Texts
1. Friday July 31, 1.00-3.00
Science, Nature and Normativity - Renewing Critical Theory from a Naturalistic Point of View. Lenny Moss & Vida Pavesich (Manuscript) Discussion leaders: Moss and Pavesich
2. Friday Aug 7, 1.00-3.00
“Naturalizing the Human or Humanizing Nature: Outlines of a New Naturalism, David Macarthur. Discussion leader David Macarthur
3. Wednesday Aug 12, 11.00-1.00
Exchange between John McDowell and Herbert Dreyfus, Inquiry 50 (4) 2007: 338-377 and responses by each author.
4. Friday Aug 21, 1.00-3.00
Extracts from Plessner, Cassirer, Goldstein: Discussion Leader Charles Wolfe
5. Friday Aug 28, 1.00-3.00
Extracts from Georges Canguilhem Knowledge of Life
6. Friday Sept 4, 1.00-3.00
Extracts from Evan Thompson Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind (Harvard, 2007) and Marc Kirschner John Gerhart The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma (Yale 2006)
7. Wednesday Sept 9, 11.00-1.00
Exchange between Michael Thompson and Jay Bernstein?
8. Friday Sept 25, 1.00-3.00
Extracts from Robert Brandom?
Reconstructing Human Nature: Tuesday 11th August 2009 at 6:00pm
Refreshments in the Woolley Common Room from 5:30pm. Lecture in the Woolley Theatre N395 Woolley Building. The Common Room is on the first floor of the Woolley Building. The Lecture Theatre is on the right hand side of the entrance lobby.
The idea of human nature is the locus of longstanding disputes about the relevance of the biological sciences to the humanities and social sciences. But the ideas of "human nature", "instinct", and "innateness" are not derived from the biological sciences. They originate in intuitive, pre-scientific thought about living things, sometimes known as "folkbiology". In this lecture Professor Griffiths will present a model of the folkbiological understanding of human nature, based on empirical research conducted with biologically naive subjects in Australia and North America. This folkbiological understanding of human nature is fundamentally inconsistent with current biology. This raises the pressing issue of what a biologically credible account of human nature would look like, and he will try to address this question.
A philosopher of science with a focus on biology and psychology, Paul was educated at Cambridge and the Australian National University. He taught at Otago University in New Zealand and was later Director of the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science at The University of Sydney, before taking up a Professorship in Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He returned to Australia in 2004, first as an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and then as University Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Sydney
For further information regarding upcoming events, please see: http://www.arts.usyd.edu.au/alumni/whats_new.shtml Or contact:
Emeritus Professor Paul Crittenden T: 9799 7796 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emeritus Professor Nerida Newbigin T: 9351 3594 E: email@example.com
Dr Michael McDonnell T:9351 6733 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Contributors are mathematicians, philosophers, computer scientists, and anything in between -- it's a publication that recognizes the existence and importance of inter-disciplinary work. And, a few current and former members of the Centre are members of the editorial board.
I encourage all of us to consider, in those spare and quiet moments, submitting a short piece (100 - 1000 words). It's an easy way to spend a few paragraphs perched on your favorite soap-box, in front of an eclectic international audience.
The latest issue opens with an interview with Luciano Floridi, and includes Jan Sprenger's report on the Evidence, Science and Public Policy conference held here back in March. Have a look.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
A curious thing in the history of human thought so far as literature reveals it to us is the strange lack of interest shown in one of the most interesting of all human relationships. Few if any of the more primitive peoples seem to have attempted to define the part played by either parent in the formation of the offspring ...
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Email me (Chris) if you need a copy of Chapters 1 and 2. An electronic version of the text is available on the Sydney Uni library site, though the interface strikes me as suitable for searching but designed to frustrate rather than facilitate actual reading.
Citation: J. Woodward. Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation. Oxford University Press, New York, 2003
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Sir, Far from being dominated by scepticism about science, as Harry Collins claims in his Essay 'We cannot live by scepticism alone' (Nature 458, 30–31; 2009), mainstream philosophy of science opposes the relativism that Collins decries. We are both philosophers of biology, a field that analyses key biological concepts such as species and genes, dissects theoretical debates in biology and examines emerging fields such as systems biology. This work often involves criticism of scientific positions. But if any of it is part of Collins's sceptical 'second wave' of science studies, Richard Dawkins is a bishop.
Collins dismisses philosophy of science as a 'first wave of science studies' largely coinciding with post-war confidence in science and superseded by the work of sociologists of knowledge like himself. In fact, mainstream philosophy of science — which was being developed before the Second World War by Rudolph Carnap, Carl Hempel, Karl Popper, Hans Reichenbach and others — remains a thriving discipline in most universities. It teaches students that science is neither the 'voice of a God' nor merely the view of one social group, just as Collins advocates.
The only contemporary 'philosopher' Collins mentions (though not by name) is Steve Fuller, whose statement to a US court that intelligent design is science Collins uses as evidence that post-modern scepticism pervades science studies. However, Fuller is a professor of sociology. All the philosophers of science who, like Fuller, were witnesses or advisers in the Dover Area School District case (see Nature 439, 6–7; 2006) appeared for the other side, supporting evolution.
Working in an interdisciplinary research centre alongside historians and sociologists of biology and medicine, we can assure Collins that post-modern science sceptics are thin on the ground. The 'science wars' of the 1990s were whipped up by a selective focus on the work of a very few scholars, many of whom did not work in the philosophy, history or sociology of science. Let us hope that Collins's remarks do not reignite this unproductive controversy
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Adult moths can remember their "childhoods" as caterpillars, a new study has found. Recently scientists trained tobacco hornworm caterpillars in the lab to avoid a nail polish-like odor delivered in association with a mild shock. [...] As adults, they also avoided the nail-polish odor—showing that they had retained their larval memory.
Monday, March 30, 2009
This year the axis is expanding. Anyone interested in matters logical is invited. We will be meeting in Adelaide over the weekend of May 9.
From Melbourne you can expect Graham Priest, Greg Restall and Ross Brady. In Adelaide you can expect Chris Mortensen and his school, who do (among other things) some intriguing work on impossible pictures: http://www.hss.adelaide.edu.au/philosophy/inconsistent-images/.
You can present a talk, or just listen in. It's always interesting good fun.
For more information, contact me (zweber [at] usyd.edu.au).
Friday, March 27, 2009
Bacon v. the Projector: Vernacular Perspectives on Technological Invention in Early Modern England
Visiting Scholar, Department of Science & Technology Studies, Cornell University
Visiting Scholar, Unit for History & Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney
Judging from their depiction in the vernacular literature, inventors in early modern London were about as well regarded as Wall Street executives are in the United States today. Seventeenth-century stage comedies, poems and pamphlets present, on the whole, a distinctly negative attitude—a cynical and derisive attitude—towards technological inventors. One character type in particular that embodied this negative stereotype: the projector (or projectress)—“one whose head is full of projects”. Following the literary trail of the projector brings the historian to a little-used vantage point from which to consider the place of invention and inventors in the culture of the period. Far from being the exclusive domain of savants, it seems anyone might try his or her hand at invention. Reports and claims about new inventions were commonplace—common enough, at least, to be the subject of parody. And inventors themselves were closely associated with the Crown, capital investment schemes, and, above all, the much maligned patent system. Overall, what we get is a clear picture of the challenges that would have been faced by anyone seeking to establish authority, expertise, or trustworthiness in the realm of technology-making. On a different level, this vantage point is in direct contrast to that which one obtains by following the trail left by the influential work of Francis Bacon and Samuel Hartlib. Opposing they may be, the two perspectives were undoubtedly in dialogue. I would argue that these widespread negative portrayals of invention are key to explaining why Baconian rhetoric gained the force that it did among the elite of mid-seventeenth-century London.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Life of Charles Darwin by George Thomas Bettany (1887)
An early biography.
Medicine in Virginia, 1607-1699 by Thomas P. Hughes (1957)
It's the 17th century in the new colonies and humoral theory is waning, while illnesses and their putative causes and management are among the strongest social and political forces. Lots of quotations from original sources, like:
In September the weather usually breaks suddenly, and there falls generally very considerable rains. When the weather breaks many fall sick, this being the time of an endemical sickness, for seasonings, cachexes, fluxes, scorbutical dropsies, gripes, or the like which I have attributed to this reason. That by the extraordinary heat, the ferment of the blood being raised too high, and the tone of the stomach relaxed, when the weather breaks the blood palls, and like overfermented liquors is depauperated, or turns eager and sharp, and there's a crude digestion, whence the name distempers may be supposed to ensue.Among the most deadly and universal diseases is Seasoning, which appears seasonally in July and August and affects nearly all new arrivals from Europe.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
There is an extraordinary article by the sociologist of science Harry Collins in Nature last week.
Collins argues that social scientists and humanists have undermined public confidence in science to such an extent that we now have some serious social and political problems as a result of this. He presents himself as the sensible middle way between science worship and science scepticism. Frankly, this is a bit like Martin Luther offering to 'mediate' in the thirty years war.
The elephant in the room here is traditional, mainstream history and philosophy of science, so Collins has to pretend that for the past thirty years the only people in humanities and social science writing about science have been people like himself. He does this by describing traditional HPS as a ‘first wave of science studies’ which was superceded by people like him in the 1970s. This 'earlier' approach was a product of post-Second World War confidence in science, and culminated with Karl Popper (he suggests it was his work that really sank Popper!)
The villains of Collins' article are 'postmodernists' whose relativism has sapped public confidence in science. He claims that he was simply misinterpreted by these people to support their case.In a breathtakingly self-serving twist Collins gives as an example of 'postmodernism' "a philosopher acting as an expert witness in a court case in the United States [who] claimed that the scientific method, being so ill-defined, could support creationism". The person in question is, of course, Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, who has since written a book defending his position at the trial. Fuller has degrees in History and Sociology and in History and Philosophy of Science. For twenty-one of the past twenty-four years he has held appointments in Sociology or Science and Technology Studies. Philosophers of science were actively involved in the trial as witnesses and advisors, but all on the other side.
You have to give it to Collins for chutzpah, but it would be a travesty if he were to succeed in getting this fantasy accepted by scientists.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
The Social Function of Self-Representation: From Adam Smith to Cognitive Neuroscience
Unit for History & Philosophy of Science, University of
The HPS Research Seminars will take place, as always, on Mondays at 6, in Carslaw 450 (the Faculty of Science meeting room).