University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

History of Science and Technology/Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science Colloquium

Friday, January 23rd 2009
Speaker: Douglas Allchin, Program in History of Science and Technology; Naomi Scheman, Department of Philosophy; Alan Gross, Department of Communications Studies; University of Minnesota.
Subject: Annual Science Studies Symposium
Refreshments served in Room 216 Physics at 3:15 p.m.

Douglas Allchin
"Teaching Science Lawlessly"
Boyle's law is the epitome of science in the classroom. Yet using recent philosophical perspectives on scientific laws, one can see that Boyle's law is not universal or invariant, as implied by the term 'law'. Indeed, Boyle's law—and other scientific "laws"—are not lawlike at all. In addition, from a cultural studies perspective, we might also examine why we teach laws in science and what it means to name them after someone. Science studies thus seems critically poised to inform science education. Indeed, properly understood, it might well lead us to revolutionize what and how we teach.

Naomi Scheman
"Objectivity as Trustworthiness"
Why does objectivity matter? I argue that its importance stems from epistemic dependency: we are irremediably dependent on others, including institutionally accredited experts, notably scientists, for much of what we need to know. Objectivity is supposed to allow scientists to serve as generic knowers, in part by bracketing the influence of social location. But traditional accounts of objectivity leave unexamined factors crucial to the actual trustworthiness of scientific claims: (1) broader questions of the trustworthiness of the institutions within which science is done; and (2) the relevance of diverse social locations for understanding how the world works.

Alan Gross
"Verbal–Visual Interaction in Science"
Department of Communications Studies, University of Minnesota
My current work focuses on the interaction of words and images in the creation of meaning in the sciences. Since the majority of scientific texts—from laboratory notebooks to published papers—consist of both words and images, an examination of their interaction seems a worthwhile means of illuminating scientific meaning. I approach the problem from the point of view Peirce’s semiotics viewed within the framework of a general theory of cognitive processing, Allan Paivio’s Dual Coding Theory. I ground my work in the philosophy of science of Martin Heidegger, a philosophy that, unlike analytical philosophy, does not privilege the proposition; rather, it places 'seeing as' at the center of the scientific enterprise.

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