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

All future

Friday, January 19th 2018
Speaker: Harvey Brown, Philosophy of Physics, University of Oxford
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Friday, January 26th 2018
Speaker: Nancy Tomes, Department of History, Stony Brook University
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Friday, February 2nd 2018
Speaker: Marc Swackhamer, School of Architecture, University of Minnesota
Subject: "Hypernatural: Architecture's New Relationship with Nature" - MCPS Annual Science Studies Symposium
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Recent decades have witnessed the increasing popularity of nature-focused movements in architecture, such as sustainability, biophilia, biomimicry, biodesign, and emergent design. These movements are dramatically altering the relationship between the designed environment and the natural world, and although overlaps exist, there is no common discourse that unites these areas of study. A holistic framework is therefore needed to address these disparate areas of inquiry, the full spectrum of their operations, and their common goals and methodologies. This talk will address the ways in which architectural designers increasingly work directly with natural processes—rather than against them—in order to amplify, extend, or exceed natural capacities.

Friday, February 9th 2018
Speaker: Jacqueline Feke, Department of Philosophy, University of Waterloo
Subject: "Ptolemy's Ethics"
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Why did Ptolemy devote his time to the mathematical sciences, especially astronomy? The answer lies in his brief ethical statement in the first chapter of the Almagest. Coopting virtue ethics for the mathematician, Ptolemy argues that the best life is the one devoted to mathematics, where the mathematician configures his soul in accordance with the good order in the heavens. In this paper, I analyze this ethical statement and argue that to understand why and how astronomical objects serve as ethical exemplars in Ptolemy’s philosophy we must look to his Harmonics. It is because musical pitches, heavenly bodies, and human souls are all characterized by harmonic ratios that the study of either harmonics or astronomy can lead to the good life.

Friday, February 16th 2018
Speaker: Cynthia Connolly, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania
Subject: "A 'Big Business Built for Little Customers:' Children and the Flavored Aspirin Market in the United States, 1948–1973"
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

By the early postwar era, new children’s consumer goods such as sweetened cereals, toys, games, and books flooded the market. In September, 1947, the bright orange-colored St. Joseph Aspirin for Children joined them amid a wave of creative marketing for what became known as candy aspirin. An immediate success, flavored low dose aspirin reshaped medical, nursing, and parental responses to pediatric fever and pain. Unfortunately, however, its popularity with children resulted in an unintended consequence—a 500% increase in aspirin poison rates within a few years. While pediatricians and public health activists argued for warning labels and reconfigured bottles that made it harder for children to access the pills, the aspirin industry went on the offense, using tactics similar to those of the cigarette industry— challenge the problem’s existence; the data underpinning the science; deflect blame onto parents; and mount a public relations campaign aimed at confusing the public. This paper analyzes a complicated set of negotiations at the junction of science, commerce, and childhood. In an era rife with child protection rhetoric, debates surrounding children’s aspirin in the years between 1948 and 1973 reveal the competition among stakeholders to “speak” for children, the many negotiations regarding how to determine children’s “best interests,” and what can happen when recommendations for children’s well-being challenge the economic well-being of major corporations.

Friday, February 23rd 2018
Speaker: Nahyan Fancy, Department of History, DePauw University
Subject: "Did Humoral Theory Undergo any Changes in Post-Avicennan Medicine? Examples from the Commentaries of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288) and his Successors in Western Eurasia"
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

It has long been maintained that Galenic/Hippocratic humoral theory reigned supreme in Islamic societies from when Greek medical texts were translated into Arabic in the ninth century till the arrival of European colonial powers in the nineteenth. Historians have provided various explanations for the persistence of humoral theory in Islamic societies ranging from the (alleged) religious prohibition against dissection to a predisposition amongst medical writers towards systematizing and summarizing rather than critical inquiry. Yet, medical writers engaged critically with medical theory in their commentaries on the Canon of Medicine and the Epitome. The leading figure in this critical engagement was Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288). Underlying his modification of humoral theory was a sustained critique of the Galenic physiological and anatomical understanding of digestion. Consequently, the paper provides evidence for Ibn al-Nafīs conducting anatomical observations on dead animals. Moreover, the fact that his new proposals were debated and accepted by later Islamic physicians counters the prevalent assumption that his works were ignored in the later period, and thus raises the distinct possibility that these new ideas on the humors and digestion were appropriated by Renaissance physicians such as Jean Fernel.

Friday, March 2nd 2018
Speaker: Alisa Bokulich, Department of Philosophy, Boston University
Subject: "Using Models to Correct Data: Paleodiversity and the Fossil Record"
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

It has long been recognized that models play a crucial role in science, and in data more specifically. However, as our philosophical understanding of theoretical models has grown, our view of data models has arguably languished. In this talk I use the case of how paleontologists are constructing data-model representations of the history of paleodiversity from the fossil record to show how our views about data models should be updated. In studying the history and evolution of life, the fossil record is a vital source of data. However, as both Lyell and Darwin recognized early on, it is a highly incomplete and biased representation. A central research program to emerge in paleontology is what D. Sepkoski has called the “generalized” (or what I prefer to call “corrected”) reading of the fossil record. Building on this historical work, I examine in detail the ways in which various models and computer simulations are being used to correct the data in paleontology today. On the basis of this research I argue for the following: First, the notion of a data model should be disentangled from the set-theoretic, ‘instantial’ view of models. Data models, like other models in science, should be understood as representations. Second, representation does not mean perfectly accurate depiction. Data models should instead be assessed as adequate-for-a-purpose. Third, the ‘purity’ of a data model is not a measure of its epistemic reliability. I conclude by drawing some parallels between data models in paleontology and data models in climate science.

Friday, March 23rd 2018
Speaker: Rebecca Kluchin, Department of History, California State University - Sacramento
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Friday, March 30th 2018
Speaker: Susan Rensing, Department of Women's & Gender Studies, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh
Subject: HSTM Alumni Lecture
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Friday, April 6th 2018
Speaker: Stuart Glennan, Department of Philosophy, Butler University
Subject: “Compositional Minimalism”
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

In her paper, “Causality and Determination,” Elizabeth Anscombe advanced an approach to causation that Peter Godfrey-Smith has dubbed “causal minimalism.” In this approach, causation is not one thing, but many. Causal relations depend upon a heterogeneous set of specific activities – like bonding, pushing, tearing or fighting. My aim in this talk is to pursue a related strategy for compositional relations between parts and wholes – whether these be between atoms and molecules, tissues and organs, or children and families. Composition, like causation, is not one thing, but many – largely because parts are bound into wholes by causal relations.

Friday, April 13th 2018
Speaker: Lawrence Principe, Department of History of Science & Technology, Johns Hopkins University
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Friday, April 20th 2018
Speaker: Roberta Humphreys, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics, University of Minnesota
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Friday, April 27th 2018
Speaker: Richard Samuels, Department of Philosophy, The Ohio State University
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

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