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

All future

Friday, November 24th 2017
There will be no seminar this week (Thanksgiving Break)

Friday, December 1st 2017
Speaker: Nora Berenstain, Department of Philosophy - University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Subject: Active Ignorance and the Rhetoric of Biological Race Realism
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

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.

Friday, December 8th 2017
Speaker: Andy Bruno
Subject: Eurasianism in Soviet Science: The Environmental Views of Aleksandr Fersman
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Thoroughly a product of imperial Russia’s aristocratic culture, the mineralogist and geochemist Aleksandr Fersman rose to the top of the country’s scientific establishment after the Bolsheviks took control. He then remained a staunch supporter of various industrial projects through much of the Stalinist period. This talk puts Fersman’s thinking about the natural world in conversation with a quite distinctive mode of intellectual inquiry that developed contemporaneously. Eurasianism was a philosophical doctrine of a group of Russian émigrés who emphasized Russia’s unique status straddling Europe and Asia. While Fersman did not belong to this group of thinkers, a number of his ideas drew on specific experiences in the environments of the Eurasian landmass. Indeed, I argue that Fersman’s dualistic understanding of nature, his advocacy for the field of geochemistry, his definition of deserts, and a scheme he proposed for industrial operations owed much to the Eurasian settings of the science he practiced. Furthermore, this case of a Eurasian mineralogist illuminates novel aspects of the interplay between national and global sciences.

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