Wednesday, June 11th ~ Workshop Breakout Schedules from 10:30 to 12:00
Organizer: Martin Weinel & Rob Evans
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Queen Elizabeth Suite
Organizer: Katie Plaisance
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Organizer: Erik Fisher
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Bios & Abstracts from this session
Scientific Authorship from the Viewpoint of the Studies of Expertise and Experience.
Authors: Tiago Duarte, University of Brasília
Abstract: Over the past decades, academic assessment systems across the world have increasingly been focused on measuring the production of individual scientists as a way of evaluating their performance. As a result, the criteria that decide whether particular contributions to a research project should entitle experts to become authors of scientific papers has become crucial for defining who will develop their publication records and who will be left outside the boundaries of science, as technicians usually are. These criteria are therefore central for understanding how certain scientists acquire more prestige and power within the scientific communities while other actors are less prominent. These criteria are yet to be studied in detail in the Science and Technology Studies (STS). In this presentation, I begin by describing the criteria for defining what type of contribution to a research project entitles an actor in the field of paleoclimatology to author a paper. Then, I identify some of the consequences of these criteria for the different actors that are part of the social division of labour within this domain. Finally, I ask whether SEE has any contributions for explaining sociologically these criteria. I use two notions developed in my PhD thesis, i.e. standardised contributions and domain-language-based contributions, to explain what types of contributions to paleoclimatology are tacitly understood by members of this field as entitling individuals to author scientific papers.
Bio: I received my PhD in 2013 from Cardiff University where I studied how different communities of experts in climate-change science build bridges between themselves so as to communicate and collaborate effectively. I´m now running a postdoctoral project at the University of Brasília where I research the interface between Brazilian climate scientists, policy-makers, and the public.
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A Morally Hazardous Course: The Case of Evolutionary Ethics Today.
Authors: Jennifer Mensch, Penn State
Abstract: It is almost too easy today to go back to the historical record and find evidence of unethical behavior on the part of medical scientists and practitioners during the twentieth century. The ready complicity of the German medical community in the early days of the Nazi euthanasia program only marks the start of a long and dreadful period during which researchers turned the full force of their investigative curiosity on vulnerable populations: the poor, the foreign, the imprisoned, and the mentally unfit. But while this has all provided good empirical grist for the bioethics mill, I want to aim my remarks here at a different field altogether.
In 1975 the eminent evolutionary theorist Edmund Wilson declared that “the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of the philosophers and biologicized” (562). In 2008 a contributor to The Economist sounded much the same, remarking that “after two and a half millennia and no consensus” it was time for the philosophers “to let someone else have a go.” The researchers poised to replace the professionals on the issue of morality come from a wide array of disciplinary backgrounds, but as a field of enquiry “evolutionary ethics” has essentially two main strands, with the older one—the one associated with the excitement generated over “the new field of heredity” at the turn of the century, and linked with the aggressive implementation of eugenics measures both in North America and abroad—quickly dismissed. That movement, it is now said, fundamentally misunderstood Darwin’s efforts to link altruism and the emergence of morality. That movement, it is emphasized, completely misunderstood the real nature of genetic inheritance across a phyletic line: it is simply not the case that we can identify groups of people in a manner that can provide a scientific connection between their mental and moral capacities (or failings) and their membership in said group.
Or can we? The other strand, the main strand of today’s version of evolutionary ethics, investigates—and this identifies its central conceptual platform and is conceptually in keeping with Darwin’s initial proposal—whether reciprocal altruism might have provided enough of a benefit to have conferred an evolutionary advantage to those groups demonstrating that behavior. While animal studies abound with stories of altruistic dolphins, crows, and bonobos, the scientific arm of this enquiry is located instead in the field of evolutionary neuropsychology. For it is in these labs that researchers are able to watch the MRIs of test subjects as they consider the famous trolley problem and other well-known ethical dilemmas. The MRIs are said to reveal the mind’s processing of moral and social information, to display the neurological patterns at work during moral reflection. And the result? The immediate result might not come as a surprise, focused as it must be on our limited cartography of the brain: one trolley problem lights up the emotional center, another (logically identical) trolley problem (the one requiring that we physically push someone onto the tracks as opposed to simply pushing a button) lights up the newer (evolutionarily considered) parts of the brain—the frontal cortex, right where the hemispheres meet. It is indeed precisely this kind of result that causes many professional moral philosophers to throw up their hands in exasperated disbelief, to complain that this is precisely why scientists should not be pretending to do ethics since moral reflection, in the end, has to do with deliberations that more often than not require us to disentangle our conclusions from our immediate emotional response. It is not, however, the immediate result of the scientific investigation underway here that concerns me. It is the set of scientifically “grounded” conclusions that are being generated regarding these results, conclusions that are both worrisome and hardly dealt with by way of philosophical appeals to the naturalistic fallacy. For after linking morality and emotion, today’s researchers have gone on to identify a subject’s cultural background and their correspondingly different evaluative norms—their attitudes toward government, religion, women, education—as the environment most directly influential for the emotional hard-wiring of their brains.
In this paper I will focus my remarks on the problems associated with evolutionary ethics and its effort, in particular, to biologicize moral theory. It will be my contention that contemporary efforts to scientifically legitimate the identification of a subject’s pattern of moral reasoning with their cultural background are morally hazardous. These efforts are not only morally suspicious insofar as they are conceptually similar in their conclusions to the older and supposedly dismissed eugenics programs that sought to identify mental and moral characteristics with particular groups, they are morally dangerous because they allow us to reach prejudicial conclusions regarding our treatment of “less evolved” groups and to respond in supposedly justifiable ways. I will close the paper with a parallel case presented by contemporary research being done by forensic anthropologists in their work to develop biometric data indexed to the geographic distribution of population groups. In the same manner that evolutionary psychology has replaced “biology” with “culture” while still yielding the same troubling conclusions, biological anthropologists have replaced “race” with “ancestry” in order to supply forensic scientists with scientifically legitimate bases for racial profiling. When these two research programs are put together, it is hard to see any difference between their practical results and the conceptual antecedents in eighteenth-century environmentalism—with all their associated cultural biases and attempted defenses of colonial practices—from which they finally come.
Bio: I specialize in the intersection of philosophy, science, and literature during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. My recent book, "Kant’s Organicism. Epigenesis and the Development of Critical Philosophy" (University of Chicago Press, 2013) traces the decisive role played by life science theories of biological generation for Kant’s account of mental cognition. I have two book projects underway. The first project is called "Organic History" where I am interested in tracing the impact that natural history would have on subsequent histories--of politics, art, religion, and even knowledge--once they were reconceived along genealogical lines. I received a Max Kade grant this summer for research on my second project, "Heredity and Race, From Eighteenth-Century Anthropology to Twentieth-Century Eugenics," which I will be carrying out in Freiburg, Germany this June. Right now I am working on a paper that I will deliver at the University of Western Sydney in August called "Rewriting Prometheus: Cultural Zeitgeist from Weimar Classicism to British Gothic Fiction." This Fall I will continue my position as Senior Lecturer at the Pennsylvania State University where I teach philosophy and the history of science and medicine, in January 2015 I will start my new position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo.
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Social Harm and Fixing Bad Science: Is Good Science Enough?
Keywords: evolutionary psychology, values in science, evolutionary theory, philosophy of science, social epistemology
Authors: Sara Weaver, University of Waterloo
Abstract: Evolutionary psychology (EP), the study of the evolution of human behaviour, is an exciting area of biological and psychological research that has gained widespread popularity both within academia and in the media. Tackling juicy questions about human nature can be irresistible. Accompanying EP's popularity, however, has come serious criticisms from across academia. These criticisms expose its flawed use of evolutionary theories, its methodological shortcomings, and its harmful social and political implications. This paper looks at the philosophical and philosophically-minded critical literature on EP. In particular, I look at how philosophers critically deal with the harmful social and political values that inform some EP research. I tease out two distinct approaches and argue that one can better inform the other.
The first, which I call the Two Birds with One Stone Approach (One Stone), attempts to neutralize the values within EP and the implications its research has for social policy by offering ways to improve EP science. The assumption here is that good science is value free science and, therefore, safe for social policy. I argue that this approach can be informed by a second approach, one I call the Two Birds with Two Stones Approach (Two Stones). In addition to offering EPs suggestions for improving their science, scholars here make it their second project to help EPs be aware of their values and of the harm their research can bring to certain people groups. Thus, Two Stones seeks to better EP science and promote better values to guide their research.
Inspired by this second approach, I discuss two cautionary lessons for One Stone. First, fixing bad science without paying explicit attention to the values guiding it is to only treat the symptoms. It neglects the possibility that pernicious social policy can result from good science too. Second, if we accept that science is not value neutral, as do the proponents of Two Stones, then we must acknowledge that anyone who is involved in the scientific process has the potential to contribute their values to scientific discourse and practice. This includes the philosophers of science. In my paper, I take note of and reveal the values underlying some of One Stone's recommendations. I suggest that the philosophers of One Stone take ownership of these values and explain how and why they think they are important for science.
My paper stands as a unique contribution to the philosophical literature of EP because it is the very first that looks systematically and critically at the different philosophical approaches to EP critique. This is an important project because critiquing science is just as much a part of the scientific process as are the actual scientific practices themselves. Therefore, as informants of science, and as agents who play a part in how science informs the public, I suggest that philosophers ensure, as a community, that their engagements with science go through their own internal processes of critique. This paper is a small but needed start to this trend.
Bio: My research interests include: feminist and non-feminist philosophy and epistemology of science (especially biology), experimental philosophy, and feminist philosophy. I have a BA with a double major in philosophy and psychology from the University of British Columbia Okanagan and an MA in philosophy from the University of Alberta. At the moment, in my PhD research, I am working with Carla Fehr on various projects in the philosophy of evolutionary psychology. I am also working on two projects in experimental philosophy with John Turri and Matt Doucet on personal identity and self understanding.
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