What to do if we think that researchers have overlooked a significant issue for 100 years?

Practice run of a talk to philosophers of biology & biologists, March 2016

In the conceptual systemization of models and theories that dominates philosophy of biology in the North America, claims of issues overlooked are routinely made or implied. If 5 or 10 years counts for a “long time,” the title question can, in principle, be asked not only by philosophers but also by sociologists and historians of science as well as by scientists. In this talk, I address the in-principle question, describe a specific case, and review a range of ways I have been working to influence scientific debates around the case. This review of my own efforts does not answer the title question, but rather makes the case for systematic attention to the models that science studies scholars have regarding their aspirations and strategies for influencing science. The crux of the specific case is that throughout its 100-year history quantitative genetics (as well as commentators on nature-nurture issues) seem to have overlooked the implications of underlying heterogeneity–although relatives may be similar for a given trait because they share more genes or environmental conditions than unrelated individuals, the genes and environmental conditions underlying the development of the trait need not be the same from one set of relatives to another. The possibility of underlying heterogeneity has significant implications for the analysis and interpretation of classical and modern quantitative genetics.

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