Author Archives: Peter J. Taylor

About Peter J. Taylor

Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see bit.ly/pjtaylor). He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (bit.ly/tbhblog)

On a scale from 0 to 10, how much better could your pain be managed? (revisited)

In this audio (11 mins) I consider not only better monitoring of the effect of drugs administered, but also: a) the preparation needed for discharged patients to appreciate what might happen and to avoid setbacks; b) the social support, especially for distraction from an understandable tendency to “catastrophize,” and c) sources that have intrigued and informed me.

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Depicting simultaneously similarity, diversity, ancestry, and admixture?

Can any depiction of genetic relationships among humans allow simultaneously for similarity, diversity, ancestry, and admixture (i.e., groups that had split mixing again)? I asked this question while puzzling over the messages conveyed by diagrams from the work of Tishkoff and collaborators on genetic variation among humans in and out of Africa. In this talk I present explorations of alternative depictions of human genetic variation keeping my initial question in mind. By the end I will have prepared the ground for an assertion that the very methodology of generating and depicting human ancestry privileges a racialized view of human diversity.
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Two islands, three themes, parts 1 & 2, then four themes

This 10-minute video is the first of three that use the science of population growth to introduce themes that apply to all of science (audio only).
The second part is audio only.
The third part is video or audio.

Museum of Evolving Nature: A proposed PBL unit

The PBL unit sketched below is a possible replacement for a field trip in which I asked students to visit a natural history museum to see “in what ways you can interpret representations or images of nature (=the organisms, the processes of life, and the order in those organisms and processes) in terms of favored ideas about social arrangements” (i.e., adopting the interpretive themes of Raymond Williams from “Ideas of nature” in his book Problems in Materialism and Culture. London, Verso: 67-85). Museums are, however, very difficult to interpret because there are typically many displays from many periods of time and minimal information about when they were built and what the designers were thinking. The PBL to follow revolves around how much more needs to be known.
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Bouncing off a current in philosophy of biology that wants to make claims about causal contributions

This post bounces off a current in philosophy of biology that wants to make claims about specific causal contributions of different factors, especially with respect to genes and heritability.
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What to do if a significant issue warrants more attention?

What is that issue?, you might ask. I’m not going to name one because that invites you not to explore the in-principle question of the title, but instead decide whether you think the issue needs more attention.

What makes the issue significant then? Several answers may emerge in due course, but let’s start with the issue being a scientific idea or theory that fits the observations. From this starting point let me run through a number of options that I have pursued. You may well identify additions, prefer some over others, or suggest revisions in the formulations–that’s all to the good because the title questions is genuine, not rhetorical. Continue reading

50 whys to look for genes: Pros and complications

Working paper from 2015: Taylor, Peter J., “50 whys to look for genes: Pros and complications” (2015). Working Papers on Science in a Changing World. 12.
https://scholarworks.umb.edu/cct_sicw/12

“Treating the audience as capable of thinking about the complexities that surround the application of genetic knowledge” was the tagline of a series of daily blog posts made over seven weeks in the fall of 2014, posts that included extended quotes from the recently published Nature-Nurture? No (Taylor 2014). This working paper is a compilation of those posts.