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)

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.

Now It Is Impossible ‘Simply To Continue Along Previous Lines’: A Partial Design Sketch of Enactable Social Theorizing

Working Paper: http://scholarworks.umb.edu/cct_sicw/11
Abstract: A compilation of 39 notes provides the basis for two shifts: from shaping a better social theory to allowing for social theorizing; and from representing social dynamics to enacting the social theorizing so as to repeatedly define and pursue engagements in the heterogeneous dynamics that intersect in all kinds of society-making. A key move is to bring the multiple strandedness of changing social life into the center by combining, on one hand, the analysis of intersecting processes, which link across scales in the production of any outcome and in their own on-going transformation, and, on the other hand, a participatory group process, the historical scan, to generate a repeatable group-specific praxis.
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His nature, her nurture-or what good are conceptual critiques for tackling practical concerns about the development of gendered individuals?

This [draft] article identifies five conceptually distinct nature-nurture sciences, which address: variation among varieties and locations in an observable trait; variation in trait in relation to measurable factors; differences between group averages; changeability of individual development; and adaptiveness of trait. I articulate the gaps between them and tease out the difficulties in bridging between them.
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Living in History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology

In 1984 Michael Bradie, one of a series of philosophers of science who took sabbaticals at Richard Lewontin’s lab where I was working on my Ph.D. in ecology, encouraged me to attend the next meetings of what was then HPSSB. At St. Mary’s in 1985 I gave my first history of science talk (on H.T. Odum) and was excited to hang out with people who were attracted to—or, at least, comfortable with—crossing boundaries among history, philosophy, sociology, and biology. These meetings gave me confidence—and foolhardiness—to pursue a career path that has not respected disciplinary boundaries. I became a regular IS/HPSSB participant and began to organize sessions that fostered the discipline-transgressing qualities I valued. This series of blog posts provides some pre-history to this conjunction of planets and then sketches where it led.
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