Category Archives: Sci&TechStudies(STS)

Science and Technology Studies (history, philosophy, sociology, politics of science)

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

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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