Category Archives: Sci&TechStudies(STS)

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

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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Update on “Alternation between complexities of situation studied and the situation of the studier: A series of writing projects”

I provide an update on the ambitious writing plan I formulated during a workshop in October 2016 and posted in February 2017. The “alternation” referred to in the title of the posts concerns the insufficiency of critical accounts of science—its concepts or its practice—without also exploring how people come together to make changes in the lives and work, including work in and about science.
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What to do if we think that researchers have overlooked a significant issue?

Abstract of a manuscript (updated 3 Dec 18). Comments welcome—email me for the full draft.

Participants in debates about developments in science and technology point to issues overlooked or downplayed by scientists—or, if the debate is among scientists themselves, by other scientists. Sometimes included among participants in debates are interpreters of science—sociologists, historians, philosophers, and scholars from other fields of Science and Technology Studies. Taking these scholars as the audience, this article asks what should we do if we identify a significant issue not yet subject to debate?
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Critical Epidemiological Literacy

Taylor, P. J. “Critical Epidemiological Literacy: Understanding Ideas Better When Placed in Relation to Alternatives,” Synthese, in press, DOI: 10.1007/s11229-018-01960-6.
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Changing Science in Heterogeneous Environments

Levins’ career was a series of explorations of complexity in many and diverse settings. One aspect of complexity, heterogeneity, is explored through two vignettes (about heritability and differences among means), a taxonomy of eleven kinds of heterogeneity, and a contention connecting heterogeneity, control of populations, and possibilities for participation.

“Changing Science in Heterogeneous Environments,” pp. 87-101 in T. Awerbuch, M. Clark, P. Taylor (eds.), The Truth is the Whole: Essays in Honor of Richard Levins, Arlington MA: The Pumping Station, 2018.

The hidden complexity of simple models, or Why theorists of all kinds should be troubled by unmodeled variables having dynamical lives of their own

Can ecological theory generate principles that could be usefully generalized across ecological situations? Particularism has been a perennial attraction in ecology, but a new source of doubt gained momentum by the end of the 1980s after theorists started looking at “indirect interactions”—effects mediated through the populations not immediately in focus, or, more generally, through “hidden variables” that have their own dynamics. How much do indirect effects confound principles derived on the basis of observing the direct interactions among populations? My exploration of this question should challenge not only ecologists, but theorists in all fields that make use of models of any kind of sub-system elevated from the complexity in which the sub-system is actually embedded.
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