Tag Archives: history

Nature vs Nurture versus Nature and Nurture: A sketch of the history of the study of heredity, development, and variation

Why nature versus nurture? Surely it must be nature and nurture—we all know that traits develop over time through the interaction of the organism with genetic or hereditary and environmental or social influences. Indeed, the modern science of epigenetics, building on ever-increasing information about DNA sequences and how genes function, now shows us how chemicals from outside the cell can modify the activity of genes for the rest of an organism’s life and sometimes even into subsequent generations. Moreover, since the late 1800s—well before advances in molecular biology—developmental biologists have been studying the mechanisms through which a single cell divides into multiple cell types and gets arranged into tissues, organs, and the organism’s overall form (Gilbert 2013). The nature versus nurture in this book [Taylor 2014] is not, however, a matter of development of traits over time. A sketch of the history and current state of the study of heredity, development, and variation is needed to set the scene.

Continue reading

Foundations of philosophical thought (not)

A set of episodes or angles on how I might teach “Foundations of Philosophical Thought,” relayed as a 54-minute video given that I won’t have time to write up the thoughts I had during a walk this morning: http://youtu.be/G5MnPXZSi0E

(Comments welcome, including pointing out all the articulate writers [philosophers included] who have dealt with issues I raise and those I overlook or brush past.)

Making visible a collage of radical scientists and critics

“Making visible a collage of radical scientists and critics”
presented at “Science for the People: The 1970s and Today,” http://science-for-the-people.org/

Practice run of talk: http://youtu.be/6LPm_BlV5iY

Visual aids

Rapid intertwined history of Science and Technology Studies in relation to Science for the People: http://youtu.be/KD_jtpmarfE

Timeline from 2-minute survey: http://bit.ly/sftptime and as spreadsheet


  • Akera, A. (2006). Calculating a Natural World: Scientists, Engineers, and Computers During the Rise of U.S. Cold War Research. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Arditti, R. (1999). Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plazo de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Haraway, D. J. (1980). “Monkey Business: Monkeys and Monopoly Capital.” Radical Science Journal 10: 107-114.
  • Harvey, D. (1995). “Militant particularism and global ambition: The conceptual politics of place, space, and environment in the work of Raymond Williams.” Social Text 42: 69-98.
  • Hobsbawm, E. (2011). How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Moore, K. (2006). “Powered By the People: Scientific Authority in Participatory Science”. Pp. 299-323 in The New Political Sociology of Science: Organizations, Networks, and Institutions. S. Frickel and K. Moore (Eds.) Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Moore, K., D. L. Kleinman, et al. (2011). “Science and neoliberal globalization: a political sociological approach.” Theory & Society 40: 505–532.
  • Taylor, P. J. (1986). “Dialectical Biology as Political Practice. An essay review of R. Levins & R. Lewontin The Dialectical Biologist.” Radical Science 20: 81-111 (also L. Levidow, ed., Science as Politics, London: Free Association Books).
  • Taylor, P. J. (2010). “Biology as Politics: The Direct and Indirect Effects of Lewontin and Levins (An essay review of Biology Under the Influence: Dialectical Essays on Ecology, Agriculture, and Health).” Science as Culture 19(2): 241-253.
  • Werskey, G. (1988 (1978)). The Visible College: A Collective Biography of British Scientists and Socialists of the 1930s. London: Free Association Books.
  • Werskey, G. (2007). “The Marxist Critique of Capitalist Science: A History in Three Movements?” Science as Culture 16(4): 397-462.
  • Williams, R. (1985). Loyalties. London: Chatto & Windus.
  • Worden, L. (2012). “Counterculture, cyberculture, and the Third Culture: Reinventing civilization, then and now”. Pp. in West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California. I. Boal, J. Stone and M. Watts (Eds.) Oakland: PM Press
  • Young, R. M. (1987). “Darwin and the genre of biography”. Pp. 203-224 in One Culture. G. Levine


Peter J. Taylorpeter.taylor@umb.edu
Graduate track in Science in a Changing World
University of Massachusetts, Boston
http://sicw.wikispaces.com = portal to various internet-mediated or -documented initiatives

Continue reading

Intertwined histories of Science and Technology Studies and Science for the People?

This narrated slideshow gives an unscripted account, drawn from my imperfect memory, of various steps in the development of Science & Technology Studies in relation to the spirit of Science for the People:  http://youtu.be/KD_jtpmarfE

Critical comments and questions welcome.


(P.S. This is not the talk I have developed for the upcoming conference, http://science-for-the-people.org/, but my talk will provide a link to this slide show or an update.)

John Berger on peasants and history (from 1979)

For John Berger, in Pig Earth (New York: Pantheon, 1979), peasant culture is a ‘culture of survival” and bourgeois culture is a “culture of progress”:

p. 203

“Modern history begins-at different moments in different places-with the principle of progress as both the aim and the motor of history.. Cultures of progress envisage future expansion. They are forward-looking because the future offers ever larger hopes… A culture of survival envisages the future as a sequence of repeated acts for survival. Each act pushes a thread through the eye of a needle and the thread is tradition. No overall increase is envisaged.”

p. 212

“If one looks at the likely future course of world history, envisaging either the further extension and consolidation of corporate capitalism in all its brutalism, or a prolonged, uneven struggle waged against it, a struggle whose victory is not certain, the peasant experience of survival may well be better adapted to this long and harsh perspective than the continually reformed, disappointed, impatient progressive hope of an ultimate victory.”

Creative Thinking in Epidemiology (Day 3 of Learning Road Trip)

On Sept. 21, the Creative Thinking in Epidemiology workshop was run again, this time with researchers associated with Cancer Care Ontario and the Epidemiology Department at the University of Toronto.

(to be edited)

What happened?

The program, with links to pre-circulated materials and to some records from the workshop are given here.

Unlike the Amherst workshop two days earlier, all the participants were employed professionals in the public health area, but their primary identification was not necessarily as an epidemiologist.  (Some people worked in health communication, psychology, medical education,,…)

Again, given the size of the group (about 14), the autobiographical introductions were done in smaller groups (so not everyone heard everyone else’s).

The third activity, in which participants related how the precirculated discussion “paper intersects with or stimulates your own thinking” raised a diversity of themes, such as:

Looking at data in different ways, e.g., checking whether the deficit in girls in India differed from the first to the second child (it does–equal for the first, fewer girls for the 2nd); how to convey epi. results to people without epi. background; screening systems shaped by litigation (so litle attention to costs of overscreening); study characteristsics of those among underscreened groups who choose to get screened; and much more.

The fourth activity was a short survey done during a meal break after two hours of the workshop.  A sample of themes in the survey responses are:

struck by the comment that great epidemiological discoveries are based on observations more than interventions

excited by hearing each other talk about professional and scholarly creativity

frustrated by how to find time and colleagues to pursue the processes [started here]

chewing on how to explore connections made at the workshop

patterns in the topic: theme of analyzing data in novel ways

patterns in the process: everyone is encouraged to contribute


After two more activities, we had a closing circle: Closing circle comments

In the category of “One thing we’re taking away to chew on or to put into practice,” comments included: “[Develop a] course on history of great epidemiological ideas,” “How to reinforce each other to do more in-depth, less-conventional work,” “Interesting that people are grappling with this [topic]. Creativity is not so lonely; there are lots of people here.”

(Start of road trip; Day 4)

Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology: A bibliography

In a 2011 graduate course on “Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology,” students were asked to add an annotated reference or resource (=person, organization…) to the evolving googledocs bibliography each week.  (Annotations were to convey the article’s key points as well as its connection to the student’s own inquiries and interests.)  The result is as follows: Continue reading