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History and Philosophy of Science. (Divisional Reports).

This year's session of the History and Philosophy of Science Division had twelve papers presented and, for the first time, required sessions over a two-day period. Thursday's session addressed the philosophical aspect of science, while Friday's session was devoted to the history of science. One history of science paper, originally scheduled for Friday's session, had to be moved to Thursday because of a scheduling conflict for the speaker. Thursday's philosophy of science session opened with a paper which argued that human freedom is illusory. It was argued that the advances in molecular biology and genetics have shown to some extent and will continue to show that human behavior and the choices we make are really a causal function of our biology and the environment and that having options does not constitute having free will. The second paper defended the claim that mathematics is a quasi-empirical science, against the traditional view that alleges that science is purely analytic and has no empirical component . It was argued that, while not wholly an empirically based science, the use of computers in proving mathematical theorems, such as the four color theorem, make mathematics more akin to the empirical sciences than previously thought. The third paper addressed some of the problems associated with the Linnaean hierarchy and discussed the alternative classification model, the Phylocode. It was argued that despite the appearance of being a genuine scientific revolution, the adoption of the Phylocode would simply be a change in instrumentation, and not a genuine scientific revolution. The fourth and fifth papers addressed issues relating to the confusions of ontology and epistemology in biological conceptions of species. It was argued in the fourth paper that the commonly accepted view that the Linnaean hierarchy and the concept of species is established a priori, or independent of empirical data, is really a myth. The confusion of taxa with species categories has fueled this traditional view, but it was argued th at taxa are natural kinds or sets which get classified at the species level via empirical means. The fifth paper provided a detailed analysis of common confusion of ontology and epistemology in the literature of biology and philosophy of biology. The common usage of the term 'species' to indicate both species taxa and species categories has created so much confusion that when the term is used it is unclear whether ontology (i.e., concerning species taxa) or epistemology (i.e., concerning species categories) is at issue. As a result of this confusion, debates about the nature of species have occupied much literature in the philosophy of biology. The sixth paper raised an interesting moral and legal question concerning the extent of responsibility on the part of scientists who developed the means used by terrorists in the 9/11/2001 attack on New York City's World Trade Center. It was noted that the attorneys in trials now often focus on how the defendant(s) acquired the means of committing their crime(s), such as how and where they got a gun, who owned the gun, and even, who manufactured the gun. Thus, a concern was raised about the extent of moral and legal culpability on the part of scientists who harness new energies in nature that get used and misused in potentially unforseen ways. The last paper on Thursday kicked off the history of science section. It addressed the 17th century English scientist, Robert Lower's pioneering experiments in blood transfusions. Lower was presented in sharp contrast to his French counterpart, Jean-Baptiste Denis, a radical scientist for his day who conducted transfusions without the usual prerequisite "academic" studies. A law suit was filed against Denis after a patient died from a transfusion, and this inhibited the advancement in transfusion medicine for decades. Lower did do the expected academic studies, apparently conducted dog-dog and dog-human blood transfusions, but was usurped in the experimental aspects of transfusion medicine by Denis.

Friday's history of science session opened with an interesting discussion of the work of Charles Darwin on evolutionary theory and the independently formulated evolutionary theory of Alfred Russel Wallace. It was argued that Darwin could have suppressed the work of Wallace, but chose not to do so. Consequently, Darwin was forced to publish his own work much earlier than he had planned. The second paper discussed the "Intelligent Design" (ID) movement from its origins in 18th century theology with the views of William Paley through recent 20th and 21st century revivals in the works of mathematician, William Dembski and microbiologist, Michael Behe. It was suggested that while the ID movement may not have significant effect on the way scientific research is carried out, it may indeed affect the way North American science education is conducted. A wary eye was prescribed for the incorporation of ID tenets in science education. The last three presentations examined the significant influence of John Dewey, Booker T. Washington, and George Washington Carver on teaching methodology and science education. It was shown that John Dewey's pragmatism emphasized a practical aspect to science education. He focused on students' needs and stressed the importance of experimental procedure, problem solving strategies, and hypothesis formulation and testing by both the instructor and the students. Thus, it was shown that Dewey's contribution to science education, and agriculture in particular, was a "learning by and through doing" approach. Booker T. Washington, the first president of Tuskegee University, was shown to have had a significant impact on agricultural research programs. It was argued that Washington was successful in his attempts to facilitate educational opportunities for African-Americans. His practical approach to education sought to provide the students with the means of economic independence. It was shown that Washington successfully incorporated industrial training in the educational environment of Tuskegee Univer sity. The last presentation of the session focused on the agricultural successes of George Washington Carver. It was shown that Carver was instrumental in revolutionizing farming through developing new ways to increase crop production and through preservation and crop rotation techniques while at the Tuskegee Institute. In addition, it was shown that Carver was one of the first people to advocate the benefits of recycling and he introduced new ways to use waste products in the form of paints and stains, for example. In addition, it was shown that Carver was a great humanitarian who took his knowledge of agriculture "on the road" to aid poverty-stricken farmers in rural Alabama and Georgia.

Maritza Abril, the current vice-chair of our division, was elected chair of the division for next year. Professor Kant Vajpayee was elected vice-chair for next year. We are encouraged and pleased about the growing interest and participation in our division and we are anticipating an even more successful History and Philosophy of Science division at next year's meeting.
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Title Annotation:Mississippi Academy of Sciences
Author:Smithka, Paula
Publication:Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:1122
Previous Article:Health Science. (Divisional Reports).
Next Article:Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics. (Divisional Reports).


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