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History and Philosophy of Science.

Vicechair: S. Kant Vajpayee, University of Southern Mississippi

Chair: Maritza Abril, University of Southern Mississippi


Lake View I


Jason R. Busch, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39402

Most philosophers of biology seem to treat species taxa as if they are ontologically real entities, and thus, are species realists. Realists claim that universals, such as justice, greenness or species, have a real, objective existence. In the philosophy of biology, the issue is whether the name 'species' designates a universal thing, namely a species taxon, or designates particular organisms that resemble one another in certain relevant respects. Nominalists, on the other hand, maintain that only particular objects exist and that only the names are universal. Thus, names designate particular objects or objects taken collectively, as in a set, but do not refer to universal things. This historical debate between realism and nominalism is relevant today in the recent literature in philosophy of biology with regard to species. I will investigate the viability of species realism versus species nominalism for philosophy of biology.


Kenneth J. Curry (*) and Paula J. Smithka, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406

The concept of species embodies two broad components. The species taxon is that group of individual organisms with sufficient cohesion to name the group (e.g., Homo sapiens); the species category is the rank to which we assign species taxa in our hierarchical model of evolution. The species taxon is the ontological component of species, while the species category is the epistemological component. The ontological component can be decomposed into two dimensions, horizontal and vertical, which is our focus here. The horizontal dimension of species comprises those properties instantiated in individuals by which we recognize a cohesive group, the species taxon. These properties, interpreted without an historical component, inform us of a cohesive, ontological structure, albeit without relationship to other taxa. The vertical dimension of species addresses causal relationships among species, and therefore its investigation must embrace several taxa. Causal relationships inform us of the relative importance with res pect to inter-taxon relationships of properties recognized horizontally and provide logical ground for judging the ontological structure of a given taxon among other taxa. Both the horizontal and vertical dimensions of a taxon are necessary components of taxon ontology. Species concepts may reflect more strongly the vertical dimension (e.g., cladistic species, species-as-individuals) or the horizontal dimension (the biological species concept, ecological species) which leads to incomplete and confused ontology.

9:30 Break


Paula J. Smithka (*) and Kenneth J. Curry, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406

We commonly say, "species exist" and "species go extinct," thus, species (however they are defined) persist for some period of time. The issue of species persistence through time is investigated using two opposing views: endurantism and perdurantism. Endurantists argue that objects exist wholly and completely at different times. Perdurantists, on the other hand, argue that time is literally a "proper part" of objects. On this view, objects have temporal as well as spatial parts. These two different metaphysical views of the persistence of objects over time, also adopt very different perspectives regarding the nature of time. Endurantists tend to be presentists, i.e., that whatever "really" exists, exists only in the present. The present time is privileged because it is what is here and now. This view takes tenses used in a language to be significant. Thus, when we understand tenses properly, we see the privileged position of the present tense. For example, what once existed but does not now exist, presently e xisted at some past time. Perdurantists, on the other hand, tend to be eternalists with respect to time. They argue that all times are equally "real," so there is nothing "special" or privileged about the present time. The ramifications of these views for the issue of species persistence are explored.


John D. Davis, St. Andrews Episcopal Middle School, Ridgeland, MS 39157

Accomplishments of the nineteenth century husband and wife team of George and Elizabeth Peckham have mostly gone unnoticed because their work is in the entomological literature. In fact, the Peckhams publications on the behavior and classification of jumping spiders and behavior of solitary wasps were crucial in supporting the theory of sexual selection and pioneered many of the techniques and concepts associated with ethologists of the mid twentieth century! In 1880 George Peckham organized the first American biological laboratory program in any high school at the Eastern High School in Milwaukee. He married his coworker, Mary Gifford, one of the first science graduates from Vassar. They set to work introducing Darwinian concepts into education and began their studies on the taxonomy and behavior of jumping spiders, a large group of visually oriented spiders. They were among the very first taxonomists to emphasize the value of behavior in classification. In 1889 they published one of the first studies on sex ual selection, supporting Darwin's concept against Wallace's alternative explanation of courtship behavior. In 1898 they produced On the Instincts and Habits of Solitary Wasps--a literary as well as scientific classic. Unlike the later work of Fabre, which stressed the "perfection" of insect behavior, the Peckhams identified chained behaviors subject to natural selection. The Peckhams were inseparable researchers and educators.

10:45 Divisional Business Meeting


S. Kant Vajpayee, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406

Scientists are the Brahmins of the modem world, which is driven by our focus on the material life. By creating a separation between religion and state, we have carved out for them a secluded arena so that they are not disturbed by the hobnobbing of the spiritual issues. This enables them to concentrate on what is materially useful to us and not waste time on anything spiritual. They create for us the knowledge essential for increasing our gross domestic products (GDPs) and enhancing our standards of material living. We treat them as Brahmins by showing them some respect and never paying too much-else they fall prey to the habit of conspicuous consumption. Of all the kinds of Brahmins today such as teachers, engineers, lawyers, professors, doctors, and other professionals, scientists are undoubtedly at the top, since only they create new knowledge--others are active in simply disseminating and/or applying that knowledge. Scientists and researchers based at the institutions of higher learning are the keystones of the hierarchical structure of modern Brahmins. There is one difference, however. Unlike the past, we don't offer them the perk by accepting their sons also as Brahmins. Their children have to earn that title themselves, based on merit. Were religious leaders and philosophers to claim that they are the true Brahmins, scientists may accept the term Material Brahmins.


Lake View I


Maritza Abril, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406

Alfred Russel Wallace is remembered as the man who almost got credit for the theory of evolution, but he was also a prolific field naturalist, geographer, biogeographer, anthropologist and philosopher with accomplishments substantial in their own right. This presentation focuses on his contribution to zoogeography, as he is considered to have invented it. Wallace introduced a new interpretation of the concept of the geography of animals as he was the first one to base animal distribution on the theory of evolution. Wallace embraced the concept of zoogeography not only as collecting facts about animals, classifying and comparing them but also as the study of the history of animals, their evolution, their changes through geological times, and the history of the continents of the world. His realization of the impossibility to understand geographical distribution of animals without taking into consideration all the possible changes which may have taken place in the distribution of land and masses and water converged in the formulation of Wallace's Line, a definite boundary in the Malay Archipelago. This line of demarcation derives from Wallace's observations of the fauna of the islands and their geological history as they resemble the Indian or the Australian regions.


Robert G. Hamilton, Mississippi College, Clinton, MS 39058

Ecology originated from studies of natural histories and species distributions in the nineteenth century. The science of ecology began to take shape as researchers investigated the relationships among organisms and the relationships between organisms and the environment. Modern ecology is a broad multidisciplinary highly quantitative science with its own philosophical approaches to science. Ecology is not, however, in any sense a political movement, nor are ecologists in any sense necessarily affiliated with any particular political movement.

2:30 Break


Hellen Ransom, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406

In recent years there has been a crisis growing in epidemic proportions, the calamity of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a disease that does not discriminate on the basis of color, gender, religion, nationality or socio-economic background. Since its discovery, those who have contracted AIDS have been subjected to undeserved inequity. Isolation, increase in healthcare costs, and a lack of effective treatment are just some of the problems that AIDS victims have to endure. Frederic G. Reamer lists the critical ethical choices that face those in the midst of the AIDS crisis as those related to "privacy, mandatory screening, civil liberties, health care financing, research on human subjects, AIDS activism, treatment, and obligations of professionals" (AIDS and Ethics 3). Under ideal circumstances, AIDS victims would receive the best in health care and the support necessary for dealing with such a devastating illness. However, the value that is placed upon AIDS victims is very little. This pres entation will specifically address the inadequate medical and ethical treatment that minorities with AIDS receive.


Robert Waltzer, Belhaven College, Jackson, MS 39202

Apparent design is acknowledged within biology and is communicated by metaphor. Design as a metaphor per se is legitimate, but the concepts imported covertly with it lead to difficulties. This presentation will characterize the difficulties with both the use of the design metaphor and the removal of the designer. Structure-function relationships are described in the same way in biology as they are in engineering, in which actual design is accepted. Without an accepted designer for biology, application of such thinking is metaphorical. Terms related to this metaphor include function and role, and can be referred to as design-related. In a structure understood as due to natural processes, such as a broken tree trunk upon which someone fell, would one say that the function of the trunk was to impale someone? No. It should be equally inappropriate to say that the function of, for instance, the kidney, is excretion. In analysis of actual design, the first assumption made is that there is a designer. Further assump tions are based upon that and include the following: that each part has a function; that each part somehow contributes to the overall function; and that we are able to detect this. In removing the designer, the subsequent assumptions make no sense. But such is done in biology. To keep the subsequent assumptions the designer must be kept or the design-related terms justified. If one avoids a priori commitments and evaluates the evidence and logic, one solution might be to admit the possibility of a designer.
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Title Annotation:phylogeny, ethics, ecology
Publication:Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences
Geographic Code:1U6MS
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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Next Article:Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

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