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History and philosophy of science.

Chair: Maritza Abril, University of Southern Mississippi

Vice-chair: John D. Davis, Jackson, MS


Hunter Henry Executive Room 8


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

A difficult question indeed! The answer could be both yes and no. Which one is closer to the truth? Only an extremely enormous research, both in terms of time and cost, can settle that. For our purpose, let's focus on the two pertaining questions. Is it moral to seek and sustain peace? Does science contribute toward this effort? My aim here is simply to alert the scientists to the fact that what they do to advance knowledge can be sinful if it contributes to the absence of peace, provided that sustenance of peace is considered moral. Take nuclear energy. Its use for peaceful purposes will hardly be objected by anyone. But the extension of the associated science for nuclear bombs is undoubtedly divisive to humanity. Scientists engaged in fundamental research may not be able to judge whether their work will contribute toward peace or violence. But those researching in applied areas for military purposes could not claim their ignorance. With the recent emphasis on earmarked researching, both within and without the institutions of higher learning, on what is useful in a short-time frame, scientists need to be aware of what they investigate and whether or not their work is compatible with their "hearts". The basic question is whether scientists can and should influence the fruits of their work or should they take the backseat and let the policy makers, the society, and the politicians take charge.


Andrew Harrell, Vicksburg, MS 39180

In this talk we will look at a part of the recent discussion of theologians about science and religion. This part concerns how mathematics, computer science, and statistics might be able to present arguments that explain how faith and reason interact. In the book by William Demski, "No Free Lunch (NFL)" some of the mathematics and computer science in the two earlier papers by Wolpert and Macready have been used to support the authors\' philosophical, statistical arguments for the necessity of what is called "The intelligent design of the Universe". The question then comes down to whether there is an intelligent designer of our genome? However, in a later paper by the same two authors, they have given a mathematical counterexample to the key statement in Chapter 4 of the NFL book that the mathematical arguments there can deal with "the coevolving fitness schemes of Dr. Kaufmann". Does this mathematical result then invalidate Dr. Demski's philosophical/statistical conclusions?


Michael Fitzgerald, Independent Scholar, Hattiesburg, MS 39402

A current debate in the philosophy of Physics and Biology is whether time or temporality is a proper 'part' of physical objects, just as a heart is a proper part of a human being. Those who claim the structure of physical objects or organisms is basically four-dimensional argue that time is a proper part of physical objects. So, time or one's temporal history is just as much a part of a human organism as its heart and brain. In contrast, those who claim the structure of physical objects or organisms is basically three-dimensional argue that time is not a proper part of such physical objects. The defenders of a four dimensional structure maintain that their view better accounts for the persistence of such physical objects through changes in its parts than does the rival view. To support their view, defenders of the four dimensional view have developed an argument, The Descartes-Minus Argument, which is designed to show that defenders of the three dimensional view run afoul of the logical law of the Indiscernibility of Identicals, i.e. (x)(y)(F) {(x = y) e (Fx / Fy)}. What I will show in the presentation is: 1) the nature and structure of the Descartes-Minus argument; and 2) how the defender of the three dimensional structure of such physical objects is not committed to running afoul of the Indiscernibility of Identicals. I ultimately conclude the Descartes-Minus Argument itself is insufficient to decide the case between the four-dimensional and three-dimensional views.

10:00 Break


Michael Dodge, University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677

The modern legal establishment is ever increasingly interested in science. Throughout most of the history of Anglo-American law, science received little attention, and was considered of almost negligible import. The Common Law relied on procedures established via centuries of judicial morphing and legislative vagaries. Unfortunately, most of this process occurred prior to or concurrent with what some call the scientific age--i.e., the late eighteenth century to the present. As the scientific method gained general acceptance with the American people, a problem developed when American law needed to incorporate concepts foreign to jurisprudence. The result was confusion, especially regarding the rules of evidence. To solve the problem, the courts turned to the philosophy of science, and the writings of Hempel, Popper, and others were analyzed for applicability to law. Falsifiability became sine qua non, and evidentiary tests were shaped to handle unique challenges. Initially, courts had difficulty interpreting science within the strictures of a legal context. Daubert v. Merell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. introduced the attempt by the Supreme Court of the United States to more amiably integrate scientific evidence into the justice system. The legal profession relies on this test to ensure evolving concepts of justice are served. However, the question remains whether the dynamism of scientific knowledge may soon force the judicial system to again adapt itself. Philosophers may soon be needed to maintain the fragile communalism established by Daubert, and this presentation is designed to illicit possibilities for the future of science in American jurisprudence.


Robert Hamilton, Mississippi College, Clinton, MS 39058

Frederic Clements has long been criticized for taking a non scientific view of communities with his well known reference to communities as "superorganisms". However, looking at the historical development of ecology during Clements career, much of the attack on Clements seems unwarranted. Clements began his career seeking to make Ecology a science. When Clements career began, "ecologists" simply noted variation in species distributed, associated them with environmental conditions, and made up stories as to why the correlations were so. Clements and others sought to make ecology an experimental science, with Clements publishing the first experimental methods textbook for ecology, "Research Methods in Ecology". Gleason was a taxonomist, well known as an author of "Manual of Vascular Plants". To simply note the environmental position of a species is all many taxonomists want to know about ecology. I thus present the thesis that Gleason vs. Clements is the essence of a conflict between ecologists and taxonomists with respect to the significance of experimental ecological data, where ecologists insist on such data, while taxonomists insist that such associations are more or less random and/or meaningless. The science of Experimental Ecology that Clements helped found has provided more than enough evidence that associations between species and their environment and between species are not random, and very meaningful. Clements basic paradigm of experimental ecology has triumphed completely; with the residual odd quirk of history being that Clements is considered unscientific by some.


Malachi Martin* and Michael Dodge*, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406 and University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS 38677

What is a biological organism? What necessary and sufficient criteria does biology and the philosophy of biology supply us with to delineate and demarcate the proper boundaries of an organism? Mahner and Bunge, in Foundations of Biophilosophy (1997), argue that the organism is the highest level of biological organization with the emergent property of being alive. They define an organism as a biosystem that is not a proper subsystem of another biosystem, that is to say, it may not be individuated as a component of another living thing. This is a useful tool when thinking about living things. However, some philosophers contend that biology lacks a central organism concept and argue that the great diversity of living forms appears to confound attempts at straightforward entification. Jack Wilson, in his paper "Organism Concepts and Biological Generalizations" (2000), maintains that our notion of an organism is derived from commonsense examples and ignores morphologically and physiologically quite disparate forms of life. When we consider, for example, the capacity of some organisms to split apart into separate organisms, fuse together as one organism, engage in lateral gene transfer and any other acts that violate our grasp of the notion of an organism, we are forced to concede that metazoans in general and vertebrates in particular offer little in the way of a central organism concept. We suggest that tenably addressing this biophilosophical issue may require abandoning any pretense to a uniform set of criteria for being an individual organism.


Hunter Henry Executive Room 8

1:15 Divisional Business Meeting


John Davis, Mississipi Museum of Natural Science, Jackson, MS 39202.

The PhyloCode is an evolving set of rules for biological nomenclature which abolishes all ranks above species! In the Linnaean system a named species must be assigned a rank of genus within a nested hierarchy of ranks, e.g. family, class, phylum. This is inadequate for branching relationships found by cladistic analysis. There are "more branches to the tree of life than Linnean ranks, "requiring a proliferation of new ranks such as "infracohort." Changes in status of one group may also require a cascade of renaming and reshuffling ranks. Under PhyloCode, taxonomists can name any clade without renaming other clades. PhyloCode provides formal rules for defining clades. It also establishes a public registration database (RegNum) for clade definitions and names. Yale paleontologist Jacques Gauthier and Smithsonian reptile Curator Kevin de Queiroz launched the PhyloCode movement in 1983. A 1988 Harvard workshop led to a draft on the internet. The First International Phylogenetic Nomenclature (ISPN) meeting in Paris attracted taxonomists and evolutionary biologists from 11 nations. A second ISPN meeting was held at Yale in 2006. A finalized version of PhyloCode rules for naming species is due in 2007. Opponents of PhyloCode like entomologist James Carpenter fear chaotic breakdown of classification and loss of centuries of information from this effort to rename the two million or so species already "filed" under the Linnaean system. Others suggest that PhyloCode might exist in tandem with Linnaean classification.


Mac Alford, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406

With the radical improvements in inferring phylogenetic relationships due to methodological, computational, and genetic advances since the mid-1960s, traditional Linnaean nomenclature has been recently criticized as an inefficient and unstable system of communication and information storage and retrieval for systematics. Linnaean nomenclature is a versatile, theory-neutral hierarchical system, in use since the time of Aristotle, where classes are nested and mutually exclusive at a particular level (rank). Names have standard endings at each rank, and thus, names carry with them a certain amount of information about their contents. Unfortunately, this also means that as knowledge about relationships is modified (even for other units), names might need to be changed. The PhyloCode has been offered as an alternative system of nomenclature where groups of organisms are given stable, explicit, and unambiguous names tied to a definition. While this system makes names stable, the names themselves lack information content and the entities included in a name may change. Thus, the names are stable, but the contents are not. The two systems will be compared, philosophical considerations outlined, and an argument made for retention of the Linnaean system, albeit with some modification.


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

We offer a critique of the paper by E.B. Knox (1998, The use of hierarchies as organizational models in systematics. Biol. J Linnaean Soc. 63:1-49) in which the Linnaean system of classification and attending nomenclature are compared with attempts to provide classifications from cladistic analyses. Systematists analyze phylogenetic relationships among groups of organisms at increasingly fine levels of detail, thus increasing the tension between cladistic analysis and classificatory systems. Contemporary fine-grained analyses are incompatible with the Linnaean system of classification and nomenclature, so a new system, the phylocode, has been proposed to offer guidance in matters nomenclatoral. We present Knox's argument that the Linnaean hierarchical system of classification and its attendant nomenclatoral codes are designed to be coarse-grained and in that design lies their practicality of application. Several nested and non-nested hierarchical models are presented, contrasted, and discussed for their suitability in cladistic analyses and their applicability in classificatory schemes.


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

Biological species concepts through the mid-twentieth century usually included one or more criteria of speciation mechanism. The "biological species concept," for example, gave primacy to isolating mechanisms among sexually reproducing organisms to delimit membership to a particular species. These concepts rested on the premise that species were the units of evolution. Our current understanding of species has led to the suggestion that they are the products of evolution. Both biological systematists and philosophers of biology have proposed concepts that help us model and understand biological species independent of mechanisms of speciation. Here we compare philosophical approaches to concepts of species with recent biological approaches to concepts of species. On the philosophical side we consider the "species as an individual" (species explained as time-extended concrete systems) and the "homeostatic property cluster kind" (species explained conceptually as sets of organisms with similar properties held together by cohesive forces [homeostasis] and participating in a common history, (i.e., lineage). On the biological side we consider the "phylogenetic species concept" (species are the working units of cladistic analysis) and the "monophyletic species concept" (populations are the working units of cladistic analysis and species are monophyletic groups of populations). These approaches assume that the species is the end product of evolution and that the history of the species as embodied in lineage is an important component of the concept. Philosophical approaches enhance our understanding of species; biological approaches seek groups of organisms suitable for discovering phylogenetic relationships through cladistic analysis.


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

Essentialists maintain that certain properties of organisms are both necessary and sufficient for biological species membership, such that "all and only" those members have those properties (i.e., "essences"). If a biologist knows the essence of a kind, an individual organism of that kind can then be properly identified as a member of the biological species. Essences, however, are hard to find. This a priori approach to biological species has rightly been rejected. In its place, various hypotheses about how to delineate biological species have been offered. We argue that the homeostatic property cluster kind (HPCK), advocated by Boyd (1999), when combined with lineage provides the spatial and temporal aspects required for delineating a biological species. These aspects are nomologically necessary for species classification and reidentification. Precisely because a particular organism X has the homeostatic property cluster it does, maintained through lineage, that we are able to identify it as a member of species Y. All members of a particular biological species have this homeostatic property cluster; however, not only those members have it, i.e., members of similar biological species would have similar HPC's. What only those members have is the same lineage. Thus, we have recast the notion of essentialism to accommodate the a posteriori reasoning of taxonomists.


Malachi Martin, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406

The traditional ontological issue of identity and persistence is in no way impoverished with respect to diversity of opinion. Similarly, biological organisms come in a startling array of diversity as represented by the wide range of taxa found in biological systematics. How to apply a tenable account of identity and persistence to biological organisms? What does it mean to identify an organism at one time [t.sub.1] and later re-identify it, again, at another time [t.sub.2]? Some answers have been offered by a few metaphysicians and biophilosophers, but in this presentation I will explore the applications of one. Following the lead of David Wiggins in his book. Sameness and Substance Renewed, I will argue that individuation in biology rests upon the empirical, a posteriori identification and understanding of natural kinds and that substantial sortals (such as man or horse and their refinements), as opposed to phased sortals (such as boy or colt) provide the covering concept for resolution of problems, particularly the "What is it?" question. I will further refine and apply the sortal dependency thesis of Wiggins to disparate forms of life that so often confound and confuse issues of identity and persistence, while working within a naturalized epistemological schema and ontologically endurantist framework.
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Publication:Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences
Article Type:Calendar
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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