Plato’s weekend suggestions

readingsHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend (yeah, this time’s a lot of ’em, I had some time to read during my recent vacation…):

According to David Freedman in the Atlantic, there is a war on stupid people. While this may sound like the latest expansion of the political correctness front, it isn’t. The guy makes perfectly valid points about what sort of society we should pursue, and in whose interests.

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Ought, is, and logic

Kant

young Immanuel Kant

Last month I published an essay on alleged empirical evidence that Kant’s idea that ought implies can (OIC) is false. To refresh your mind, the paper I discussed was published by Vladimir Chituc and co-workers, who claimed that — because a good number of random folks say that someone ought to do X when it is plain impossible for X to actually be carried out — then Kant’s famous dictum from the Critique of Pure Reason: “The action to which the ‘ought’ applies must indeed be possible under natural conditions,” must be wrong. I suggested instead that the folks used as subjects by Chituc and colleagues simply didn’t understand basic logic. An epic Twitter battle ensued.

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What is a gene, and what is it for?

ChromosomesThe gene is a fundamental concept in biology, and it has been since Mendel introduced it in the late 19th century, unbeknownst to Darwin, who was just at the same time looking for a theory of heredity, flirted with Lamarckism, and tiene came up with his own, incorrect, notion of blended inheritance.

Mendel’s work was rediscovered in 1900 (it’s bad for one’s academic career when one publishes in obscure journals and agrees to become an administrator, as the Augustinian friar did), and ever since it has been a crucial component of our understanding of biology. But scientists have developed a number of different concepts of gene, concepts that don’t always sit quite nicely and coherently with each other. Sounds like a job for philosophers of science…

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Plato’s weekend suggestions

readingsHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

According to Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, it is ideas, not capital or institutions, that enriched the world. This article is about her new book, and it does present an interesting point of view, which however needs to be filtered by the fact that it appeared in Reason magazine, a notoriously libertarian-leaning magazine. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Or is there?

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The Nature of Evolutionary Biology

DarwinAs part of my occasional series devoted to my own technical papers (forgive the self indulgence, but I’d like that body of work to be known to, if not appreciated by, a slightly wider audience than my academic colleagues), let’s discuss the nature of evolutionary biology as a scientific discipline.

The occasion is provided by a paper I published in a collection put together by K. Kampourakis, entitled The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. (The book, here, is pretty expensive; my chapter can be downloaded for free here.)

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