Category Archives: Massimo’s Technical Stuff

The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis and causality in biology

IMG_8298I have just spent three delightful days at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for theoretical biology in Vienna, participating to a workshop of philosophers and biologists on the question of how to think about causality, especially within the context of the so-called Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, the currently unfolding update to the standard model in evolutionary theory (for more on the EES, see here).

The workshop was organized by my colleagues Kevin Laland and Tobias Uller, and hosted by the delightful Gerd Müller, an old friend of mine. In an informal sense, this was a follow-up to a meeting that Gerd and I organized at the KLI back in 2008, to explore the very meaning and conceptual boundaries of an EES, and which resulted in the publication of this book about the effort.

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Socrates: ancient Humanist?


Socrates, Roman National Museum, photo by the Author

As part of my ongoing occasional series aiming at bringing some of my own technical papers to the attention of a wider public (after all, what the hell is the point of doing scholarship if it only benefits other scholars?), below I reprint a paper I recently published in The Human Prospect. It inquires on the possibility of interpreting Socrates as a proto-Humanist of sorts, and it therefore includes a discussion of Humanism as a philosophy of life, as well its likely stemming from the ancient Greco-Roman tradition of virtue ethics (via the mediation of the Renaissance Humanists, which were informed by, and yet were reacting against, medieval Christianity).

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The mismeasure of machine: why machine metaphors in biology are misleading

Time to indulge in the occasional revisiting of one of my technical papers, in the hope that they may be of more general interest then the original audience they were written for. This time I’m going to focus on one that I co-wrote with my long-time collaborator, Maarten Boudry, and published in 2013 in the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. The title of the paper is: “The mismeasure of machine: synthetic biology and the trouble with engineering metaphors.”

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Paul Feyerabend’s defense of astrology, part IV

FeyerabendTime to bring to a close this longer than expected (by me, when I started it!) mini-series on the fruitful exchange I’ve had recently in the pages of Social Epistemology with Ian Kidd, concerning Paul Feyerabend’s (in)famous “defense” of astrology and criticism of scientific dogmatism. (part I, part II, and part III here). This last entry will focus on my second response to Kidd, which has concluded our exchange, at the least so far.

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Paul Feyerabend’s defense of astrology, part III

AstrologyLet’s continue this mini-series (part I, part II) focused on a fruitful exchange I’ve had recently with Ian Kidd over at Social Epistemology, which began with his publication of a paper on Paul Feyerabend’s (in)famous defense of astrology. As you might recall, Feyerabend (and, for that matter, astronomer Carl Sagan) was upset at an anti-astrology manifesto published in 1975 by arch-skeptic Paul Kurtz and co-signed by 186 scientists. Feyerabend’s charge was that the scientists had done less homework, before signing onto the public document, than the Catholic Church when it wrote its witchcraft textbook, the Malleus Maleficarum, back in 1484. Kidd, in turn, defends Feyerabend arguing that he was criticizing the scientists in question for lacking the virtue of epistemic humility and engaging in the vice of dogmatism.

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Paul Feyerabend’s defense of astrology, part II

AstrologyWe have began looking at the famous (or infamous, depending on who’s talking) episode of philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend’s “defense” of astrology, in response to an anti-astrology manifesto put forth by skeptic Paul Kurtz and co-signed by 186 scientists, back in 1975. This episode is the occasion for a recent paper by Ian Kidd, to which I have been invited to write a response by the journal Social Epistemology.

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