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About the Author: Emanuele Ratti  is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science Project. He is a philosopher of biology interested in the epistemology of contemporary molecular biology with a particular focus on how the field is shaped by developments from a small-science regime to a big-science structure.

Rene Descartes (public domain image rom Wikipedia)

In this post, as in others I wrote (e.g., Popper, Diderot, Copernicus/Darwin, Leonardo da Vinci), I want to direct attention to the strict interconnections between ethical and epistemological norms. In particular, I want to emphasize how epistemological norms are sometimes inevitably ethical in nature. Here I want to focus especially on the early modern philosopher and scientist Rene Descartes.

In his famous Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii (2012), Descartes proposed a set of rules that were supposed to lead to excellence in philosophical and scientific thinking. It is natural to think about these rules as epistemological in nature, without any substantial reference to other cognitive dimensions. I remember several reading groups on Descartes when I was an undergraduate student, and how these rules were conceptualized mostly in an epistemological way. Continue Reading »

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Science and Value (II)

About the Author: Emanuele Ratti  is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science Project. He is a philosopher of biology interested in the epistemology of contemporary molecular biology with a particular focus on how the field is shaped by developments from a small-science regime to a big-science structure.

In my last post, I introduced Douglas’ taxonomy of values and their roles in science. She distinguishes between direct and indirect roles for values. Values play an indirect role in science when they determine the importance of uncertainty related to the evidence accumulated. Because no hypothesis is ever completely verified, acceptance of a scientific claim is a function of the importance of making a mistake by not accepting it. The importance can be expressed in ethical concerns, for instance, when discussing whether a substance may be toxic for plants on the one hand, or for children on the other. According to Douglas, ethical and social values must play an indirect role here. They can play a role also in deciding research priorities and/or acceptable methodologies. Continue Reading »

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About the Author: Nathaniel Warne is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science project. He is a philosophical and systematic theologian who works across a range of classic Christian doctrines with a special focus on the doctrine of humanity.

I recently attended the Association of Moral Education (AME) conference in St. Louis, Missouri. This is a conference where psychologists come together and discuss a number of moral issues related to education. This is the second time I have attended this conference and, for the most part, I enjoy my time and learn a lot. Psychologists ask very different questions than I do as a theologian. I am impressed by the practicality of their research and constantly seek to incorporate what I learn into my own thinking and work. Continue Reading »

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Science and Values

About the Author: Emanuele Ratti is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science Project. He is a philosopher of biology interested in the epistemology of contemporary molecular biology with a particular focus on how the field is shaped by developments from a small-science regime to a big-science structure.

In another post, I have introduced the topic of epistemic values/virtues, namely those characteristics of theories and models that we value and we think are a measure of the adequacy of such theories/models. In philosophy and history of science, epistemic values include empirical adequacy, internal consistency, explanatory power, etc. They are called ‘epistemic’ because they are thought to advance knowledge and aim at ‘truth’, whatever we mean by ‘truth’. Philosophers in the past have focused on two big groups of values – epistemic and nonepistemic. The narrative was that epistemic values are the only legitimate values in scientific research, while nonepistemic values (social, political, moral, etc.) are not. Continue Reading »

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About the Author: Marcus Baynes-Rock is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Human Distinctiveness project. He is an Australian anthropologist whose academic interests lie in the relationships between humans and large carnivores, including these relationships throughout evolutionary history.

A radio collared hyena in the Masai Mara. Photo by Marcus Baynes-Rock

Recently I was involved in the planning stage of a research project which is aimed at better understanding what is called a ‘coupled human/natural’ system in Ethiopia. The ‘human’ element of the project constitutes the rural and urban human population of the country while the ‘natural’ constitutes spotted hyenas and other animals who might rely on anthropogenic landscapes or foods. Continue Reading »

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About the Author: Emily Dumler-Winckler is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science project. She specializes in moral theology, with a particular interest in virtue, moral psychology, aesthetics, ascetic practices, politics, and social change in the modern era.

Image from Public Domain; http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3b46036/

“Genius”: What comes to mind when you hear the term?

If you pictured Albert Einstein, or a mad-scientist in a lab coat, you are likely not alone. In the twentieth century, the term ‘genius’ came to be almost synonymous with great scientists like Einstein. But this has not always been the case. The connection between genius and science is historically disputed. According to Immanuel Kant’s particularly narrow definition, for example, genius pertains only to excellence and innovation in the fine arts—to the poets, painters, and orators—and not to science or mechanical arts (Kant, 1997, pp. 46–49). Continue Reading »

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About the Author: Emanuele Ratti  is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science Project. He is a philosopher of biology interested in the epistemology of contemporary molecular biology with a particular focus on how the field is shaped by developments from a small-science regime to a big-science structure.

Used with permission from University of Chicago Press.

Climate change denial, intelligent design, creationism, and anti-vaccines hypotheses: are these scientific? Most scientists would say that no, creationism is not a hypothesis or a theory with the same scientific dignity that evolutionary theory has (however we define the structure of this theory). In fact, many (perhaps creationist supporters as well) would say that creationism is just nonscience. However, in other cases (as intelligent design, climate change denial, or alternative medicine) the situation is rather different. Some authors tend to present certain theses as scientific, but others will say that even if they look scientific, they are not. This is the problem of pseudoscience. Continue Reading »

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About the Author: Timothy Reilly is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science Project. He is a developmental psychologist whose work draws from a variety of approaches, including positive psychology, moral development, sociocultural theory, and action theories of development.

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

“If you look back on your life, what do you want to be able to say about your life?” On being asked this, a high school student pauses for a moment and then says, “Well, put that way, I want to be proud of the life I lived, with a good family and having helped others.” Another says, “I want to be sure I’ve left the world a better place than I found it, especially the environment. I don’t want my grandkids to grow up in a polluted world.” Each of these respondents was concerned with one’s contributions to the world, as we all are. For psychology research, these concerns aren’t new. Half a century ago, Erik Erikson first described this desire to contribute. He was also the first to consider how we want to be able to look back on our lives. Continue Reading »

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