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Narrative and Systems
From Dr. Moreau's Beast People to David Cronenberg's Brundlefly, Stanislaw Lem's robot constructors in the Cyberiad to Octavia Butler's human/alien constructs in the Xenogenesis trilogy, Posthuman Metamorphosis examines modern and postmodern stories of corporeal transformation through interlocking frames of posthumanism, narratology, and second-order systems theory. New media generate new metamorphs.New stories have emerged from cybernetic displacements of life, sensation, or intelligence from human beings to machines. But beyond the vogue for the cyborg and the cybernetic mash-up of the organic and the mechanical, Posthuman Metamorphosis develops neocybernetic systems theories illuminating alternative narratives that elicit autopoietic and symbiotic visions of the posthuman.Systems theory also transforms our modes of narrative cognition. Regarding narrative in the light of the autopoietic systems it brings into play, neocybernetics brings narrative theory into constructive relation with the systemic operations of observation, communication, and paradox.Posthuman Metamorphosis draws on Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Niklas Luhmann, Cary Wolfe, Mieke Bal, Katherine Hayles, Friedrich Kittler, and Lynn Margulis to read narratives of bodily metamorphosis as allegories of the contingencies of systems. Tracing the posthuman intuitions of both pre- and post-cybernetic metamorphs, it demonstrates the viability of second-order systems theories for narrative theory, media theory, cultural science studies, and literary criticism.
Experiments, Patents, Inventions
Albert Einstein may be best known as the wire-haired whacky physicist who gave us the theory of relativity, but that’s just one facet of this genius’s contribution to human knowledge and modern science. As József Illy expertly shows in this book, Einstein had an eminently practical side as well. As a youth, Einstein was an inveterate tinkerer in the electrical supply factory his father and uncle owned and operated. His first paid job was as a patent examiner. Later in life, Einstein contributed to many inventions, including refrigerators, microphones, and instruments for aviation. In published papers, Einstein often provided ways to test his theories and fundamental problems of the scientific community of his times. He delved deeply into a variety of technological innovations, most notably the gyrocompass, and consulted for industry in patent cases and on other legal matters. Einstein also provided explanations for common and mundane phenomena, such as the meandering of rivers. In these and other hands-on examples culled from the Einstein Papers, Illy demonstrates how Einstein enjoyed leaving the abstract world of theories to wrestle with the problems of everyday life. While we may like the idea of Einstein as a genius besotted by extra dimensions and too out-of-this world to wear socks, The Practical Einstein gives ample evidence that not only is this characterization incomplete, it is also an unfair representation of a man who sought to explore the intricacies of nature, whether in theory or practice.
Mediaeval Continuation, Volume 9)
How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future
The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population growth, and the place of science in our country—all are reaching a fevered pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology, their power, or their bottom line. To shed light on this darkness, Donald R. Prothero explains the scientific process and why society has come to rely on science not only to provide a better life but also to reach verifiable truths no other method can obtain. He describes how major scientific ideas that are accepted by the entire scientific community (evolution, anthropogenic global warming, vaccination, the HIV cause of AIDS, and others) have been attacked with totally unscientific arguments and methods. Prothero argues that science deniers pose a serious threat to society, as their attempts to subvert the truth have resulted in widespread scientific ignorance, increased risk of global catastrophes, and deaths due to the spread of diseases that could have been prevented.
Women in Academic Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Movement into academic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has been slow for women and minorities. Not only are women and minorities underrepresented in STEM careers, there is strong evidence that many academic departments are resistant to addressing the concerns that keep them from entering careers in these fields. In light of recent controversies surrounding these issues, this volume, examining reasons for the persistence of barriers that block the full participation and advancement of underrepresented groups in the sciences and addressing how academic departments and universities can remedy the situation, is particularly timely. As a whole, the volume shows positive examples of institutions and departments that have been transformed by the inclusion of women and recommends a set of best practices for continuing growth in positive directions.
In this deeply thoughtful exploration, Alfred Tauber, a practicing scientist and highly regarded philosopher, eloquently traces the history of the philosophy of science, seeking in the end to place science within the humanistic context from which it originated. Avoiding the dogmatism that has defined both extremes in the recent “Science Wars” and presenting a conception of reason that lifts the discussion out of the interminable debates about objectivity and neutrality, Tauber offers a way of understanding science as an evolving relationship between facts and the values that govern their discovery and applications. This timely philosophy of science presents a centrist but highly consequently view, wherein “truth” and “objectivity” can function as working ideals and serve as pragmatic tools within the sociological context in which they reside. For if the humanization of science is to reach completion, it must reveal not only the meaning it receives from its social and cultural settings but also that which it lends to them.
Packed with well-chosen case studies, Science and the Quest for Meaning is a trust-worthy and engaging introduction to the history of, and the current debate surrounding, the philosophy of science.
On Descartes, Darwin, and Locke
The Science of Modern Virtue examines the influence that the philosopher Rene Descartes, the political theorist John Locke, and the biologist Charles Darwin have had on our modern understanding of human beings and human virtue. Written by leading thinkers from a variety of fields, the volume is a study of the complex relation between modern science and modern virtue, between a kind of modern thought and a kind of modern action. Offering more than a series of substantive introductions to Descartes’, Locke’s, and Darwin’s accounts of who we are and the kind of virtue to which we can aspire, the book invites readers to think about the ways in which the writings of these seminal thinkers shaped the democratic and technological world in which modern human beings live. Thirteen scholars in this volume learnedly explore questions drawn from the diverse disciplines of political science, philosophy, theology, biology, and metaphysics. Let the reader be warned: The authors of these essays are anything but consensual in their analysis. Considered together, the chapters in this volume carry on a lively internal debate that mirrors theoretical modernity’s ongoing discussion about the true nature of human beings and the science of virtue. Some authors powerfully argue that Locke’s and Darwin’s thought is amenable to the claims made about human beings and human virtue by classical philosophers such as Aristotle and classical Christian theologians such as Thomas Aquinas. Others make the opposite case, drawing attention to the ways in which Descartes, Locke, and Darwin knowingly and dialectically depart from central teachings of both classical philosophy and classical Christian theology.
The role of science in policymaking has gained unprecedented stature in the United States, raising questions about the place of science and scientific expertise in the democratic process. Some scientists have been given considerable epistemic authority in shaping policy on issues of great moral and cultural significance, and the politicizing of these issues has become highly contentious. Since World War II, most philosophers of science have purported the concept that science should be “value-free.” In this book, Heather E. Douglas argues that such an ideal is neither adequate nor desirable for science. She contends that the moral responsibilities of scientists require the consideration of values even at the heart of science. She lobbies for a new ideal in which values serve an essential function throughout scientific inquiry, but where the role values play is constrained at key points, thus protecting the integrity and objectivity of science. In this vein, Douglas outlines a system for the application of values to guide scientists through points of uncertainty fraught with moral valence. Following a philosophical analysis of the historical background of science advising and the value-free ideal, Douglas defines how values should-and should not-function in science. She discusses the distinctive direct and indirect roles for values in reasoning, and outlines seven senses of objectivity, showing how each can be employed to determine the reliability of scientific claims. Douglas then uses these philosophical insights to clarify the distinction between junk science and sound science to be used in policymaking. In conclusion, she calls for greater openness on the values utilized in policymaking, and more public participation in the policymaking process, by suggesting various models for effective use of both the public and experts in key risk assessments.
Scientists have used models for hundreds of years as a means of describing phenomena and as a basis for further analogy. In this book, Bailer-Jones assembles an original and comprehensive philosophical analysis of how models have been used and interpreted in both historical and contemporary contexts. Bailer-Jones delineates the many forms models can take (ranging from equations to animals; from physical objects to theoretical constructs), and how they are put to use. She examines early mechanical models employed by nineteenth-century physicists such as Kelvin and Maxwell, describes their roots in the mathematical principles of Newton and others, and compares them to contemporary mechanistic approaches. Bailer-Jones then views the use of analogy in the late nineteenth century as a means of understanding models and to link different branches of science. She reveals how analogies can also be models themselves, or can help to create them. The first half of the twentieth century saw little mention of models in the literature of logical empiricism. Focusing primarily on theory, logical empiricists believed that models were of temporary importance, flawed, and awaiting correction. The later contesting of logical empiricism, particularly the hypothetico-deductive account of theories, by philosophers such as Mary Hesse, sparked a renewed interest in the importance of models during the 1950s that continues to this day. Bailer-Jones analyzes subsequent propositions of: models as metaphors; Kuhn's concept of a paradigm; the Semantic View of theories; and the case study approaches of Cartwright and Morrison, among others. She then engages current debates on topics such as phenomena versus data, the distinctions between models and theories, the concepts of representation and realism, and the discerning of falsities in models.