‘How To Think About Science’

A cursory glance over the contents of this blog might give the impression that I do not much care for modern science. However, that impression would be deeply misleading, since it is rather only two main areas of concern I have: the claims sometimes made on behalf of contemporary neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, particularly in relation to philosophy; and the ontological significance attributed to scientific forms of explanation. These reservations arise against the backdrop of a warm appreciation and interest in the sciences. In fact, as a teenager I wanted to be an astrophysicist before developing such an interest in the humanities.

In this spirit of not-being-an-anti-scientific-crank, here is a link to a CBC series on the history and philosophy of science which I have been enjoying lately. The interviewees are as follows:

Episode 1 – Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer
Episode 2 – Lorraine Daston

Episode 3 – Margaret Lock
Episode 4 – Ian Hacking and Andrew Pickering
Episode 5 – Ulrich Beck and Bruno Latour
Episode 6 – James Lovelock
Episode 7 – Arthur Zajonc
Episode 8 – Wendell Berry
Episode 9 – Rupert Sheldrake
Episode 10 – Brian Wynne 
Episode 11 – Sajay Samuel 
Episode 12 – David Abram 
Episode 13 – Dean Bavington 
Episode 14 – Evelyn Fox Keller
Episode 15 – Barbara Duden
 and Silya Samerski 
Episode 16 – Steven Shapin 
Episode 17 – Peter Galison
Episode 18 – Richard Lewontin 
Episode 19 – Ruth Hubbard 
Episode 20 – Michael Gibbons, Peter Scott, & Janet Atkinson Grosjean 
Episode 21 -Christopher Norris and Mary Midgely
Episode 22 – Allan Young 
Episode 23 – Lee Smolin 
Episode 24 – Nicholas Maxwell

4 thoughts on “‘How To Think About Science’

  1. Oooh, amazing! Your concerns are much the same as mine. Add to that the privilege given to heteronormativity/heterosexuality in a lot of biosciences and psychology.

    Have you ever read any Karen Barad?

  2. Hi Alex — good to hear from you.

    I haven’t read any feminist science studies or philosophy of science for quite a while, and don’t think I’ve come across Barad before. Are there any articles in particular you would recommend?

    The title of her book (Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning) sounds intriguing, especially as I’m interested in how to think about the relation between brute, indifferent matter and our meaning-laden practices. If only I had the time…!

  3. Your blog was supposed to send me more comments! It did not.

    She wrote a pretty famous article that came out in Signs a few years ago called “Posthumanist Performativity: Towards an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter”, which has perhaps the best definition of performativity I’ve ever read therein (take that Queen Butler!).

    But yes, her book’s on my Amazon wishlist…

  4. Naughty blog.

    I’ve had a read through that article, and for the most part think it’s headed in the right direction. In particular, the pendulum is now rightly swinging back towards realism in continental philosophy and its neighbours, as also evidenced by the rise of ‘speculative realism’, and this is a good thing — even if it is taking a somewhat too extreme form in reaction to the extremes it is combating. But such is the nature of the dialectic.

    However, nearly all the details seem wrong to me. The representationalism Barad contrasts performativity with is a straw man. (I say that as no fan of representationalism: my undergrad dissertation was a critique of it.) The relational ontology she develops is undermotivated and highly problematic given her rejection of relata. There’s still such an unnecessary vogue for relational ontology — there’s nothing progressive or scientific about it.

    It’s better than the Queen B though. Whenever I come across any of her writing, I always think of Foucault and that old proverb: ‘May God protect us from our friends, for we shall watch out for our enemies ourselves.’

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