History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences

http://link.springer.com/journal/40656

List of Papers (Total 26)

Bringing Darwin into the social sciences and the humanities: cultural evolution and its philosophical implications

In the field of cultural evolution it is generally assumed that the study of culture and cultural change would benefit enormously from being informed by evolutionary thinking. Recently, however, there has been much debate about what this “being informed” means. According to the standard view, an interesting analogy obtains between cultural and biological evolution. In the...

Phenylbutazone (Bute, PBZ, EPZ): one drug across two species

In this article we explore the different trajectories of this one drug, phenylbutazone, across two species, humans and horses in the period 1950–2000. The essay begins by following the introduction of the drug into human medicine in the early 1950s. It promised to be a less costly alternative to cortisone, one of the “wonder drugs” of the era, in the treatment of rheumatic...

Working across species down on the farm: Howard S. Liddell and the development of comparative psychopathology, c. 1923–1962

Seeking a scientific basis for understanding and treating mental illness, and inspired by the work of Ivan Pavlov, American physiologists, psychiatrists and psychologists in the 1920s turned to nonhuman animals. This paper examines how new constructs such as “experimental neurosis” emerged as tools to enable psychiatric comparison across species. From 1923 to 1962, the Cornell...

Modeling complexity: cognitive constraints and computational model-building in integrative systems biology

Modern integrative systems biology defines itself by the complexity of the problems it takes on through computational modeling and simulation. However in integrative systems biology computers do not solve problems alone. Problem solving depends as ever on human cognitive resources. Current philosophical accounts hint at their importance, but it remains to be understood what roles...

Correction to: Informing materials: drugs as tools for exploring cancer mechanisms and pathways

The original version of this article unfortunately contained a mistake. Three entries are incorrect in the reference list. The corrected references are given below.

Stochasticity in cultural evolution: a revolution yet to happen

Over the last 40 years or so, there has been an explosion of cultural evolution research in anthropology and archaeology. In each discipline, cultural evolutionists investigate how interactions between individuals translate into group level patterns, with the aim of explaining the diachronic dynamics and diversity of cultural traits. However, while much attention has been given...

Introduction: Eric Davidson and the molecular biology of evolution and development

Between November 30th and December 2nd, 2015, the Jacques Loeb Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva (Israel) held its Eighth International Workshop under the title “From Genome to Gene: Causality, Synthesis and Evolution”. Eric Davidson, the founder of the concept of developmental Gene Regulatory Networks...

Ultimate and proximate explanations of strong reciprocity

Strong reciprocity (SR) has recently been subject to heated debate. In this debate, the “West camp” (West et al. in Evol Hum Behav 32(4):231–262, 2011), which is critical of the case for SR, and the “Laland camp” (Laland et al. in Science, 334(6062):1512–1516, 2011, Biol Philos 28(5):719–745, 2013), which is sympathetic to the case of SR, seem to take diametrically opposed...

From Pleistocene to Holocene: the prehistory of southwest Asia in evolutionary context

In this paper I seek to show how cultural niche construction theory offers the potential to extend the human evolutionary story beyond the Pleistocene, through the Neolithic, towards the kind of very large-scale societies in which we live today. The study of the human past has been compartmentalised, each compartment using different analytical vocabularies, so that their accounts...

C.H. Waddington’s differences with the creators of the modern evolutionary synthesis: a tale of two genes

In 2011, Peterson suggested that the main reason why C.H. Waddington was essentially ignored by the framers of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1950s was because they were Cartesian reductionists and mathematical population geneticists while he was a Whiteheadian organicist and experimental geneticist who worked with Drosophila. This paper suggests a further reason that...

René Dubos, tuberculosis, and the “ecological facets of virulence”

Reflecting on his scientific career toward the end of his life, the French-educated medical researcher René Dubos presented his flowering as an ecological thinker as a story of linear progression—the inevitable product of the intellectual seeds planted in his youth. But how much store should we set by Dubos’s account of his ecological journey? Resisting retrospective biographical...

From working collections to the World Germplasm Project: agricultural modernization and genetic conservation at the Rockefeller Foundation

This paper charts the history of the Rockefeller Foundation’s participation in the collection and long-term preservation of genetic diversity in crop plants from the 1940s through the 1970s. In the decades following the launch of its agricultural program in Mexico in 1943, the Rockefeller Foundation figured prominently in the creation of world collections of key economic crops...

Kant’s epigenesis: specificity and developmental constraints

In this paper, I argue that Kant adopted, throughout his career, a position that is much more akin to classical accounts of epigenesis, although he does reject the more radical forms of epigenesis proposed in his own time, and does make use of preformationist sounding terms. I argue that this is because Kant (1) thinks of what is pre-formed as a species, not an individual or a...

Neo-Darwinists and Neo-Aristotelians: how to talk about natural purpose

This paper examines the points of disagreement between Neo-Darwinian and recent Neo-Aristotelian discussions of the status of purposive language in biology. I discuss recent Neo-Darwinian “evolutionary” treatments and distinguish three ways to deal with the philosophical status of teleological language of purpose: teleological error theory, methodological teleology, and Darwinian...

The life of the cortical column: opening the domain of functional architecture of the cortex (1955–1981)

The concept of the cortical column refers to vertical cell bands with similar response properties, which were initially observed by Vernon Mountcastle’s mapping of single cell recordings in the cat somatic cortex. It has subsequently guided over 50 years of neuroscientific research, in which fundamental questions about the modularity of the cortex and basic principles of sensory...

The Third Man: comparative analysis of a science autobiography and a cinema classic as windows into post-war life sciences research

In 2003, biophysicist and Nobel Laureate Maurice Wilkins published his autobiography entitled The Third Man. In the preface, he diffidently points out that the title (which presents him as the ‘third’ man credited with the co-discovery of the structure of DNA, besides Watson and Crick) was chosen by his publisher, as a reference to the famous 1949 movie no doubt, featuring Orson...

Charting the history of agricultural experiments

Agricultural experimentation is a world in constant evolution, spanning multiple scientific domains and affecting society at large. Even though the questions underpinning agricultural experiments remain largely the same, the instruments and practices for answering them have changed constantly during the twentieth century with the advent of new disciplines like molecular biology...

‘Big science’ in the field: experimenting with badgers and bovine TB, 1995–2015

Since wild badgers were first connected with outbreaks of bovine TB (bTB) in UK cattle herds in the early 1970s, the question of whether to cull them to control infections in cattle has been the subject of a protracted public and policy controversy. Following the recommendation of Prof. John Krebs that a “scientifically based experimental trial” be carried out to test the...

The cult of amphioxus in German Darwinism; or, Our gelatinous ancestors in Naples’ blue and balmy bay

Biologists having rediscovered amphioxus, also known as the lancelet or Branchiostoma, it is time to reassess its place in early Darwinist debates over vertebrate origins. While the advent of the ascidian–amphioxus theory and challenges from various competitors have been documented, this article offers a richer account of the public appeal of amphioxus as a primitive ancestor...