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Indiana University Bloomington

Colloquium Series

FALL 2006 Colloquium Series

All talks are on Friday from 4:00 to 6:00 PM in Ballantine Hall 003, unless otherwise noted.

Calendar [click date for details]

Oct 05 Paul Hoyningen-Huene       *Thursday* 4 p.m. | IMU State Room East
On the Nature of Science: Systematicity as the Key Concept
Oct 13 Michael Ghiselin      
Design, Laws of Nature, and the Darwinian Revolution
Oct 27 Craig Martin      
Causation, Prophecy, and Doubt in Early Modern Meteorology
Nov 10 William Timberlake       *1:30-3:30*
Skinner's Superstitious Behavior: a Conceptual, Procedural, and Empirical Analysis
Dec 08 Katherine Brading       *2:00-4:00*
Hilbert, causality, and the foundations of physics

Oct 05 | *Thursday* 4 p.m. | IMU State Room East
Paul Hoyningen-Huene
Center for Philosophy and Ethics of Science, University of Hannover, Germany

On the Nature of Science: Systematicity as the Key Concept

The paper addresses the question of what the nature of science is. I will first make a few preliminary historical and systematic remarks. Next, in answering the main question, I shall propose the following thesis: Scientific knowledge is primarily distinguished from other forms of knowledge, especially from everyday knowledge, by being more systematic. This thesis has to be qualified, clarified, developed and justified. Finally, I will compare my answer with alternative answers.

Oct 13
Michael Ghiselin
California Academy of Sciences

Design, Laws of Nature, and the Darwinian Revolution

That Darwin discredited the argument from design is widely appreciated. Less well known is the history of a related notion, the argument from law, according to which there cannot be a law without a legislator. Both rested upon the more fundamental assumption that we can interpret the world on the basis of privileged knowledge of the Deity, supposedly an anthropomorphic one. Given that the same Being both created the universe and ordained the laws of nature that govern it, viewing geological history and the fossil record as teleological is much easier. Pre-Darwinian scientists invoked both design and law in explaining the history of the world. In either case, the result was a tendency to view the fossil record as if it were, like a developing embryo, headed in a particular direction. Those who have attempted to salvage that view in the face of Darwind's contribution have generally put more of a causal burden upon laws of nature. The English anatomist and paleontologist Richard Owen (1804-1892) provides a good example.

Oct 27
Craig Martin
Oakland University-Department of History

Causation, Prophecy, and Doubt in Early Modern Meteorology

Aristotle described the field of meteorology as conjectural knowledge of imperfect and episodic phenomena. Its sporadic nature could only be understood through material and efficient causes. A number of Early Modern thinkers followed Aristotle, and argued that meteorological knowledge, because of its subject's imperfection, was hypothetical, or provisional, and evidence for the limitation of human knowledge. Others stretched Peripatetic understandings of final causes, to argue that meteorological events were purposeful in so far as they were portents and signs of God's will. These debates help explain the intellectual setting of Descartes' Les Météores as well as Aristotelian meteorology's role in the Scientific Revolution.

Nov 10 | *1:30-3:30*
William Timberlake
Indiana University-Psychology Department

Skinner's Superstitious Behavior: a Conceptual, Procedural, and Empirical Analysis

In the 1948 Journal of Experimental Psychology, B. F. Skinner briefly reported that six of eight pigeons repeatedly presented with a 5-sec access to grain every 15 seconds quickly developed an idiosyncratic, directed, stereotyped response between grain presentations. Skinner interpreted these responses as superstitious behavior, and attributed them to operant conditioning based on perceived repeated accidental temporal contiguities between the response and a reinforcer. He attributed human superstitious behavior to the same mechanism. I will review evidence that this classic work has conceptual, procedural, and empirical shortcomings, raising the possibility that Skinner's interpretation qualifies as superstitious behavior within his framework.
   More to the point, I will provide data and analysis suggesting that an improved analogy between Pigeon FT behavior and superstitious behavior in humans can be based on grounding in a motivational systems framework related to evolutionary ecology.

Dec 08 | *2:00-4:00*
Katherine Brading
Department of Philosophy, Notre Dame

Hilbert, causality, and the foundations of physics

The end of 1915 saw David Hilbert and Albert Einstein involved in a frenetic period of activity out of which emerged Einstein's General Theory of Relativity (GTR). A key moment was Einstein's return to searching for field equations that have a particular property, called generally covariance. Einstein had earlier rejected the possibility of field equations with this property, and had formulated his so-called 'hole argument' to show that generally covariant field equations lead to a conflict with causality. Until recently, Hilbert's contributions to the '1915 race' have been judged on the assumption that he and Einstein shared the same goal of finding generally covariant field equations for gravitation, and that the tension Hilbert perceived between general covariance and causality was the same as that which held up Einstein for several years. In this paper we argue that the tension articulated by Hilbert is significantly different from the problem addressed by Einstein, and that Hilbert's resolution of his 'problem of causality' is a philosophically rich response to a deep problem in generally covariant physics, in which Hilbert offers a significant modification to the Kantian epistemological framework in which he was working. This paper is intended for a general philosophy of science audience: the emphasis is on the philosophical story, and the paper does not presuppose knowledge of the relevant physics.