2010–2011 Annual Report
The Center for Philosophy and History of Science continued its mission of building interdisciplinary bridges between the humanities and sciences, both across the College of Arts and Sciences and beyond, by offering a forum for scholarly exchange concerning all aspects of the philosophy and history of science. The Center hosted 10 visiting researchers from 7 different countries, which included biologists, biochemists, historians of science, mathematicians, and philosophers. Individual reports, included below, demonstrate the breadth of interdisciplinary research that the Center supports.
The Center organized and sponsored the 51st program of the Boston Colloquium for Philosophy of Science. This forum continues to play an important role in bringing together members of the Boston University community and scholars from around the world to foster exchange about the nature of science and its place in culture. Seven sessions were held this year. They were particularly well attended, drawing more than 600 attendees in total. For the first time in the Center's history, most of the sessions were videotaped or audiotaped, and the recordings were made available online to everyone on the Center's new and extended website (see http://www.bu.edu/cphs/colloquium/colloquia/51st.htm).
Three sessions were held during the fall semester:
- As a visiting researcher of the Center, Pierre Wagner (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) gave a talk on Empiricism, Then and Now, commented by Cherryl Chen (Harvard University).
- This year's edition of the Robert S. Cohen Forum on the 50 Years of the Center for Philosophy and History of Science was the opportunity to gather historical figures of the Center (Robert Cohen, Gerald Holton, John Stachel, Abner Shimony, and Ernan McMullin), as well as historians of the philosophy of science (Alan Richardson and Heather Douglas).
- The first installment of the Alfred I. Tauber Forum on The Race Debate in Public Health Genomics hosted talks by Quayshawn Spencer (University of San Francisco), Sarah Richardson (Harvard), Sara Shostak (Brandeis), Ruha Benjamin (BU), and David Jones (MIT).
Four sessions took place in the spring semester:
- The session on Animal Minds: Methodological Issues in Cognitive Ethology, welcomed contributions by Eric Saidel (George Washington University), Irene M. Pepperberg (Harvard and Brandeis), Dale Jamieson (NYU), Diana Reiss (Hunter College and CUNY), Marc Bekoff (University of Colorado, Boulder), and Colin Allen. This session was chaired by Irina Meketa, Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy at BU.
- Four speakers took part in the session on Reduction, Explanation, and the Thermodynamic Limit: Peter Bokulich (BU), Jessica Wilson (Toronto), Laura Ruetsche (Michigan), and Sorin Bangu (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign).
- This year, the Center hosted the Karbank Symposium in Environmental Philosophy, on The Science, Ethics, and Politics of Climate Change, with Kristin Shrader-Frechette (University of Notre Dame), Robert K. Kaufmann (BU), and Andrew Light (George Mason University).
- Ricardo Lopes Coelho, Visiting Researcher at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science, and the Center for Einstein Studies, gave a talk On Hertz's Mechanics and Schrödinger's Equation, along with John Stachel, and Robert Cohen.
As a part of the Center's 50th anniversary, the retrospective session gave us the opportunity to particularly reflect on the history of the CPHS and its remarkable achievements. This retrospective session shed new light on the Center's central role in the development of the philosophy of science in North America, reaffirming its legacy with the well-known Vienna Circle. After 17 years of service to the University as the Director of the Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Professor Alfred I. Tauber was bestowed the position of Director Emeritus. Professor Alisa Bokulich completed her first year as the new Director.
The Center's website has been expanded and revised. In addition to offering recordings of most of the talks, a “Friends of the Center” page has been created, providing an avenue for donors to support our activities.
With the generous support of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center co-hosted a play by Craig Baxter, performed by the English theatre company Menagerie “Let Newton Be!” Two shows were held in April at the Boston Center for the Arts, at the Roberts Studio Theatre.
Report of Academic Activities
Center Core Members
Alisa Bokulich, Director Professor Alisa Bokulich completed her first year as Director of the Center, with record turn outs at this past year’s Colloquia and an impressive line-up organized for next year. The Center also teamed up with Harvard’s History of Science Department to host the UK’s Menagerie Theater Company’s production of “Let Newton Be!” at the Boston Center for the Arts in April.
She, along with Peter Bokulich, co-edited a book called Scientific Structuralism, which came out in the Boston Studies series this past year. She has since been recruited to join the editorial board of Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, continuing in the tradition of the series’ founder, Robert Cohen.
Alisa also published an entry for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on “Bohr’s Correspondence Principle.” She presented a paper at the Philosophy of Science Association Biennial Meeting on “Explanatory vs. Non-explanatory Fictions”. She delivered the keynote address at the Northshore Undergraduate Conference, and gave a paper at the “Epistemology of Modeling and Simulation” conference at the University of Pittsburgh. She also gave an invited lecture at Stanford University on intertheory relations in physics.
Peter Bokulich, Associate Director Professor Peter Bokulich had two journal articles accepted for publication in the 2010-11 academic year. “Hempel’s Dilemma and Domains of Physics” is forthcoming in Analysis, and “Interactions and the Consistency of Black Hole Complementarity” is forthcoming in International Studies in the Philosophy of Science. His book Scientific Structuralism (co-edited with Professor Alisa Bokulich) was also published by Springer in the Boston Studies in Philosophy of Science series. Professor Bokulich presented his paper "Limits and the Emergence of Special-Science Properties” at the Boston Colloquium for Philosophy of Science session entitled "Reduction, Explanation, and the Thermodynamic Limit" in March of 2011.
Yann Benétreau-Dupin, Administrative Assistant After his graduation (MA in Philosophy, BU) in September 2010, Yann presented his paper “An Empiricist Criterion of Meaning” at the 2011 Conference of the Philosophical Society of Southern Africa. This paper is to appear in the peer-reviewed conference proceedings, in the South African Journal of Philosophy, 30 (2). In May, he gave an invited lecture titled “An Introduction to the History of Astronomy Through a Few Experiments” at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas, El Paso. Yann has been working on the introduction to his translation into French of Carnap's article "Testability and Meaning." This work, co-authored and co-edited by Professor Pierre Wagner (Université Panthéon-Sorbonne), is to be published by Vrin (Paris) by the end of 2011.
Last October, Yann became Assistant Editor of the journal Science & Education (Springer). He has been invited to contribute to the astronomy chapter of the International Handbook of Research in History, Philosophy and Science Teaching, to be published by Springer in 2012. In July, he will present a paper titled “Teaching Teachers the Conceptual History of Physics” (co-authored with Peter Garik et al.) at the 11th International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Group biennial conference at Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, on the work of the ITOP (Improving the Teaching of Physics) group, from the School of Education and Department of Physics at BU. Yann prepared a proposal submitted to NSF, in order to organize an interdisciplinary conference and workshop on the role of HPS in science teaching, to be co-hosted next year by the Center and BU School of Education.
Yann was awarded the Rotman Institute scholarship upon his acceptance at the University of Western Ontario's PhD program in philosophy, which he will join next fall.
Visiting Researchers Fellows and Associates
Amir Aczel In October 2010, Amir D. Aczel's book Present at the Creation: The Story of CERN and the Large Hadron Collider was published by Crown Publishing in New York. The book is being translated into a number of languages. Aczel made a presentation about the Large Hadron Collider at the Boston Museum of Science and at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. In November, Aczel's interview with Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg was published in Scientific American. In February 2011, Aczel followed with an article about the Large Hadron Collider in Scientific American. On March 3, Aczel interviewed Brian Greene about the prospects for the existence of a multiverse in a presentation at the Boston Museum of Science, also aired on the CSPAN-2 program BookTV. On June 2, 2011, Aczel made a presentation on probability at the World Science Festival in New York City. During much of the academic work, Aczel worked on his new book, A Strange Wilderness: The Lives of the Greatest Mathematicians, to be published by Sterling Publishing in October 2011.
Gennady Gorelik Dr. Gorelik took part in the 3rd Russian Congress for Cultural Research (St. Petersburg, Russia, Oct 27-29, 2010) with a paper “Historian of science by the Tree of Knowledge: on invention of fundamental science.”. The paper was presented also at the seminar in the Institute for history of science and technology in Moscow and was published in the Proceedings of the Congress “Obraz i ponyatie v kulturologii i nauchnoi ontologii (Ed. N. V. Serov. SPb: Eidos, 2011). The main ideas of broader research “The Tree of Culture as Tree of Knowledge” were described in the popular science magazine “Znanie-Sila” (No 1-4, 2011). Dr. Gorelik started a new project “Gravity from Galileo to Bronstein”, a series of essays on turning points in the history of fundamental science from Galileo’s invention of modern physics to the challenge of quantum gravity discovered by Matvei Bronstein. Dr. Gorelik’s online press-conference on Andrei Sakharov and his ideas is presented at http://lenta.ru/conf/gorelik/. Dr. Gorelik's homepage at BU site http://people.bu.edu/gorelik/ presents his publications and other activities.
Lillian Greeley This past year Dr. Greeley has continued her research into the neurodynamics of the emotional controls of attention in the cognitive generative learning process, the process that generates a strategy to find a solution to an open-ended problem. Towards this end, she has adapted a nonlinear dynamics technique as a methodological tool to graphically probe social science systems. New developments in computer software technology will enable publication of this work, “Probability Attractors, A Visual Analysis Methodology Adapted from Nonlinear Analysis for Qualitative Systems Research.” Dr. Greeley is also working on an article with Walter J. Freeman, “The Neurodynamics of Intentional Learning, A Primer,” which will enable his work in contemporary dynamical systems neuroscience to be accessible to the fields of philosophy, psychology and education. In the past year, she has written a précis of his body of work, which has been used to introduce transdisciplinary scholars to the philosophical and historical value of his work. The first part of the larger work, “The Intentional Stimulus,” was given at Illinois State University. These works, together with her doctoral research at Harvard and a recent educational ethnographic study, are expected to be the foundation of a book, "Intentional Learning, Up Close, Personal and Societal."
Mihaela Iftime During this academic year Dr. Iftime continued her independent research in Mathematics and Statistics. One of the main topics of her mathematical research has been to model and understand extreme environmental variations and studying their impact on stochastic dynamical systems. In her recent paper, “Nonlinear method for measuring the effects of environmental variations” (Foundation of Science, Springer, 1, 2011) she developed a robust statistical method designed to explain consistent correlational patterns and/or relationships between the external factor and stochastic systems, validation model that scientists and expert practitioners often need in observational studies.
Environmental factors can impact humans in many important ways, both positive and negative. Experiments and empirical observations have allowed generalizations concerning the threshold limits necessary to model changes in systems under various extreme conditions. Dr. Iftime’s statistical model attempts to quantify such changes in systems, theoretical model that can be applied to explain the long-term consequences of the impact of social and economic changes on science development.
Lee McIntyre This year Dr. McIntyre wrote three encyclopedia articles “Debunking Social Science,” “Determinism (in Philosophy and the Social Sciences),” and “Free Will in the Social Sciences” all of which will appear in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences (Sage Publications). He also wrote an essay entitled “Making Philosophy Matter (Or Else)” that will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. He is continuing to research and write his new book Respecting Truth: Why Truth Matters, which explores the problems of ideology and irrationality in the search for scientific truth. For more on Dr. McIntyre’s current work please see his website at www.leemcintyrebooks.com.
Affiliated Center, Center for Einstein Studies
John Stachel Professor Stachel continued his research on conformal and projective structures in general relativity, together with Ms. Kaca Bradonjic, a Ph. D. student in Physics. One paper of his was accepted for publication by the GRG Journal (see below); and he and Ms. Bradonjic are working on a second.
Professor Stachel gave a talk at the Boston Colloquium: “You Must Remember This: Highlights From the First Twenty-Five Year of the Center” (January 5, 2011).
Publications: “Conformal and Projective Structures in General Relativity,” GRG Journal General Relativity and Gravitation, 10 pp., to appear.
“Letter to the Editor,” Foundations of Physics 40 (2010): p. 679
“Correction,” History of Science Newsletter vol. 42, no. 2, Winter 2010-2011.
Ricardo Lopes Coelho Professor Lopes Coelho continued his research on the foundations of mechanics and on the concept of energy (see below). He has been working on the connection between conceptual problems in the foundations of mechanics and problem solving strategies.
Prof. Lopes Coelho is finalizing a paper on Hertz’s Principles of Mechanics and wrote an introduction to the translation of Hertz’s Principles of Mechanics into Portuguese, directed by Prof. António Videira.
He participated in the SSHRC Meeting at Montreal (5.31-6.1) directed by Prof. Calvin Kalman on reflexive writing based on the hermeneutical circle. He will present a communication to the 11th International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Group in July (see below).
(2011) “Conceptual Problems in the Foundations of Mechanics”, Science and Education (online first). https://www.springerlink.com/content/b0m6258371775000/fulltext.pdf.
(2011) “On the Concept of Energy: History of Science for Teaching”, in: Kokkotas P., Malamitsa K., Rizaki K.,(Eds) Adapting Historical Knowledge Production to the Classroom, Sense Publishers.com, Rotterdam/Boston/Taipei. https://www.sensepublishers.com/files/9789460913495PR.pdf
“On the Concept of Energy: Eclecticism and Rationality”, 11th International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Group biennial conference being held at Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, July 1-5 (paper accepted for the Conference Proceedings).
Profs. Stachel and Lopes Coelho worked on the relations between Schrödinger’s 1918-1919 on Hertz’s mechanics and his later formulation of the Schrödinger equation. Prof. Lopes Coelho gave a Colloquium talk on this topic: “Hertz’s Mechanics and Schrödinger’s Equation” (May 6, 2011); and they are preparing a paper on the subject. They also initiated work on a project for revising the teaching of classical mechanics that would include the relativistic alternatives from the beginning.