As the correspondent pointed out to me after I questioned the way I was addressed, this can be a cultural difference that is difficult for people from other cultures to navigate. In that spirit, I offer the following suggested guidelines, especially given that this is not the first time I have been addressed this way, and no doubt it won't be the last. Not everyone may agree with my suggestions, but I think they are at least a safe way of addressing that is not likely to offend. I am suggesting them only for the U.S. because that is the culture I am most familiar with; they may or may not apply elsewhere.
If you find it useful, please feel free to share with students and colleagues. And if you see things that are missing or mistaken, please let me know. I am happy to make additions and corrections. Apologies in advance if I have overlooked your page of publicly available HPB articles or other important internet source for HPBers.
But mainly, having put in the effort to maintain it, I'd love to know that others besides myself are using it!
Now is a good time to recall President Obama's State of the Union address, delivered just a couple of weeks ago:
...for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it's true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it's too late.
It is always impressive when someone is willing to publicly state that they were wrong about a controversial topic. Such things happen rarely, but there have been a number of recent cases. For example, last July Richard Muller declared himself to be a "converted skeptic," saying that he now acknowledges that global warming is real and that humans are almost entirely the cause. Two days ago, another such example emerged when Mark Lynas publicly apologized for having helped to start the anti-GM movement in Europe, thus "demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment."
However laudable such recantations are, they can still be called into question, and indeed, I question the basis for Lynas's, as least as it is presented in the transcript linked to above. He begins by calling the anti-GMO movement "anti-science," a claim that I debunked here and here, at least with respect to the labeling of GMOs. Lynas subsequently states that "one by one [his] cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths," and lists six such purported myths. Below, I examine each of these, and show why they are not, in fact, myths.
The U.S. is poised to release genetically modified salmon – the first commercial genetically modified food animal – into the world: onto our tables and into our environment. I can't help but think that, like the other unlabeled genetically modified food that has infiltrated our diets, this amounts to a massive, uncontrolled experiment on U.S. citizens.
Here are some details:
A little over a week ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a draft Environmental Assessment of AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon, dubbed
AquAdvantage; they are calling for public comment through February 25, 2013. (So, if you find this as concerning as I do, please use this opportunity to speak up). The FDA's preliminary finding is that an approval of AquaBounty's application would not have a significant impact on the U.S. environment. Oh, and as with other U.S. GMOs, AquAdvantage won't be labeled as a GMO.
Any salmon that one eats could be an AquAdvantage salmon.
Some quick thoughts on some of the post-Newtown massacre discussions that have been rattling around my brain. Seems to me that they need more attention and discussion.
Some people seem to assume that anyone who would mass murder young children must be mentally ill in a way that is relevant to the act of murder. Such assumptions seem to strip the murderer of moral culpability for his actions. They also seem to imply that members of the KKK, Nazis, gang members, and others who have killed en masse were mentally ill, an implication I find implausible. Is it time to bring the word "evil" back into common use, or some other word that expresses the extreme unethical behavior exhibited by such people?
One important lesson of Newtown that I wished I heard more people emphasizing: even if only "good" people had guns (as though we could identify such people ahead of time), the person who owns the gun may not be the person who uses the gun. The person who owns the gun may even be the person who is killed by the gun. Any claim that we need more guns needs to address this issue head on or it's not even worth a moment's consideration.
The NRA wants armed security guards in the schools. How about we take a scientific approach to this question? How often have such guards prevented tragedies (not in Columbine) and how often have bystanders gotten hurt (as they did at the Empire State Building incident last August)? And what are the educational impacts of having such guards around?
As professors, current events often provide "teachable moments." For politicians, they provide what we might call "seizable moments." President Obama seems to be faced with a few of them right now: an election-generated seizable moment whereby he ought to be able to resist calls to cut Social Security and continue tax cuts on the wealthy; a Sandy-generated seizable moment to take more serious action to curb global climate change; and a Newtown-generated seizable moment to do something about gun control. Unfortunately, I'm only seeing movement on the third (a suggestion he will back Senator Diane Feinstein's bill to ban assault weapons); he seems to be backsliding on the first and mum on the second. Arguably, it is the third issue that seems to have the most people and emotion behind it. So, we can blame Obama for not having a stronger spine to follow through on what he said he woudl do (and I do blame him for that). Or, we can blame ourselves for not making more of a stink about the other two issues. As philosophers, do we have a role to play? Or are we too analytical to fire up an emotion-driven populace in order to spur the President to seize the seizable moments?
One thing that I think editors can do is to be willing to invite junior women (and even promising graduate students) to write articles for volumes that are otherwise mostly big-name senior people. This does double (triple?) duty: it helps put less pressure on established people... while helping to ensure gender balance in these volumes, and it helps women who are at an earlier career stage with things like tenure and getting jobs (and simply becoming "known" in the philosophical community). I've seen more and more volumes with a few articles in them by junior people/grad students; the least we could do is ensure that THOSE articles are written by women.
This seems right and good to me, at least as far as the volumes themselves go and as far as the profession goes. But my question is whether submitting papers to volumes is actually good for the graduate students (or early academics) themselves. I am not so sure that it is.
Readers of this blog are no doubt well-familiar with the Gendered Conference Campaign and the petitionsassociated with it. I think most of us have assumed that the problems the GCC attempts to rectify – the underrepresentation of women as conference speakers and volume contributors – went hand-in-hand with the underrepresentation in the field. That is, most of us have assumed that, because women are underrepresented in philosophy, women were not seen as archetypical philosophers and so do not come to mind readily when conference and volume organizers are putting together their lineups (thus perpetuating the underrepresentation of women).
However, a new study published in PLOS ONE (see summary and video interview with lead author Lynne Isbell here) from researchers at my university, UC Davis, suggests that the situation is more complex than that. Primatology has a higher percentage of women than men, and yet there are still underrepresentation issues at conferences. From the abstract:
Analysis of 21 annual meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists reveals that within the subfield of primatology, women give more posters than talks, whereas men give more talks than posters. But most strikingly, among symposia the proportion of female participants differs dramatically by the gender of the organizer. Male-organized symposia have half the number of female first authors (29%) that symposia organized by women (64%) or by both men and women (58%) have, and half that of female participation in talks and posters (65%).
Yet, it seems that one can reasonably ask why one should join a society like the PSA these days. It used to be that many people joined in order to get the journal, Philosophy of Science. But now, most academics get access to the journal through their universities. Some old-fashioned types like me join societies whose goals they want to promote and whose communities they feel a part of; in addition to the PSA, I am member of HSS, ISHPSSB, ISEE, and the APA.
However, if one is not moved on that score, why join? Why join the PSA, or any academic society, for that matter?
After I said that environmental issues loomed large in the U.S. Presidential campaign, we were treated to almost complete silence on the topic; notably, global climate change (GCC) was not mentioned in any of the four debates. Now, finally, with the tragedy wrought by Sandy, we are hearing about GCC and how the different candidates might handle it.
Even Mayor Bloomberg has gotten into the act, endorsing Obama over Romney in part because he now believes that "Mr. Obama was the better candidate to tackle the global climate change that he believes might have contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage."
Is this the point at which Americans will finally start taking GCC seriously and do something about it?
Leiter reports that 14% of philosophers do not plan on voting in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Assuming only people who are eligbile to vote responded to the poll, what principled reasons can a philosopher give for not voting in the presidential race as well as the various other congressional and other positions/issues that are at stake? I am genuinely baffled by this.
I understand "third party" votes. Although they have been roundly criticized, given the dysfunctional state of the election process, at least they send a clear message. Not voting, on the other hand, could simply be apathy. Can apathy about the state of the country be justified? Or is it really the case that none of the candidates are satisfactory?
Any Californians reading, you have no excuse not to vote. In addition to everything else, CA will decide whether to label GMOs, abolish the death penalty, amend its "three strikes" law, and, oh yes, whether to slash budgets for public education.
The Philosophy of Biology Lab that I co-run with Jim Griesemer here at UC Davis is re-reading Wesley Salmons' Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World. I am reminded how, when doing such re-readings, one can find little nuggets of wisdom that may have been overlooked on the first read. Even in the Preface.
Although much modern work on scientific explanation has been rather formal and technical -- often treating various quasi-formal 'models' in great detail -- I shall dwell extensively on less formal considerations. There are two reasons for this emphasis. In the first place, I have been convinced for some time that many recent philosophical discussions of scientific explanation suffer from a lack of what Rudolf Carnap called "clarification of the explicandum." As Carnap has vividly shown, precise philosophical explications of important concepts can egregiously miss the mark if we do not have a sound prior informal grasp of the concept we are endeavoring to explicate.
It's my impression that this is a lesson that many have failed to learn; all too often I see formalism with little attempt to explain what the formalism is intended to represent (and not just in philosophy of science).
In Part 1, I discussed the accusation that proponents of Proposition 37 in California are anti-science, pointing out that such claims rest on a highly misleading picture of the genetically modified food industry as involving pure "value-free" science. (See, e.g., here, here, here, here, here, and here. Proposition 37 is a ballot measure that, if it passes, would label GM foods sold in California as GM foods).
Here in Part 2, I take up a second prong of the issue. Even if one acknowledges that the production of genetically modified food is not a value-free endeavor, one still might think that proponents of labeling GMOs are anti-science because they (the proponents) refuse to accept the data that show that GMOs are not harmful to humans. However, there are three problems with this version of the anti-science accusation: 1) it falsely claims that there is nothing new about GMOs, 2) it overlooks the point that there is enough uncertainty about the studies of GMOs on human health to make it reasonable for individuals to want to decide for themselves whether to eat GMOs or not, and 3) it assumes that human health is the only relevant scientifically-based objection to GMOs,
On November 6, 2012, Californians will vote to decide if genetically engineered foods, whether raw or processed, should be labelled as such (see details here). If it passes, it would be the first such law in the U.S., even though at least 50 countries worldwide, including all of the European Union, China, Japan, and Russia, already have GMO label laws. The ballot measure, Proposition 37, has generated a lot of heat on both sides.
Although the debate is complex, one meme has caught my eye in particular: those who advocate for "yes on 37" have been termed "anti-science" by members of the "no on 37" camp. Some have even likened pro-labelers (presumed to be anti-GMO, although that is not necessarily the case) to climate change deniers and evolution deniers.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that while vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may shorten the length of a cold, it does not seem to prevent it. Not news, really, but the article frames the issue as debunking "an old wives' tale." No mention of Linus Pauling, who in the 1970s did studies on the efficacy of vitamin C and who wrote books (popular and technical) and articles arguing for the use of vitamin C in preventing colds. I suppose, given the state of science education in the U.S., I should not be surprised that the author of the article would be ignorant of this history and Pauling's influence, but I can still be disgusted that the phrase "old wives' tale" is still be used to mean "old, foolish discredited knowledge." Apparently that packs more of a punch than saying that one scientific study overturned the results of another.
The pepper-spraying of seated, nonviolent protesters at my university, the University of California, Davis, made international headlines in November 2011, complete with pictures and videos. Now that some of the major consequences have shaken out, I thought people might be interested in hearing how things currently stand.
First, though, I think it's important to remember what the protests were about. In part, they were (ironically) about the right to protest. Just a few days earlier, a protest at our sister school, UC Berkeley, degenerated when campus police jabbed nonviolent protesters with nightsticks. So, the UC Davis protest was meant to be a show of solidarity with the Berkeley protest. The UC Davis protests were also meant to highlight the problems with repeated tuition hikes at the university. Not only have these tuition hikes made getting an education difficult for many students, but also, they represent the steady erosion of a public university into a private one and an abandonment of California's promise to educate all qualified applicants (the so-called "Master Plan"). Finally, the UC Davis protests were held during the height of the nationwide Occupy protests, and thus to some extent echoed many of those more general concerns, not to mention the tactic of occupying a common area overnight with tents.
First, let me introduce myself as a new New APPS blogger. I'm a philosopher of biology/science at the University of California, Davis, with strong interests in evolution, ecology, and increasingly, environmental ethics. I hope to blog on a wide range of issues, including but not limited to the above. But let me begin with some thoughts that have been rattling around my brain the last few days, because I would like to get some feedback on them. Ultimately, they are about ethics and environmental ethics.
As you probably know, it's election season in the U.S. And as will happen during election season, even individuals who are very close politically can disagree. Thus, one liberal may say that she is voting for Barack Obama, even though he has been disappointing in some respects and is not really all that liberal. Another liberal will say that he is voting for the person whose values most closely match his own, and that is Jill Stein (the Green Party candidate) not Obama. As it turns out, there are a number of facets to this disagreement about the best person to vote for, including strategies about voting for the lesser of two evils vs drawing a line in the sand now.