As conversations in the discipline concerning the climate for women in philosophy and the role of feminist philosopy in fostering good climate continue, it is worthwhile to pause and honor the good work in feminist philosophy that is being done in various areas in philosophy, such as philosophy of science.
Nominations are now open for the 2014 Philosophy of Science Association Women's Caucus Prize. The Prize is awarded biennially for the best book, article, or chapter published in English in the area of feminist philosophy of science within the five years prior to each PSA meeting. The winner will receive an award of $500, which will be presented to the winner at the November 2014 PSA meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
The deadline for nominations is May 1, 2014. To be considered, works must have been published between May 1, 2009 and May 1, 2014. Articles posted electronically on journal websites in final (accepted) form prior to May 1, 2014 are eligible for consideration. Self-nominations are allowed but are limited to one per person. One may nominate more than one paper by someone else.
The Philosophy Department at the University of California, San Diego, is calling for applications for the 2014 Summer Program for Women in Philosophy, which will be held at UCSD from July 28 to August 8, 2014. The two-week program will feature two intensive courses and a variety of workshops, all geared towards providing an engaging philosophical learning experience and preparation for applying to graduate school in philosophy. Participants will be provided with housing and meals, will have transportation costs covered, will have all course and workshop materials provided, and will receive a $600 stipend.
In an earlier post, I suggested that the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) should not have retracted a paper that purported to show toxic effects in rats fed GM corn. Now just over 100 scientists have signed a petition protesting the retraction, stating that the retraction violated the norms of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which FCT is a member. The scientists note concerns about the impartiality of the process (e.g., the the appointment of ex-Monsanto employee Richard Goodman to the newly created post of associate editor for biotechnology at FCT) and assert, "The retraction is erasing from the public record results that are potentially of very great importance for public health. It is censorship of scientific research, knowledge, and understanding, an abuse of science striking at the very heart of science and democracy, and science for the public good."
The scientists are boycotting the journal's publisher, Elsevier; they will "decline to purchase Elsevier products, to publish, review, or do editorial work for Elsevier."
I thought I would make my inaugural post on NewAPPS a follow-up to Roberta's post about the retraction of the article in Food and Chemical Toxicology. I don't want to continue the debate about whether the retraction was justified; that debate can continue in the original thread. Here, I want to discuss one of the reasons why we should be paying vigilant attention to events such as these, and why their importance transcends the narrow confines of the particular scientific hypotheses being considered in the articles in question. What I worry most about is the extent to which pressures can be applied by commercial interests such as to shift the balance of “inductive risks” from producers to consumers by establishing conventional methodological standards in commercialized scientific research.
Inductive risk occurs whenever we have to accept or reject a hypothesis in the absence of certainty-conferring evidence. Suppose, for example, we have some inconclusive evidence for a hypothesis, H. Should we accept or reject H? Whether or not we should depends on our balance of inductive risks—on the importance we attach, in the ethical sense, of being right or wrong about H. In simple terms, if the risk of accepting H and being wrong outweighs the risk of rejecting H and being wrong, then we should reject H. But these risk are a function not only of the degree of belief we have in H, but also of negative utility we attach to each of those possibilities. In the appraisal of hypotheses about the safety of drugs, foods, and other consumables, these are sometimes called “consumer risk” (the risk of saying the item is safe and being wrong) and “producer risk” (the risk of saying the item is not safe and being wrong.)
The editor of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), Dr A. Wallace Hayes, has decided to retract the study by the team of Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini, which found that rats fed a Monsanto genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 and tiny amounts of the Roundup herbicide it is grown with suffered severe toxic effects, including kidney and liver damage and increased rates of tumours and mortality.
they have clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct (e.g. data fabri- cation) or honest error (e.g. miscalculation or experimental error)
the findings have previously been published elsewhere without proper crossreferencing, permission or justification (i.e. cases of redundant publication)
it constitutes plagiarism
it reports unethical research
But none of these applied to the paper by Séralini et al. The journal found "no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data" but that there " is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected."
Over the weekend, I learned that journals published by the University of Chicago Press – this includes, e.g., Philosophy of Science – have a policy of "green access" for published articles. (I believe this was a change made in the last few years, but I am not positive). Details are here, but here is what I was surprised and pleased to learn.
First, authors may "post their article in its published form on their personal or departmental web pages or personal social media pages, use their article in teaching or research presentations, provide single copies in print or electronic form to their colleagues, or republish their article in a subsequent work" (emphasis added). It was the italicized part that was new to me; the rest I knew. It's a big deal that they are allowing the published articles (with proper pagination, etc.) to be added to one's website or one's department website immediately after publication. That is, it's not full open access (which would be better), but it still provides for good dissemenation given tools like Google Scholar.
Second, "Authors may deposit either the published PDF of their article or the final accepted version of the manuscript after peer review (but not proofs of the article) in a non-commercial repository where it can be made freely available no sooner than twelve (12) months after publication of the article in the journal" (emphasis added). Here, I knew that the final accepted version could be deposited on non-commercial sites like PhilSci Archive or PhilPapers after 12 months, but I didn't know that the published PDF could be. Again, this is a big deal.
So, I guess the moral is, check the publication policies for articles that you have published, even if you think you know what they are, and perhaps consider such policies when deciding where to send articles. And if you know of other philosophy journals with similar policies, please mention them in the comments.
As Co-Chairs of the Philosophy of Science Association Women's Caucus (PSA-WC), we write to encourage a diversity of paper and symposium proposals for the PSA 2014 meeting, to be held in Chicago, IL in November 2014. Note that the CFPs state, "The PSA 2014 Program Committee will strive for quality, variety, innovation and diversity on the program" and that "The Committee aims to prepare a program that reflects the full range of current work in the philosophy of science."
As PSA-WC Co-Chairs, we hope for submissions from areas that have in the past been traditionally underrepresented at PSA meetings, such as feminist philosophy of science, philosophy of race, philosophy of social science, philosophy of science in practice, history of philosophy of science, and more.
Readers may be interested in two free and freely available logic resources, both housed at my university, University of California Davis:
Paul Teller's A Modern Formal Logic Primer:The Primer was published in 1989 by Prentice Hall, since acquired by Pearson Education. Pearson Education has allowed the Primer to go out of print and returned the copyright to Teller, who now makes it available without charge for instructional and educational use.
Howard Pospesel and David Marans, Arguments: Deductive Logic Exercises: Similarly, the text has long been out of print, and the copyright has now reverted to the authors, who have generously made the book available to logic students, teachers, and the general public. Arguments is unique in that it can be used with any system of proofs for first-order predicate logic: truth trees, Fitch-style natural deductions, etc.
Please feel free to share information about similar free and freely available resources in the comments.
If Elisabeth Lloyd’s take on the female orgasm is
correct—i.e. if it is homologous to the male orgasm—then FEMALE ORGASMis not a proper evolutionary category. Homology is sameness. Hence, male and female orgasms belong to the same category. The orgasm is an adaptation, whether male or female (and
Lloyd should agree). It is not a spandrel or by-product.
I’ll get back to this in a moment, but first some background. There are five NewAPPSers who have a particular interest in the
philosophy of biology. Roberta Millstein, Helen De Cruz, Catarina Dutilh Novaes, John Protevi, and myself. Aside from Roberta, each of us comes at it from a related area in which biological insight is
important. For me, that area is perception. I have written quite a bit about
biology, but my mind has always been at least half on the eye (and the ear, and
the nose, and the tongue, . . .).
There is a divide among us with respect to a leading controversy
in the field. Catarina is strongly anti-adaptationist and I am strongly
adaptationist (perhaps because of my motivating interest in perception, which is exquistely adaptive). Roberta, Helen, and John are somewhere in between, but likely closer to Catarina than to me. You can gauge where I stand when I tell you that in my view, Gould and Lewontin’s 1979
anti-adaptationist manifesto, “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian
Paradigm” is one of the worst, and certainly one of the most mendacious, papers I have
ever read in any field. Among the five of us, I am sure I am alone in this.
Given all of this, my take on adaptationism with regard to the orgasm may get a
hotly negative response from my co-bloggers. Nevertheless, I’ll get on with it.
It's always nice when you hear about people doing positive things to improve the climate in philosophy for women and other underrepresented minorities. Feminist Philosophers has details about a new blog that aims to do just that. You can ask questions and get advice, or see what issues are arising in for others and how they might be dealt with.
Zachary Ernst, we're sorry to see you go. But you've left us with some important issues to mull over, here.
These even includes some issues that are under faculty control, like the following:
Furthermore, my department also considers single-authored work to be more significant than co-authored work. Frankly, I find this policy totally absurd, but it's not that uncommon. Because a lot of interdisciplinary work will appear in unfamiliar (to one's colleagues) venues, and be co-authored, that work is downgraded, not once but twice. The effect is that when it comes time to decide on salary raises, a faculty member with broad, interdisciplinary research interests is at a severe disadvantage. To put the point bluntly, interdisciplinary researchers get paid less.
Is philosophy really so insular that we can't respect interdisciplinary work? That we can't recognize the extra effort (not less effort) that it takes to collaborate? I am afraid that I know the answers.
I certainly applaud and concur with the spirit of Gary Gutting's recent piece, "Science’s Humanities Gap." He agrees with Steven Pinker that specialists in any area are likely to benefit from acquaintance with relevant work beyond their disciplinary boundaries, but thinks that Pinker errs in saying that it is humanists who need to pay more attention to science. Instead, Gutting says, "it’s humanists who are the choir and scientists who need a call to grace." Gutting then goes on to characterize all of the areas in which philosophy has been informed by a deep knowledge of science. All well and good.
However, I have a bone to pick with Gutting. Here is the sum total of what he has to say about the philosophy of biology: "Philosophers of biology like David Hull have been similarly well versed in that discipline [as philosophers of physics have been versed in physics]." It is true that Hull is a fine example of someone who was well-versed in biology, who engaged with biologists, and who inspired many other philosophers of biology to do likewise. But that is just the point. Many, many other philosophers of biology since Hull have immersed themselves in various areas of biology – far too many to list here, since such philosophers comprise a substantial portion of the field. What I can attempt to list, however, is all of the different areas of biology that philosophers of biology engage with, knowing that I will miss some: systematics (an area that Hull particularly focused on), genetics, population genetics, paleobiology, developmental biology, evo-devo, molecular biology, genomics and other -omics, ecology, conservation biology, cell biology, behavioral biology. Once all these areas are listed, it becomes clearer just how empirical the philosophy of biology has become.
The problem with giving short shrift to philosophy of biology is that one might actually walk away with the opposite impression of what was intended, i.e., one might get the mistaken impression that not much science-oriented philosophy of biology is going on. And that would be a shame, particularly since Pinker could do with a greater appreciation of the philosophy of biology, such as Elisabeth Lloyd's excellent shredding of his views in"Kanzi, evolution, and language."
It is common for those writing letters of recommendation, whether for faculty going up for tenure or for students going on the job market, to compare the subject of the letter X to a faculty member or student Y at the same career stage. I've heard it suggested that this is one of the few concrete things that a letter of recommendation can say. Otherwise, the letter reader ends up trying to divine adjectives like "excellent," "outstanding," "superb," etc.
However, I've long been uncomfortable with this practice. It's a bit hard for me to say why, so this post is my attempt to put my vague discomforts into words, toss them out into the blogosphere, and see what other people think. So let me be clear at the outset – I am not saying that comparing X to Y is unethical, or should be stopped, or anything along those lines. Just that the practice is... troubling. I offer several reasons for concern below (both as a letter writer and as a reader of letters), in no particular order. They raise the specter of bias, among other issues.
In a previous post, I pointed out that a proper understanding of "population" is central for claims about the endangered status of gray wolves under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).* The same is true for a recent ruling reaffirming the endangered status of southern resident orcas. Endangered "distinct population segments" are recognized under the ESA, but even the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seems to acknowledge that their interpretation of this term may be faulty, having explicitly called for comment on it in their wolf delisting proposal. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), who issued the ruling on orcas, uses a more bare-bones interpretation of "distinct population segment" than the FWS does, considering only whether the population is "discrete" and "significant."
It is time for the FWS and the NMFS to recognize a more robust concept of population, based on the interactions among organisms. As I have argued elsewhere, populations ought to be characterized in terms of survival and reproductive interactions among organisms, with the boundaries of the population as the largest grouping for which the rates of interaction are much higher within the grouping than outside. The Pacific Legal Foundation, on behalf of the Orwellian-named "Center for Environmental Science Accuracy and Reliability" and two farms in central California,** argued that the southern resident orcas were not genetically distinct from other orcas. The NMFS found that the scientific evidence did not support this claim, and that, moreover, there are significant behavioral differences between the southern resident orcas and the other orcas: "differences in morphology, behavior, diet and feeding ecology, acoustical dialects and practices." In particular, the practice that orcas are most well known for, i.e., killing other whales (a practice that gives rise to the name "killer whale"), is not one that that the southern resident orcas engage in; rather, the southern resident orcas eat salmon. These differences are sometimes, perhaps with good reason, described as differences in culture.
A draft summary of the Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been leaked to the press. Although I don't have access to the draft itself, the reporting alone is interesting, but also potentially confusing to the average layperson. The New York Times tells us that "An international panel of scientists has found with near certainty that human activity is the cause of most of the temperature increases of recent decades," and quotes the document as saying, "It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010." We are also told that whereas in 2007, "the chances were at least 90 percent that human activities were the cause" of climate change, saying that now in 2013 "the odds are at least 95 percent that humans are the principal cause." Reuters words this slightly differently: "it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities - chiefly the burning of fossil fuels - are the main cause of warming since the 1950s." But what do the phrases "near certainty," "extremely likely," "95 percent odds," "95 percent likely" mean? [the emphasis is mine in all of the above quotes]. In this context, I think they all mean the same thing, but that's not entirely obvious.
In thinking about wolves and the faulty proposal to remove them from endangered species status, my thoughts turn quickly to Aldo Leopold. Leopold, 20th century forester, wildlife manager, conservationist, professor – and hunter – is perhaps best known for "The Land Ethic" from A Sand County Almanac. He is also known for another essay from the same book, "Thinking Like a Mountain." In that essay, Leopold describes a change of heart he experienced upon hunting a pack of wolves:
We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.
But as biographer Curt Meine has documented, Leopold did not, in fact, come to appreciate the value of wolves as a young man. Rather, a lifetime of experiences as a forester and a wildlife manager eventually convinced him of the folly of exterminating wolves to create a "hunter's paradise":
Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.
With the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone producingpositiveeffects on the local ecosystem, Leopold's views have been vindicated. We would do well to learn from them, remembering that we too are dependent on the other species around us.
Public comments on the proposed ruling may be submitted here.
Even most Kuhn-haters are committed to the popular idea that an important measure of scientific truth is consensus among the experts. The downside of this commitment is on display in Roberta Millstein's important piece on "the removal of gray wolves from endangered species status in the U.S." One could debate the merits of the proposal, of course, but a scary aspect of her account is the manufacture of scientific consensus by a government-agency. I quote the relevant bits first, and comment below the fold:
The problem is, as the authors of the proposal acknowledge, that
there is a lack of consensus among scientists on what species are, what
subspecies are, and how many species and subspecies of wolves there are.
Nonetheless, they declare that one paper, Chambers et. al (2012),
"is the only peer-reviewed synthesis of its kind conducted for North
American wolves and summarizes and synthesizes the best available
scientific information on the issue."...Chambers et al. (2012) appears in the journal North American Fauna,
a publication of the FWS [Fish and Wildlife Service] itself; it is unclear why the paper wasn't
sent to a more recognized peer-reviewed journal in the field, such as Conservation Biology. According to the website for North American Fauna,
Chambers et al. (2012) is the only publication since 1991; it appears
as though the journal was reborn specifically to publish the wolf study
only to languish again afterward....In short,
the FWS service has taken one of the most well-studied animals, about
which there is great controversy...and benighted one paper, authored by itself (perhaps by some of the
same people who wrote the proposal) as "the best available scientific
information"....What is the urgency – so urgent that the FWS must hastily designate
itself as the source of the best available science – to make policy when
the science is so unsettled?"
On June 13, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed removing the gray wolf, Canis lupus, from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Under this proposal, the species of gray wolves – which was at one time protected across the 48 contiguous U.S. states – would no longer be so protected. Only one subspecies of gray wolf would be granted protection: the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi). This would, in effect, protect only 75 of the wolves in the U.S. (the current size of the wild population of Mexican wolves). The FWS is soliciting comments on this proposed ruling here, where you can also find the text of the proposal. If you find this proposed ruling as problematic as I do, I would urge you to submit a comment.
Philosophers of biology such as myself, many of whom are well-versed in the challenges of defining the terms "species," "subspecies," and "population," not to mention skills in evaluating arguments, are particularly well placed to see the flaws in the proposed ruling. I was first alerted to potential problems in the proposal upon reading this editorial, which blamed the ruling on pressure from "a loose coalition of hunters' groups, outfitters, and ranchers." While I don't have any evidence for this assertion, after reading through the ill-defended proposal one has to wonder, "Why this? Why now? And why has the fact-finding process of the Endangered Species Act been corrupted with a 'government-manufactured scientific consensus'?" (thanks to Eric Schliesser for the felicitous phrase).
In comments Roberta Millstein calls attention to this referee process:
Biology Direct operates on an open peer-review system, so each
of the reviewers' comments accompanied by their name will be reproduced
alongside the article, if published. The journal aims to publish all
manuscripts that have attracted sufficient interest of Editorial Board
members to result in 3 reviews. The reviews may be highly critical of
the work or even outright negative, which in itself does not preclude
publication should the authors decide to proceed. However, the reviewer
also has the option to recommend rejection of manuscripts that have no
scientific substance, or do not meet the standards of a scientific work.--Biology Direct.
I have long advocated this approach and I hope a philosophy journal emulates Biology Direct so we can judge how it works before long!
To be clear: I realize that editing a journal is a LOT of hard work and that we all owe gratitude toward the folk that take on huge work-loads and sacrifice their research time for the greater good. But that does not mean that editors are just passive instruments; editors also have duties that relate to ensuring (a) that even the perceptions that may lead into self-selection are combated; (b) that their editorial procedures are such that out-crowd people do not get discouraged from submitting, etc.
As I see it, the question being raised here is whether it is the responsibility of editors to do something when they see that they are getting many paper submissions in areas X, Y, and Z but few or none in areas A, B, and C, even though A, B, and C fall within the journal's stated scope. I'm inclined to agree with Eric that it is. For example, they could 1) make sure that they have associate editors with expertise in A, B, and C (if the journal has associate editors that are responsible for different areas), and 2) try to solicit papers in A, B, and C. The latter could be done with periodic CFPs saying, "The journal welcomes (or is looking to increase representation in?) subjects A, B, and C." It could also be done by having its associate editors try to encourage papers in the relevant areas. I welcome other suggestions.
It is time to stop pretending that the "H4" journals (Nous, Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Review, and Mind) are generalist philosophy journals. (I'll get to JAPA at the end).
They are not. As my co-bloggers have recently pointed out (see e.g, here and here), they focus on metaphysics, epistemology, mind, and language and offer very little coverage of other areas such as aesthetics, history, applied ethics, feminism, critical race theory, etc.
Now, some might claim that LEMM are "core" analytic areas on which other areas draw. However, that is neither true in practice nor in principle. With regard to "practice," it is simply not true that other areas of philosophy must reference these four areas in order to proceed, and they often do not. With regard to "principle," I can't tell you how many LEMM talks I have been to where assumptions have been made about the nature of science, scientific explanation, or some particular scientific finding (think, for example, of water=H2O, which turns out to be a more substantive assumption than most realize). Does that mean that philosophy of science is a core area, too? No, it means that we'd be better off seeing different areas of philosophy as an interconnected network rather than seeing some at the "core" and some as the "periphery."
With the McGinn scandal getting widespread discussion (see here, here, here, and here), it's worth highlighting a recent event I attended that aimed to improve the experiences of minorities in philosophy: the Diversity in Philosophy Conference, organized by Peggy DesAutels, Carla Fehr, and Sally Haslanger, held last week at the University of Dayton. The conference was followed by a one-day Site Visit Workshop.
Topics discussed at the conference included not only sexual harassment, but also the particular challenges faced by those who fit more than one minority group ("intersectionality"); suggestions for improving pedagogical practices; particular issues faced by women, racial minorities, LGBTQ individuals, and people with disabilities; implicit bias and stereotype threat; how to improve undergraduate retention, and more. It was attended by over 150 philosophers from across the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere. Discussions were lively, productive, and thought-provoking.
The Site Visit Workshop was for philosophy faculty who wish to be trained to be members of site visit teams. Philosophy Departments can request site visits from the APA Committee on the Status of Women; goals of site visits include helping departments analyze the climate issues for women and other minorities particular to their own setting and making recommendations based on proven best practices.
Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or
isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when
it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work
environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such
as the victim being fired or demoted). [emphasis mine].
Those who think that McGinn's alleged emails are "mild" or "not severe" would do well to remember that many seemingly small actions over a long period of time can produce a hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment does not require that there be an obvious, severe offense in order to be in violation of Title VII -- or to be problematic and painful for the victim.
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.