Past Events › Lecture Programme
Abstract: The relationship between kin and group selection is a vexed issue in evolutionary theory, and matters are not helped by a tendency to conflate questions of methodology with questions of causal reality. Drawing inspiration from W. D. Hamilton, I suggest we conceptualise the distinction between kin and group selection in terms of differences of degree in the structural features of populations. I then argue that we can usefully draw a parallel distinction in the case of cultural evolution. Cultural…Find out more »
Abstract. According to the value-free ideal, the internal workings of science, including the evaluation of evidence, should be kept free from the influence of non-epistemic values as much as possible. We identify an underappreciated limit on the extent to which the value-free ideal can be achieved in practice. Our argument – which differs from inductive risk and other recent arguments – is grounded in the fact that, in some fields, scientists use complex scientific models as a replacement for background information…Find out more »
Abstract. Actual (token) causation – the sort of causal relation asserted to hold by claims like the Chicxulub impact caused the Cretaceous-Paleogene exitinction event, Mr. Fairchild’s exposure to asbestos caused him to suffer mesothelioma, and the H7N9 virus outbreak was caused by poultry farmers becoming simultaneously infected by bird and human 'flu strains – is of significance to scientists, historians, and tort and criminal lawyers. It also plays a role in theories of various philosophically important concepts, such as action, decision,…Find out more »
Abstract: The role of non-epistemic values in accepting and rejecting scientific hypotheses has long been recognized. As Rudner (1953) observes, “how sure we need to be before we accept a hypothesis will depend on how serious a mistake would be”. Non-epistemic values play a role whenever the hypothesis under consideration has practical consequences. Despite this, discussions aimed at evaluating scientific evidence often fail to take non-epistemic values into account. This is particularly true in comparative psychology, which is surprising, given…Find out more »
Abstract: Classical models of the universe generically feature a big bang singularity. That is, when we consider progressively earlier and earlier times, physical quantities stop behaving in a reasonable way. A particular problem is that physical quantities related to the curvature of spacetime become divergent. A long standing hope is that a theory of quantum gravity would `resolve’ the big bang singularity by providing quantum models of the early universe in which all physical quantities are always finite. Unfortunately, not…Find out more »
Abstract. The view that experience seems to tell us directly that time flows has long been accepted by both A-theorists and B-theorists in the philosophy of time. A-theorists take it as a powerful endorsement of their position, sometimes using it explicitly in an argument for their view, and other times more implicitly, as a kind of non-negotiable, experiential given. B-theorists have tended to accept that we have this experience, and have sought alternative explanations for it, consistent with the B-theory. The…Find out more »
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