Scholarly Works - History and Philosophy of Science


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 168
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Written Evidence - Defence industrial policy: procurement and prosperity
    (UK Parliament Defence Committee, 2020-05-19) Belfield, Haydn; Jayanti, Amritha; Avin, Shahar; Belfield, Haydn [0000-0002-0603-4311]; Avin, Shahar [0000-0001-7859-1507]
    In this response we particularly focus on defence and those in adjacent markets systems that integrate increasingly capable artificial intelligence (AI), especially those based on machine learning (ML). Many systems that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is likely to procure over the next 5-10 years will integrate AI and ML; these systems are likely to both be strategically important and to introduce new vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are likely to pose significant national security risks over the next few decades, both for the UK and the UK’s allies. These systems are the focus of much of our work, and where we hope to add our expertise to the Committee’s Inquiry. We make the following recommendations to protect against premature and/or unsafe procurement and deployment of ML-based systems: - Improve systemic risk assessment in defence procurement. - Ensure clear lines of responsibility so that senior officials can be held responsible for errors caused in the procurement chain and are therefore incentivised to reduce them; - Acknowledge potential shifts in international standards for autonomous systems, and build flexible procurement standards accordingly. - Update the MoD’s definition of lethal autonomous weapons - the Integrated Security, Defence and Foreign Policy Review provides an excellent opportunity to bring the UK in line with its allies.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    The generality of Constructive Neutral Evolution
    (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2018) Brunet, TDP; Doolittle, WF; Brunet, TDP [0000-0002-7609-7254]
    molecular inter-dependence and organismal complexity without assuming positive selection favoring such dependency or complexity, either directly or as a byproduct of adaptation. It differs from but complements other non-selective explanations for complexity, such as genetic drift and the Zero Force Evolutionary Law, by being ratchet-like in character. With CNE, purifying selection maintains dependencies or complexities that were neutrally evolved. Preliminary treatments use it to explain specific genetic and molecular structures or processes, such as retained gene duplications, the spliceosome, and RNA editing. Here we aim to expand the scope of such explanation beyond the molecular level, integrating CNE with Multi-Level Selection theory, and arguing that several popular higher-level selection scenarios are in fact instances of CNE. Suitably contextualized, CNE occurs at any level in the biological hierarchy at which natural selection as normally construed occurs. As examples, we focus on modularity in protein–protein interaction networks or “interactomes,” the origin of eukaryotic cells and the evolution of co-dependence in microbial communities—a variant of the “Black Queen Hypothesis” which we call the “Gray Queen Hypothesis”.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Engineering Health: Technologies of Immunization in China's Wartime Hinterland, 1937-45.
    (Project MUSE, 2019) Brazelton, Mary Augusta; Brazelton, Mary [0000-0001-5941-9576]
    During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the technological project of mass immunization united state health administrations and international aid organizations seeking to prevent epidemics in unoccupied China's wartime hinterland. This article examines a joint wartime effort between the Chinese government's National Epidemic Prevention Bureau and the League of Nations Health Organization to manufacture and distribute vaccines against smallpox, cholera, and other diseases in northwest China. The hardships of war presented challenges to the development of large-scale immunization, but also led to the establishment of international aid programs that helped Chinese microbiologists acquire standard cultures, animals, and equipment. Vaccination provided a means for the beleaguered Nationalist government to quell epidemics and resist the Japanese; subsequent state involvement in the process of managing transport of vaccines, organizing and training vaccinators, and mandating the shots suggests the significance of mass immunization, as well as its reliance on technological systems in which vaccines embodied emerging biomedical standards that the state sought to institutionalize.
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Values, regulation, and species delimitation
    (Magnolia Press) Conix, S; Conix, Stijn [0000-0002-1487-0213]
    Garnett and Christidis (2017) [hereafter GC] recently proposed that the International Union of the Biological Sciences should centrally regulate the taxonomy of complex organisms. Their proposal was met with much criticism (e.g. Hołyński 2017; Thomson et al., 2018), and perhaps most extensively from Raposo et al. (2017) in this journal. The main target of this criticism was GC’s call to, first, “restrict the freedom of taxonomic action”, and, second, to let social, political and conservation values weigh in on species classification. Some commentators even went as far as to draw a comparison with the infamous Lysenko-case of state-controlled and heavily restricted science (Raposo et al. 2017, 181; Hołyński 2017, 12). This comment will argue, without thereby endorsing GC’s position, that these two aspects of their views need not be as threatening as this comparison suggests, and indeed are very reasonable.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Sensory studies, or when physics was psychophysics: Ernst Mach and physics between physiology and psychology, 1860-71.
    (SAGE Publications, 2021-03) Staley, Richard; Staley, Richard [0000-0002-8200-7446]
    This paper highlights the significance of sensory studies and psychophysical investigations of the relations between psychic and physical phenomena for our understanding of the development of the physics discipline, by examining aspects of research on sense perception, physiology, esthetics, and psychology in the work of Gustav Theodor Fechner, Hermann von Helmholtz, Wilhelm Wundt, and Ernst Mach between 1860 and 1871. It complements previous approaches oriented around research on vision, Fechner's psychophysics, or the founding of experimental psychology, by charting Mach's engagement with psychophysical experiments in particular. Examining Mach's study of the senses and esthetics, his changing attitudes toward the mechanical worldview and atomism, and his articulation of comparative understandings of sensual, geometrical, and physical spaces helps set Mach's emerging epistemological views in the context of his teaching and research. Mach complemented an analytic strategy focused on parallel psychic and physical dimensions of sensation, with a synthetic comparative approach - building analogies between the retina, the individual, and social life, and moving between abstract and sensual spaces. An examination of the broadly based critique that Mach articulated in his 1871 lecture on the conservation of work shows how his historical approach helped Mach cast what he now saw as a narrowly limiting emphasis on mechanics as a phase yet to be overcome.
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    'The mothers of England object': Public Health, Privacy and Professional Ethics in the Early Twentieth-century Debate over the Notification of Pregnancy.
    (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2020-02) Al-Gailani, Salim
    Amid wider efforts to improve maternal and infant health in Britain around the First World War, public health officials debated making pregnancy a notifiable condition. Although the policy never entered national legislation, a number of local authorities introduced 'notification of pregnancy' schemes in various guises, with at least one surviving until the 1950s. Resistance from private practitioners to infectious diseases notification in the later nineteenth century has been well documented. We know less about opposition to the extension of this measure to maternal and infant welfare, especially from newly professionalising female health occupations. Conflict over notification of pregnancy drew midwives, in particular, into longstanding arguments over the powers of municipal authorities, family privacy and professional ethics. The controversy was the key battleground in negotiations over the organisation of 'antenatal care' as occupational groups of varying degrees of authority sought to define their roles and responsibilities within the emerging health services.
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    The goal of ape pointing
    (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2018-04-25) Halina, M; Liebal, Katja; Tomasello, Michael; Halina, Marta [0000-0002-3482-4281]
    Captive great apes regularly use pointing gestures in their interactions with humans. However, the precise function of this gesture is unknown. One possibility is that apes use pointing primarily to direct attention (as in “please look at that”); another is that they point mainly as an action request (such as “can you give that to me?”). We investigated these two possibilities here by examining how the looking behavior of recipients affects pointing in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus). Upon pointing to food, subjects were faced with a recipient who either looked at the indicated object (successful-look) or failed to look at the indicated object (failed-look). We predicted that, if apes point primarily to direct attention, subjects would spend more time pointing in the failed-look condition because the goal of their gesture had not been met. Alternatively, we expected that, if apes point primarily to request an object, subjects would not differ in their pointing behavior between the successful-look and failed-look conditions because these conditions differed only in the looking behavior of the recipient. We found that subjects did differ in their pointing behavior across the successful-look and failed-look conditions, but contrary to our prediction subjects spent more time pointing in the successful-look condition. These results suggest that apes are sensitive to the attentional states of gestural recipients, but their adjustments are aimed at multiple goals. We also found a greater number of individuals with a strong right-hand than left-hand preference for pointing.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    The anti-feminist reconstruction of the midlife crisis: Popular psychology, journalism and social science in 1970s America
    (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018-03-13) Schmidt, SA
    The “midlife crisis” was first successfully promoted in the United States with journalist Gail Sheehy’s Passages (1976) as a feminist idea, which described middle life as the point when men and women abandon traditional gender roles. Psychological experts responded with a male-centered definition of middle age, which banned women from reimagining their lives. Presented and received as more scientific, this became the dominant meaning of “midlife crisis.” This paper reverses histories of “popularization” by tracing how an idea moved from popular culture into academia. It examines the gender politics of scientific demarcation and shows that the midlife crisis has historical roots in debates about gender roles.
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Integrative Taxonomy and the Operationalization of Evolutionary Independence
    (Springer Netherlands, 2018-10) Conix, S; Conix, Stijn [0000-0002-1487-0213]
    There is growing agreement among taxonomists that species are independently evolving lineages. The central notion of this conception, evolutionary independence, is commonly operationalized by taxonomists in multiple, diverging ways. This leads to a problem of operationalization-dependency in species classification, as species delimitation is not only dependent on the properties of the investigated groups, but also on how taxonomists choose to operationalize evolutionary independence. The question then is how the operationalization-dependency of species delimitation is compatible with its objectivity and reliability. In response to this problem, various taxonomists have proposed to integrate multiple operationalizations of evolutionary independence for delimiting species. This paper first distinguishes between a standard and a sophisticated integrative approach to taxonomy, and argues that it is unclear how either of these can support the reliability and objectivity of species delimitation. It then draws a parallel between the measurement of physical quantities and species delimitation to argue that species delimitation can be considered objective and reliable if we understand the sophisticated integrative approach as assessing the coherence between the idealized models of multiple operationalizations of evolutionary independence.
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Interpreting theories without a spacetime.
    (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2018) De Haro, Sebastian; de Regt, Henk W; De Haro, Sebastian [0000-0002-3000-5967]
    In this paper we have two aims: first, to draw attention to the close connexion between interpretation and scientific understanding; second, to give a detailed account of how theories without a spacetime can be interpreted, and so of how they can be understood. In order to do so, we of course need an account of what is meant by a theory 'without a spacetime': which we also provide in this paper. We describe three tools, used by physicists, aimed at constructing interpretations which are adequate for the goal of understanding. We analyse examples from high-energy physics illustrating how physicists use these tools to construct interpretations and thereby attain understanding. The examples are: the 't Hooft approximation of gauge theories, random matrix models, causal sets, loop quantum gravity, and group field theory.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Rescuing Objectivity: A Contextualist Proposal
    (SAGE Publications, 2018) Wright, Jack; Wright, Jack [0000-0001-6003-4251]
    Ascriptions of objectivity carry significant weight. But they can also cause confusion because wildly different ideas of what it means to be objective are common. Faced with this, some philosophers have argued that objectivity should be eliminated. I will argue, against one such position, that objectivity can be useful even though it is plural. I will then propose a contextualist approach for dealing with objectivity as a way of rescuing what is useful about objectivity while acknowledging its plurality.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Pirating Mare Liberum (1609)
    (Brill, 2017-12-22) Somos, Mark; Margocsy, D
    Two pirated editions form a vital but neglected part of the printing and reception history of the first edition of Grotius’ Mare liberum.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Traveling machines and colonial times
    (OpenEdition, 2019-10-31) Schaffer, S; Schaffer, Simon [0000-0002-6653-0560]
    This workshop explores claims that knowledge and belief are inevitably and productively entangled. It is suggested that this kind of interweaving is peculiarly evident and important in work with objects that somehow respond to and register invisible forces, powers otherwise beyond observation and experience. Many devices have been charged with such a function. Machines that register and manage time seem peculiarly apt for consideration. The relation between knowledge and belief has a clear temporal dimension. Current knowledges are often used as standards against which past knowledge claims are dismissed, or appreciated, as systems of belief. It is as though the contrast between reliable engagement with nature and the worlds of cultural belief turns into a contrast between the future and the past. It is often claimed as part of the celebration of scientific modernity that as time passes culturally generated beliefs are systematically displaced by delocalised knowledge.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Gender as a historical kind: a tale of two genders?
    (Springer Nature) Godman, MK
    Is there anything that members of each binary category of gender have in common? Even many non-essentialists find the lack of unity within a gender worrying as it undermines the basis for a common political agenda for women. One promising proposal for achieving unity is by means of a shared historical lineage of cultural reproduction with past binary models of gender (e.g. Bach 2012). I demonstrate how such an account is likely to take on board different binary and also non-binary systems of gender. This implies that all individuals construed as members of the category, “women” are in fact not members of the same historical kind after all! I then consider different possible means of modifying the account but conclude negatively: the problem runs deeper than has been appreciated thus far.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Specimens, slips and systems: Daniel Solander and the classification of nature at the world's first public museum, 1753-1768.
    (Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2018-06) Rose, Edwin D; Rose, Edwin [0000-0001-9095-3160]
    The British Museum, based in Montague House, Bloomsbury, opened its doors on 15 January 1759, as the world's first state-owned public museum. The Museum's collection mostly originated from Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), whose vast holdings were purchased by Parliament shortly after his death. The largest component of this collection was objects of natural history, including a herbarium made up of 265 bound volumes, many of which were classified according to the late seventeenth-century system of John Ray (1627-1705). The 1750s saw the emergence of Linnaean binomial nomenclature, following the publication of Carl Linnaeus' Species Plantarum (1753) and Systema Naturae (1758). In order to adopt this new system for their collections, the Trustees of the British Museum chose to employ the Swedish naturalist and former student of Linnaeus, Daniel Solander (1733-1782) to reclassify the collection. Solander was ordered to devise a new system for classifying and cataloguing Sloane's natural history collection, which would allow both Linnaeans and those who followed earlier systems to access it. Solander's work was essential for allowing the British Museum to realize its aim of becoming a public centre of learning, adapting the collection to reflect the diversity of classificatory practices which were existent by the 1760s. This task engaged Solander until 1768, when he received an offer from Joseph Banks (1743-1820) to accompany him on HMS Endeavour to the Pacific.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Emergence in holographic scenarios for gravity
    (Elsevier BV, 2015) Dieks, D; van Dongen, J; de Haro, S
    'Holographic' relations between theories have become an important theme in quantum gravity research. These relations entail that a theory without gravity is equivalent to a gravitational theory with an extra spatial dimension. The idea of holography was first proposed in 1993 by Gerard 't Hooft on the basis of his studies of evaporating black holes. Soon afterwards the holographic 'AdS/CFT' duality was introduced, which since has been intensively studied in the string theory community and beyond. Recently, Erik Verlinde has proposed that even Newton's law of gravitation can be related holographically to the `thermodynamics of information' on screens. We discuss these scenarios, with special attention to the status of the holographic relation in them and to the question of whether they make gravity and spacetime emergent. We conclude that only Verlinde's scheme straightfowardly instantiates emergence. However, assuming a non-standard interpretation of AdS/CFT may create room for the emergence of spacetime and gravity there as well.
  • ItemPublished versionOpen Access
    Instantons and the Hartle-Hawking-Maldacena proposal for dS/CFT
    (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2014) De Haro, S; Petkou, AC
    We test the Maldacena proposal for the Hartle-Hawking late time quantum state in an asymptotically de Sitter universe. In particular, we calculate the on-shell action for scalar instantons on the southern hemisphere of the four-sphere and compare the result with the renormalized on-shell action for scalar instantons in EAdS$_4$. The two results agree provided the corresponding instanton moduli as well as the curvature radii are analytically continued. The instanton solutions in de Sitter are novel and satisfy mixed boundary conditions. We also point out that instantons on $S^4$ calculate the regularized volume of EAdS$_4$, while instantons on EAdS$_4$ calculate the volume of $S^4$, where the boundary condition of the instanton in one space is identified with the radius of curvature of the other. We briefly discuss the implications of the above geometric property of instantons for higher-spin holography.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Chern-Simons theory and the quantum Racah formula
    (World Scientific Pub Co Pte Lt, 2013) De Haro, S; Hahn, A
    We generalize several results on Chern-Simons models on Sigma x S1 in the so-called "torus gauge" which were obtained in arXiv:math-ph/0507040 to the case of general (simply-connected simple compact) structure groups and general link colorings. In particular, we give a non-perturbative evaluation of the Wilson loop observables corresponding to a special class of simple but non-trivial links and show that their values are given by Turaev's shadow invariant. As a byproduct we obtain a heuristic path integral derivation of the quantum Racah formula.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Holographic aspects of electric-magnetic dualities
    (IOP Publishing, 2008-05-01) De Haro, S; Petkou, AC
    We review recent work on holographic aspects of electric-magnetic dualities in theories that involve conformally coupled scalars and abelian gauge fields in asymptotically AdS4 spaces. Such models are relevant for the holographic description of M-theory. We also briefly comment on some new results on the holographic properties of generalized electric-magnetic duality in gravity.
  • ItemAccepted versionOpen Access
    Diffusion model for SU(N) QCD screening
    (American Physical Society (APS), 2006) Arcioni, G; De Haro, S; Gao, P
    We consider a phenomenological model for the dynamics of Wilson loops in pure SU(N) QCD where the expectation value of the loop is the average over an interacting diffusion process on the group manifold SU(N). The interaction is provided by an arbitrary potential that generates the transition from the Casimir scaling regime into the screening phase of the four-dimensional gauge theory. The potential is required to respect the underlying center symmetry of the gauge theory, and this predicts screening of arbitrary SU(N) representations to the corresponding antisymmetric representations of the same N-ality. The stable strings before the onset of screening are therefore the k-strings. In the process we find a non-trivial but solvable modification of the QCD_2 matrix model that involves an arbitrary potential.