Archive for: April, 2014

A thought for those who are mindful about their legacy in their discipline.

It is possible that, once you shuffle off this mortal coil, people will remember you for your scholarly contributions to your field.

However, it is also possible that they will remember you for your consistently inappropriate behavior, your thoroughgoing lack of respect for the boundaries of the students you were supposed to be nurturing rather than exploiting.

It is possible that, in the fullness of time, the people in your discipline who were given the academic equivalent of the "Grandpa is just that way" excuse for your behavior will come to the conclusion that there was no good excuse for your behavior, that, rather than speaking no ill of the dead, they will describe your conduct for what it was.

As well, they may start to recognize the complicity of the other "grown-ups" in their field who offered the "Grandpa is just that way" excuse for what it was.

If some of those enablers, still living, are mindful about their legacy within their discipline, they might want to reflect on that and make some amends before they, too, go to the great beyond.

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Sometimes I need a Venn diagram.

Apr 14 2014 Published by under Pop culture

In honor of the last season of Mad Men, whose first episode premieres tonight.

(If you're still catching up an seasons 1 through 6, there are spoilers embedded within.)


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Pub-Style Science: Is a scientist without philosophy like a fish without a bicycle?

There will be a Pub-Style Science discussion of why scientists might want to think about epistemology in particular and (perhaps) philosophy more generally on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, starting 9 PM EDT/6 PM PDT. You can watch the hashtag #pubscience for more details (including the link that will let you watch the Google Hangout once it's hanging out).

I've heard it said that an understanding of philosophy of science is about as useful to a scientist as a hydrodynamics textbook would be to a fish. Indeed, I've heard it said that philosophy of science is worse than useless to a scientist -- that it a malign influence on one's ability to do science.

I'm disinclined to believe these rejections of the value of philosophy for the scientific practitioner. Then again, I left a path as a scientific practitioner to become a philosopher. You do the math.

Anyways, in advance of the discussion Tuesday night, I thought I'd point you toward a couple ancient posts I wrote on philosophy of science and science, plus some other things worth reading before the conversation:

A branch of learning that 'need not be learned'?: In which I examine a claim by scientist, Nobel Laureate, and notorious pre-internet troll Sir Peter Medawar that "scientific methodology" (which might be the picture delivered by philosophy of science) "need not be taught or, if taught, need not be learned".

Does writing off philosophy of science cost the scientists anything?: In which I argue that philosophy of science may be useful to scientific practitioners who want to communicate productively with people outside their narrow scientific disciplines.

You might find the comment threads on both of those posts interesting (depending on your tolerance for interlocutors committed to talking past each other).

You should also read Michael Tomasson's post setting the stage for Tuesday's discussion.

On the question of whether postmodern strands of philosophy might have a particularly malign impact on one's understanding of science, I recommend this Storify'd conversation.

No matter what we end up deciding, I expect it will be an interesting conversation.

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