Σάββατο, 29 Ιουνίου 2019

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences

Intellectual directions for History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences , 2019–2023

From parts to mechanisms: research heuristics for addressing heterogeneity in cancer genetics


A major approach to cancer research in the late twentieth century was to search for genes that, when altered, initiated the development of a cell into a cancerous state (oncogenes) or failed to stop this development (tumor suppressor genes). But as researchers acquired the capacity to sequence tumors and incorporated the resulting data into databases, it became apparent that for many tumors no genes were frequently altered and that the genes altered in different tumors in the same tissue type were often distinct. To address this heterogeneity problem, many researchers looked to a higher level of organization—to mechanisms in which gene products (proteins) participated. They proposed to reduce heterogeneity by recognizing that multiple gene alterations affect the same mechanism and that it is the altered mechanism that is responsible for the cell developing one or more hallmarks of cancer. I examine how mechanisms figure in this research and focus on two heuristics researchers use to integrate proteins into mechanisms, one focusing on pathways and one focusing on clusters in networks.

S tuart G lennan , The New Mechanical Philosophy, New York: Oxford University Press, 2017, 266 pp., $40.00.

Blood, race and indigenous peoples in twentieth century extreme physiology


In the first half of the twentieth century the attention of American and European researchers was drawn to the area of 'extreme physiology', partly because of expeditions to the north and south poles, and to high altitude, but also by global conflicts which were fought for the first time with aircraft, and involved conflict in non-temperate zones, deserts, and at the freezing Eastern front. In an attempt to help white Euro-Americans survive in extreme environments, physiologists, anthropologists, and explorers studied indigenous people's bodies, cultures, and technologies. This paper will sketch an outline of the science of white survival in three 'extreme' environments: the Antarctic and Arctic; high-altitude; and the Australian desert, with a particular focus on the ways in which indigenous populations were studied, or in some cases ignored, by Western biomedical scientists—despite their crucial and systematic contributions to the success of experiments and expeditions. Particularly focusing on altitude, and on blood in both its symbolic (hereditary) and literal sense, the article shows how assumptions about race, indigeneity, civilisation, and evolution shaped the ways White Westerners understood their own bodies as well as those of the people they encountered in cold, high and hot places on the earth. Despite new discoveries in physiology and evolutionary science, old racialised assumptions were maintained, especially those that figured the temperate body as civilised and the tropical body as primitive; and in at least one case it will be shown that these racialised assumptions significantly altered, if not retarded, the science of respiratory physiology.

Conceptual heterogeneity and the legacy of organicism: thoughts on the life organic

L ucas M c G ranahan , Darwinism and Pragmatism: William James on Evolution and Self - Transformation , 2017, Routledge, 200 pp., $160.00

Physiology studies and scientific exchange in the Anthropology Laboratory of the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro (1910s–1920s)


The main purpose of this study is the scientific practice of Edgard Roquette-Pinto at the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro during the 1910's and 1920's in the XXth Century. The article examines the relationship between laboratory science and nation building. Driven by Physicians-Anthropologists like Edgard Roquette-Pinto among others, the investigations performed at the Anthropology Laboratory there reveal the dynamic of the borders between Laboratory and Field Sciences, and the new biological parameters adopted at that time. The investigative agenda involved plants, animals and human bodies, and it was related to the current Anthropology concept aligned with the debate of Nation construction. The physiological studies amplified the scientific exchange with different institutions, emphasizing cultural exchange between Brazil and Paraguay, and the role played by Edgard Roquette-Pinto there as he inaugurated the Physiological course at Faculty of Medicine at University of Asunción.

The plurality of assumptions about fossils and time


A research community must share assumptions, such as about accepted knowledge, appropriate research practices, and good evidence. However, community members also hold some divergent assumptions, which they—and we, as analysts of science—tend to overlook. Communities with different assumed values, knowledge, and goals must negotiate to achieve compromises that make their conflicting goals complementary. This negotiation guards against the extremes of each group's desired outcomes, which, if achieved, would make other groups' goals impossible. I argue that this diversity, as a form of value pluralism, regularly influences scientific practice and can make scientific evidence and knowledge more useful and more reliable. As an example, I examine vertebrate paleontology laboratories, which house a variety of workers with different training and priorities, particularly about the meaning of time. Specifically, scientists want to study fully prepared fossils immediately, conservators want to preserve fossils for future use (such as by not preparing them), and preparators mediate between the other groups' conflicting goals. After all, one cannot study a fossil encased in rock, and one cannot remove that rock without removing information from that specimen. In response, these coworkers articulate their assumptions in everyday deliberations about how scientific evidence should be made and used. I argue that this exchange of assumptions is crucial for a research community to achieve mutually beneficial compromises that benefit current and future knowledge construction.

K ärin N ickelsen , Explaining Photosynthesis: Models of Biochemical Mechanisms, 1840 – 1960 , Springer, Dordrecht, 2015

R. P aul T hompson & R oss E.G. U pshur , Philosophy of Medicine: An Introduction , Oxon: Routledge, 2018, 194 pp

Alexandros Sfakianakis
Anapafseos 5 . Agios Nikolaos

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