Friday links: the Sixth Extinction (or not), and more

Also this week: philosophers vs. science, today’s reviewers vs. G. E. Hutchinson, and more.

From Jeremy:

Explaining the long-standing male bias of the Canada Research Chair program, especially at the senior (tier 2) level. An insider’s view from Frances Woolley, an economist who once was asked to evaluate the CRC hiring process. In her view, the main problem isn’t subtle biases in CRC reference letters or insufficient effort put into identifying potential women CRC candidates (which isn’t to say that subtle biases don’t exist, of course). Instead, the main problem is that it remains too hard for women to move up the “middle rungs” of the academic career ladder (as opposed to getting on and moving up the lowest rungs–undergrad, grad school, postdoc). Too few women end up becoming the “world-renowned researchers” the CRC program aims to recruit, and those women typically have more attractive opportunities available to them than CRCs. Woolley suggests that if Canada wants to promote both gender balance and excellence in research, it would be better off reallocating CRC money to research grants for junior and mid-career researchers.

If Hutchinson’s “Homage to Santa Rosalia” were reviewed today. See also. Oh, and this as well. And this.

Philosopher of science Adrian Currie on the challenges of getting philosophy of science students to engage with actual science, which is formidably technical. I’m now thinking how to flip this around: how do you most effectively get science majors to engage with philosophy of science? At least at the graduate level and perhaps at the undergraduate level too. Because I do think it’s helpful for them to know and think about some philosophy of science. Related.

Sticking with philosophy of science: Here’s a nice accessible little example of the sorts of questions a philosopher of science asks when reading a typical scientific paper (here, a paleobiological study asking whether a simple computer model can explain key features of the development of both ancient and modern sea urchins). I like reading this sort of thing because it keeps me on my toes. Helps me read science with fresh eyes.

Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame argues that we are not in the midst of a 6th mass extinction, and that saying we are is unhelpful at best and counterproductive at worst. Wide-ranging, covers a lot of ground. Good fodder for a discussion/debate in an ecology or conservation course.

2 thoughts on “Friday links: the Sixth Extinction (or not), and more

  1. “how do you most effectively get science majors to engage with philosophy of science?”

    When I was a grad student at UMN, taking a history of science or philosophy of science class was required. I took epistemology, and I’m glad I did. But. But I’m not a fan of having lots of required courses. It gets back to the “what will you drop?” question of adding new things that people ought to know. Part of what worked for me about my class is that I took it auditing-style, so that I didn’t have lots of homework and tests to do. The discussions in each class period were the important parts, in my mind, and I don’t care that I can’t recite my philosophers.

    • Yes good point that requiring some philosophy of science means not requiring something else.

      I can see various ways to address this. All of which are variants on the UMN solution: make it a modest sized requirement. This assumes that a bit if philosophy or history of science is or can be quite useful. In my experience it is.

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