Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (Stud Hist Philos Sci C Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci )

Publisher: Elsevier

Description

In recent years Studies in History and Philosophy of Science has seen a remarkable increase in submissions of high calibre articles in the fields of the history, sociology, and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences. Elsevier Science Ltd and the Editors are delighted to present a new journal in an exciting and rapidly expanding area of science studies.Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences is devoted to historical, sociological, philosophical and ethical aspects of the life and environmental sciences, of the sciences of mind and behaviour, and of the medical and biomedical sciences and technologies. The period covered is from the middle of the nineteenth century (the time of the so-called "laboratory revolution" in medicine and the life sciences) to the present.Our editorial policy follows that of the parent journal, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science: contributions are from a wide range of countries and cultural traditions; we encourage both specialist articles, and articles combining historical, philosophical, and sociological approaches; and we favour works of interest to scientists and medics as well as to specialists in the history, philosophy and sociology of the sciences.The Editors invite original contributions in the field of the new journal. All articles and volunteered essay-reviews will be blind refereed. Contributions and proposals should be sent to Dr Marina Frasca-Spada, Associate Editor, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH, UK, E-mail: mfs10@cam.ac.uk

Publisher details

Elsevier

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Publications in this journal

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Through their ability to reveal and record abnormal chromosomes, whether inherited or accidentally altered, chromosomal studies, known as karyotyping, became the basis upon which medical genetics was constructed. The techniques involved became the visual evidence that confirmed a medical examination and were configured as a material culture for redefining health and disease, or the normal and the abnormal, in cytological terms. I will show that the study of foetal cells obtained by amniocentesis led to the stabilisation of karyotyping in its own right, while also keeping pregnant women under the vigilant medical eye. In the absence of any other examination, prenatal diagnosis by foetal karyotyping became autonomous from the foetal body. Although medical cytogenetics was practiced on an individual basis, data collected about patients over time contributed to the construction of population figures regarding birth defects. I study this complex trajectory by focussing on a Unit for Cytogenetics created in 1962 at the Clínica de la Concepción in Madrid. I incorporate the work and training of the clinicians who created the unit, and worked there as well as at other units in the large new hospitals of the national health care system built in Madrid during the mid-1960s and early 1970s.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Using the conceptual tools of philosopher of science Ludwik Fleck, I argue that the reframing of autism as a neurodevelopmental spectrum disorder is constrained by two governing 'styles of thought' of contemporary psychiatry. The first is the historically conditioned 'readiness for directed perception' of, and thinking in terms of, ontologically distinct diseases. The clinical gaze of mental health professionals, the bureaucratic needs of health administration, the clinical and scientific utility of disease categories, and the practices of autism-oriented advocacy groups all imply a bias toward thinking about autism and related disorders as ontologically distinct psychiatric and scientific entities. Second, within the 'neuromolecular style of thought', mental disorders are more and more located at the neurobiological levels of the brain. In autism research, one of the biggest challenges is the identification of autism's neurobiological singularity. However, at a moment when biological and categorical approaches toward autism face serious empirical difficulties, a balance is established that holds together these two styles of thought. With a need to account for some of the most persistent uncertainties and conflicts in autism research, namely ubiquitous heterogeneity and a failure to identify disease specific biomarkers, the reframing of autism as a neurodevelopmental spectrum disorder satisfies the scientific, institutional and socio-political needs for stability and homogenization.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 05/2014; 46C:65-78.
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    ABSTRACT: For more than a century, geneticists have consistently identified the origins of their science with Gregor Mendel's experiments on peas. Mendelism, they have said, demonstrated at long last that biological inheritance was not, as had so often been supposed, "blending," but particulate. Many historians of biology continue to interpret the conflict of biometricians and Mendelians at the start of the twentieth century in these terms, identifying biometry with the (incorrect) blending mechanism. But this view of blending is history as war by other means. While Francis Galton's contrast between blended and alternate inheritance had become familiar by 1905, he and his interpreters understood the two forms as differing outcomes of breeding, not as rival theories. Only a few biologists in this period went beyond blending as a description of results of breeding to a blending mechanism, and these were not biometricians. Recognizing this, we can see also that statistical methods and models were central to evolutionary genetics right from the start. The evolutionary synthesis, while reshaping their role, did not create it.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Creationism is an ambiguous term used in a variety of contexts: political, scientific, religious and educational. This paper attempts to trace the discourse on creationism in two European countries (France and the United Kingdom) and show how different cultural backgrounds shape the construction of its meaning. The striking difference between the total redefinition of the narration on creationism in France after the Harun Yahya's case, and the practically oriented steady development of the discussion in the United Kingdom seems to result from two different political sensitivities, deeply rooted in local cultures. The goal of my paper is doublefold. It attempts to present the emergence of two distinct incommensurable conceptualisations of a social problem and in the same time it tries to answer how to discuss them in a democratic framework.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 04/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: In the history of genetics Arend Hagedoorn (1885-1953) is mainly known for the 'Hagedoorn effect', which states that part of the changes in variability that populations undergo over time are due to chance effects. Leaving this contribution aside, Hagedoorn's work has received scarcely any attention from historians. This is mainly due to the fact that Hagedoorn was an expert in animal breeding, a field that historians have only recently begun to explore. His work provides an example of how a prominent geneticist envisaged animal breeding to be reformed by the new science of heredity. Hagedoorn, a pupil of Hugo de Vries, tried to integrate his insights as a Mendelian geneticist and an animal breeding expert in a unified view of heredity, eugenics and evolution. In this paper I aim to elucidate how these fields were connected in Hagedoorn's work.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 04/2014; 46C:55-64.
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    ABSTRACT: In the recent article, "Against the New Racial Naturalism", Adam Hochman (2013, p. 332) argues that new racial naturalists have been too hasty in their racial interpretation of genetic clustering results of human populations. While Hochman makes a number of good points, the purpose of this paper is to show that Hochman's attack on new racial naturalists is misguided due to his definition of 'racial naturalism'. Thus, I will show that Hochman's critique is merely a consequence of an unnatural interpretation of racial naturalism.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 03/2014; 46C:38-43.
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    ABSTRACT: In the early twentieth century, Wilhelm Johannsen proposed his pure line theory and the genotype/phenotype distinction, work that is prized as one of the most important founding contributions to genetics and Mendelian plant breeding. Most historians have already concluded that pure line theory did not change breeding practices directly. Instead, breeding became more orderly as a consequence of pure line theory, which structured breeding programmes and eliminated external heritable influences. This incremental change then explains how and why the large multi-national seed companies that we know today were created; pure lines invited standardisation and economies of scale that the latter were designed to exploit. Rather than focus on breeding practice, this paper examines the plant varietal market itself. It focusses upon work conducted by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) during the interwar years, and in doing so demonstrates that, on the contrary, the pure line was actually only partially accepted by the industry. Moreover, claims that contradicted the logic of the pure line were not merely tolerated by the agricultural geneticists affiliated with NIAB, but were acknowledged and legitimised by them. The history of how and why the plant breeding industry was transformed remains to be written.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 03/2014; 46C:25-37.
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    ABSTRACT: The co-discoverer of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, found himself deeply embroiled in a range of controversies surrounding the relationship between science and spiritualism. At the heart of these controversies lay a crisis of evidence in cases of delusion or imposture. He had the chance to observe the many epistemic impasses brought about by this crisis while participating in the trial of the American medium Henry Slade, and through his exchanges with the physiologist William Benjamin Carpenter and the psychical researcher Frederic Myers. These contexts help to explain the increasing value that Wallace placed on the evidence of spirit photography. He hoped that it could simultaneously break these impasses, while answering once and for all the interconnected questions of the unity of the psyche and the reliability of human observation.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 03/2014; 46C:15-24.
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    ABSTRACT: This paper explores the close links in medical understandings of miscarriage and abortion in the first half of the twentieth century in Britain. In the absence of a clear legal framework for abortion, and the secrecy surrounding the practice, medical literature suggests contradictory and confused views about women presenting with clinical signs of pregnancy loss. On one hand, there was a lack of clarity as to whether pregnancy loss was natural or induced, with a clear tendency to assume that symptoms of miscarriage were the result of criminal interference gone wrong. On the other hand, women who did not present for treatment when miscarriage was underway were accused of neglecting their unborn children. The paper suggests that discourses around pregnancy loss were class-based, distrustful of female patients, and shaped by the wider context of fertility decline and concerns about infant mortality. The close historical connection between miscarriage and abortion offers some insight into why both the pro-life movement and miscarriage support advocates today draw on similar imagery and rhetoric about early fetal loss.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The concept of 'Fifth Business' is used to analyze a minority standpoint and bring serious attention to the role of scientists who play a galvanizing role in a science but for multiple reasons appear less prominently in more common recounts of any particular development. Biochemist Ray Wu (1928-2008) published a DNA sequencing experiment in March 1970 using DNA polymerase catalysis and specific nucleotide labeling, both of which are foundational to general sequencing methods today. The scant mention of Wu's work from textbooks, research articles, and other accounts of DNA sequencing calls into question how scientific collective memory forms. This alternative history seeks to understand why a key figure in nucleic acid sequence analysis has remained less visibly connected or peripheral to solidifying narratives about the history of DNA sequencing. The study resists predictable dismissals of Wu's work in order to seriously examine the formation of his nucleic acid sequence analysis research program and how he shared his knowledge of sequencing during a period of rapid advancement in the field. An analysis of Wu's work on sequencing the cohesive ends of lambda bacteriophage in the 1960s and 1970s exemplifies how a variety of individuals and groups attempted to develop protocol for sequencing the order of nucleotide base pairs comprising DNA. This historical examination of the sociality of scientific research suggests a way to understand how Wu and others contributed to the very collective memory of DNA sequencing that Wu eventually tried to repair. The study of Wu, who was a Chinese immigrant to the United States, provides a foundation for further critical scholarship on the heterogeneous histories of Asian American bioscientists, the sociality of their scientific works, and how the resulting knowledge produced is preserved, if not evenly, in a scientific field's collective memory.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 02/2014; 46C:1-14.
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    ABSTRACT: Francesco Redi's seventeenth-century experiments on insect generation are regarded as a key contribution to the downfall of belief in spontaneous generation. Scholars praise Redi for his experiments demonstrating that meat does not generate insects, but condemn him for his claim elsewhere that trees can generate wasps and gallflies. He has been charged with rejecting spontaneous generation only to change his mind and accept it, and in the process, with failing (at least in some sense) as a rigorous experimental philosopher. In this paper I defend Redi from both of these charges. In doing so, I draw some broader lessons for our understanding of spontaneous generation. 'Spontaneous generation' does not refer to a single theory, but rather a landscape of possible views. I analyze Redi's theoretical commitments and situate them within this landscape, and argue that his error in the case of insects from plants is not as problematic as previous commentators have said it is. In his research on gall insects Redi was addressing a different question from that of his experiments on insect generation-the question was not "Can insects come from nonliving matter?," but rather, "Can insects come from living organisms which are not their parents (namely, trees)?" In the latter case, he gave an answer which we now know to be false, but this was not due to any failure in his rigor as an experimental philosopher.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 02/2014; 45C:34-42.
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    ABSTRACT: This article analyzes the impact of the resurgence of American creationism in the early 1980s on debates within post-synthesis evolutionary biology. During this period, many evolutionists criticized Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould for publicizing his revisions to traditional Darwinian theory and opening evolution to criticism by creationists. Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium was a significant source of contention in these disputes. Both he and his critics, including Richard Dawkins, claimed to be carrying the mantle of Darwinian evolution. By the end of the 1990s, the debate over which evolutionary thinkers were the rightful heirs to Darwin's evolutionary theory was also a conversation over whether Darwinism could be defended against creationists in the broader cultural context. Gould and others' claims to Darwin shaped the contours of a political, religious and scientific controversy.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Philosophers of science have examined The Theory of Island Biogeography by Robert MacArthur and E. O. Wilson (1967) mainly due to its important contribution to modeling in ecology, but they have not examined it as a representative case of ecological explanation. In this paper, I scrutinize the type of explanation used in this paradigmatic work of ecology. I describe the philosophy of science of MacArthur and Wilson and show that it is mechanistic. Based on this account and in light of contributions to the mechanistic conception of explanation due to Craver (2007), and Bechtel and Richardson (1993), I argue that MacArthur and Wilson use a mechanistic approach to explain the species-area relationship. In light of this examination, I formulate a normative account of mechanistic explanation in ecology. Furthermore, I argue that it offers a basis for methodological unification of ecology and solves a dispute on the nature of ecology. Lastly, I show that proposals for a new paradigm of biogeography appear to maintain the norms of mechanistic explanation implicit in The Theory of Island Biogeography.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 01/2014; 45C:22-33.
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    ABSTRACT: Prenatal diagnosis was developed in the 1970s, a result of a partly contingent coming together of three medical innovations-amniocentesis, the study of human chromosomes and obstetrical ultrasound-with a social innovation, the decriminalization of abortion. Initially this diagnostic approach was proposed only to women at high risk of fetal malformations. Later, however, the supervision of the fetus was extended to all pregnant women. The latter step was strongly favoured by professionals' aspiration to prevent the birth of children with Down syndrome, an inborn condition perceived as a source of suffering for families and a burden on public purse. Experts who promoted screening for 'Down risk' assumed that the majority of women who carry a Down fetus will decide to terminate the pregnancy, and will provide a private solution to a public health problem. The generalization of screening for Down risk increased in turn the frequency of diagnoses of other, confirmed or potential fetal pathologies, and of dilemmas linked with such diagnoses. Debates on such dilemmas are usually limited to professionals. The transformation of prenatal diagnosis into a routine medical technology was, to a great extent, an invisible revolution.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The Aschheim–Zondek reaction is generally regarded as the first reliable hormone test for pregnancy and as a major product of the ‘heroic age’ of reproductive endocrinology. Invented in Berlin in the late 1920s, by the mid 1930s a diagnostic laboratory in Edinburgh was performing thousands of tests every year for doctors around Britain. In her classic history of antenatal care, sociologist Ann Oakley claimed that the Aschheim–Zondek test launched a ‘modern era’ of obstetric knowledge, which asserted its superiority over that of pregnant women. This article reconsiders Oakley’s claim by examining how pregnancy testing worked in practice. It explains the British adoption of the test in terms less of the medicalisation of pregnancy than of clinicians’ increasing general reliance on laboratory services for differential diagnosis. Crucially, the Aschheim–Zondek reaction was a test not directly for the fetus, but for placental tissue. It was used, less as a yes-or-no test for ordinary pregnancy, than as a versatile diagnostic tool for the early detection of malignant tumours and hormonal deficiencies believed to cause miscarriage. This test was as much a product of oncology and the little-explored world of laboratory services as of reproductive medicine.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 01/2014;