[SydPhil] Public lecture by Prof. James Griesemer (UC Davis)

Paul Griffiths paul.griffiths at sydney.edu.au
Sat Sep 22 10:28:09 AEST 2012

Public lecture by Prof. James Griesemer (UC Davis)

What salamander biologists have taught us about evolutionary developmental biology

Eastern Avenue Lecture Theatre

Opening Keynote Address of the workshop History and Philosophy of Science in Australia: Looking Forward,<http://sydney.edu.au/foundations_of_science/events/natcomm_hps_workshop.shtml> sponsored by the Australian Academy of Science via its National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), with support from the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science (SCFS)

The 30th anniversary of the 1981 Berlin-Dahlem conference on Evolution and Development presents an opportunity to assess the role of various kinds of approaches to problems, practices, and principles of interdisciplinary research as they contributed to patterns of conceptual change in different biological specialties over the second half of the 20th century. Historical and philosophical studies of David Wake's 50-year investigation of the salamanders (Order Caudata) illuminate a sustained effort to demonstrate the continuing value of taxon-centered research as distinct from model organism research. Wake is an evolutionary morphologist involved in the emergence of Evo-devo and co-organizer of the 1981 Dahlem conference. He developed a distinctive practice of extrapolating "lessons" as well as results from his taxon-focused research. Some of Wake's contributions to the emergence and conceptual development of Evo-devo are characterized in terms of lessons learned from his use of the salamanders as a "model taxon." Model taxa are intended to be monophyletic clades in which the whole clade constitutes the model, in contrast to model or experimental organisms, which are species used as models. The case study contributes to a broader argument that taxon-focused "natural history" did not stand still during the 20th century, nor was it superceded by experimental biology. It also suggests that studies of the organization of research and the local implementation of research institutions in "research systems" are needed alongside studies of concepts, theories and practices, if we are to give a full accounting of epistemologies of science in action.

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