Rugged Individualism in the Cretaceous: What George Simpson’s Fiction Reveals about His Philosophy of Evolution
Extinct
by Kelle Dhein
1w ago
* Kelle Dhein is an Omidyar Complexity Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. He works on the history and philosophy of behavioral experiments, Indigenous bioethics, and the influence of cybernetics and other “information age” movements on the epistemology of behavior. He writes… Nearing the end of a prominent career, it’s customary for scientists to look back, take stock, and offer some reflections on what they accomplished, who they became, and how their field changed. This tradition has been a boon to historians of science. But the history of science would be richer still if scientists adopted ..read more
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The Importance of Background Theory, or Why James Hall Left Mountains out of his Theory of Mountain Building
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by Max Dresow
3w ago
* This is the latest installment of “Problematica.” It is written by Max Dresow… As far as I know there’s no word in English for an event that’s missing its most important participant. Instead, we make do with an idiomatic expression. It dates from 1775, when the lead actor of a traveling theater group absconded with a young lady on the eve of a performance. The incident evidently happened in the summer, but the earliest surviving account comes from The Caledonian Mercury of September 27, 1775. It describes the previous night’s events at the Covent Garden Theatre, in which an actor, Lee Lewis ..read more
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Dinosaur Time
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by Max Dresow
1M ago
* Max Dresow writes… In 1966, Hammer Films released the adventure-fantasy picture One Million Years B.C. You may remember it as the one with Raquel Welch in a fur bikini, but at the time it was also notable for its representation of dinosaurs. With stop-motion ace Ray Harryhausen in charge, the film delivered several iconic sequences, including a nearly four-minute brawl between a Ceratosaurus and a Triceratops. Audiences responded, and in spite of the meddling of American censors, the film turned a profit. Three more films followed in the “Cave Girl” series, with (it has to be said) diminish ..read more
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Equilibrium, Disrupted
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by Max Dresow
2M ago
* Well, well. That took longer than anticipated. But anyway, here is the third part of my three-part essay on Stephen Jay Gould and punctuated equilibria (PE). To read Part 1 and Part 2, follow the links. “Problematica” is written by Max Dresow… For fans of intellectual history, few phenomena hold more fascination than the proverbial about-face. Think of Sydney Hook, the prominent Marxist philosopher who became one of America’s most zealous (and, frankly, ridiculous) anti-communists. Or St. George Mivart, Darwin’s critic and a Roman Catholic, who ended his life pouring venom on the throne of ..read more
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From the archive: "How to change your life using punctuated equilibria"/"Paradox of stasis"
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by Max Dresow
2M ago
* Back in June, I posted the first two parts of a three-part essay on Stephen Jay Gould and “punctuated equilibria” (PE). The idea was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of PE and the 20th anniversary of Gould’s death, both of which took place in 2022. You can find the original posts here and here. (And here is Part 3.) Well, I’ve finally written the third part, which I’ll put up later this week. Before I do this, I thought I would share the first two parts again, this time in a single post. As always, “Problematica” is written by Max Dresow… PART 1: “How to change your life using punctuate ..read more
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A History of Resurrection Biology, Part Two: Righting Past Wrongs?
Extinct
by Risa Schnebly
3M ago
* This is Part 2 of a two-part essay written by Risa Aria Schnebly. Risa is a PhD candidate at Arizona State University interested in (de-)extinction and conservation. Read Part 1 of this essay here… Breeding Back the Zebra Without Stripes As a young boy, the prospect of seeing an extinct creature must have been world-bending. Especially if that extinct creature was the fierce and giant aurochs, the stuff of Teutonic myths and Cesarean legends. Perhaps that’s how Reinhold Rau felt as a school boy in the 1930s, when he saw one of Lutz Heck’s back-bred aurochs at the Berlin Zoo (see Part 1 for ..read more
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A History of Resurrection Biology, Part One: Extinction, Redemption, and Nazi Cattle
Extinct
by Risa Schnebly
3M ago
* Risa Aria Schnebly (she/they) is a PhD candidate at Arizona State University. They work at the intersection of environmental history, the social sciences, and the environmental humanities to study the history of (de-)extinction and to test whether the idea of “reversing” extinction affects people’s attitudes about conservation. They are also interested in what conservation narratives and strategies make young people feel hopeful about environmental futures— whether these are stories of conservationists working on the ground or scientists “resurrecting” woolly mammoths… [This is Part 1 of a ..read more
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The First Philosopher of Paleontology— er, "Palaetiology"
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by Max Dresow
4M ago
* This is the latest installment of “Problematica.” It is written by Max Dresow… Extinct styles itself the “philosophy of palaeontology blog.” But I have a confession to make. I don’t care for the phrase “philosophy of paleontology” (with or without the second “a”). Sure, there are philosophical issues in paleontology, some of them deep. But how many are distinctively paleontological issues? I’m happy to grant that there’s a philosophy of the historical sciences worthy of the name— but philosophy of paleontology, specifically? I’m not sure. Perhaps the first person to be called a philosopher ..read more
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Science in a fishbowl? The case of glass-walled fossil preparation labs in museums
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by Caitlin Wylie
4M ago
* Caitlin D. Wylie is an associate professor at the University of Virginia, where she holds appointments in the School of Data Science and School of Engineering and Applied Science. She is also a long-time friend of the blog, having contributed a guest essay wayyy back in 2016. Her recent book, Preparing Dinosaurs: The Work Behind the Scenes, is available open access through MIT Direct. Her topic today (also covered in the book) is glass-walled museum laboratories… An adult and a child peer out from the shadowy gloom of a dinosaur exhibit hall and glance up at a brightly-lit glass-walled room ..read more
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The Weird Early History of Paleontology: Robert Plot and Scrotum humanum
Extinct
by Extinct Blog
5M ago
* Jan Forsman is an adjunct assistant professor and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Iowa. His research is on early modern women philosophers and skepticism, but he also writes about paleontology… Although paleontology studies all kinds of extinct creatures, most people only tune in for dinosaurs. New mass and size records, evidence of parental care, and novel interpretations of iconic beasts like Tyrannosaurus rex are especially titillating to the general public. The possible return of Brontosaurus to scientific legitimacy was likewise a news item several years back.[1] Even ..read more
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