Archive for October, 2015

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“The Prodigal Genetics Returns” (10/30/2015)

October 28, 2015

Aaron Novick

Abstract: A key conceptual advance of the modern synthesis was the distinguishing of three types of genetics: transmission genetics, population genetics, and developmental genetics. While transmission and population genetics were reasonably advanced by the late 1930s when the synthesis began, developmental genetics was in its infancy and made no important contributions to the synthetic theory of evolution. Today it has come into its own. What are the implications its discoveries have for evolutionary theory? My goal here is to show how the discoveries of recent developmental genetics have re-opened issues long thought closed, issues that were indeed smuggled into oblivion by the very division of genetics into three types in the early 20th century. I will not yet reach an answer to what the implications are for evolutionary theory; I hope merely (for now) to convince you that this question is deeper and trickier than is often thought.

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“Mathematical structure and the meaning of ‘quantum field” (10/23/15)

October 21, 2015

Mike Miller

Abstract: Standard approaches to the interpretation of physical theories require a structurally unambiguous characterization of the models of a theory. In this talk I argue that the nature of the empirical support for one of our best empirically confirmed theories does not warrant commitment to one particular type of structure as constitutive of the theory. Rather, empirically adequate models rely on a syntax that is compatible with a precisely delimited, but heterogeneous, class of structures. I develop an approach to semantics for physical theories that accommodates this type of constrained structural ambiguity. This approach allows for an understanding of how physical meaning attaches to empirically adequate models of quantum field theory, a desideratum which has not been achieved by standard approaches to semantics for physical theories. Moreover, the approach leads to novel criteria for determining when there is good reason to conclude that elements of the mathematical formalism for a theory have correlates in the physical world.