This past weekend, November 4-7, Montreal was host to the annual meetings of the History of Science Society (HSS) and the Philosophy of Science Association (PSA). Many of us at The Bubble Chamber attended and presented our own work. Over the next couple of weeks we plan to offer reports and reflections on some of the sessions we attended. Starting things off, here is a report from a session on a topic that should be of particular interest to Bubble Chamber readers: “The Philosophy of Commercialized Science”. I’m not going to offer any commentary right now, but I think there’s still a lot of interesting information here!
Sergio Sismondo – Corporate Interests and Medical Science
Sergio Sismondo started off the session by telling us about the practice of ghost writing pharmaceutical studies. Most of us have probably heard that pharmaceutical companies often perform their own internal studies and pass off those studies to academics for “editing”, leading to the appearance that the study was independently conducted. Most of us have probably also heard that there is a huge bias in the published literature towards research findings favorable to pharmaceutical companies, and that that bias disappears when not counting studies sponsored by those companies. However, the details Sismondo presented were fascinating.…
I was driving to the train station last week, and because of Daylight Savings Time (thanks so much for that, George Vernon Hudson) I’ve been doing so in the dark for the past few weeks. As I drove down one street, something struck me as being terribly wrong. It took me a moment to realize what it was: a lack of streetlights. For some reason, this one street was dark, and it really creeped me out.
The fact that I have become so reliant on artificial light; that its absence strikes me so forcefully, makes me all too typical an example of our modern age. In Brilliant, Jane Brox tries to unpick exactly how I (and everyone else) came to this point. While I found the book unsatisfactory as a history of science, it had several sections that were first-rate cultural history.…
Distinguished philosopher of science Helen Longino says, “It is tempting to think that scientific knowledge is like ordinary knowledge except better”. Scientists are not the only ones who purport to make knowledge claims about the world. Courtrooms, police detectives, historians, investigative reporters, and many more make such claims too. Is scientific knowledge any different from other forms of knowledge? Is it in some sense better? If so, by virtue of what? Is it, perhaps, worse? Science is increasingly complex, demanding the cooperation of more people with varying expertise, and becoming more susceptible to the influence of commercial interests. Does this make it less reliable than other forms of knowledge? Have your say.
Next time you’re sitting down to watch CSI, CSI:NY, Bones, Navy:NCIS or any of the other dozen or so television shows that strongly feature forensic science, spare a thought for where the science began. When did police forces first start using science in a serious way to catch the bad guys?
That’s the question addressed by Deborah Blum in her delightful new book. Despite the subject matter (a series of grisly murders and accidental poisonings) Blum manages to write a book that is eminently readable, even for the non-ghoulish. Rather than dealing with the entire history of forensic science, she wisely chooses to present a micro-history, looking at the rise of forensic chemistry in New York of the Jazz Age and Great Depression.…