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::: center home >> events >> annual lecture series >> lectures 2013-14

54th Annual Lecture Series, 2013-14

Absolute, True and Mathematical Time in Newton’s Principia
Katherine Brading
University of Notre Dame
Friday, 27 September 2013, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: At the beginning of the Principia, Newton introduces his discussion of time, space, place, and motion saying that “it is useful to distinguish these quantities into absolute and relative, true and apparent, mathematical and common.” What distinctions is Newton intending to draw by his use of this terminology, and why does he do so? Focusing on the case of time, I will argue that Newton is very deliberate in his use of this terminology. Each of the three contrasts is important to the project of the Principia, and can be understood within the context of that project and without appeal to Newton’s wider metaphysical and theological commitments. While Newton’s wider concerns are essential to his overall philosophy of time, I argue that narrowing our focus to the use of “absolute, true and mathematical” within the Principia itself makes evident that Newton is offering us there a new philosophy of time in which traditionally metaphysical questions become subject to empirical enquiry.

Crick Information
Paul Griffiths
University of Sydney, Dept. of Philosophy
Friday, 11 October 2013, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: Historians of molecular biology credit Francis Crick with having supplemented the existing idea ofstereochemical specificity, embodied in the three-dimensional structure of biomolecules and underlying the well-known lock-and-key model of interaction between biomolecules, with the idea of informational specificity, embodied in the linear structure of nucleic acids that determine the linear structure of a gene product (Morange 2000). This idea is present in Crick’s statements of the Sequence Hypothesis and the Central Dogma: "Information means here the precisedetermination of sequence, either of bases in the nucleic acid or of amino acid residues in the protein.” (1958, 153)

Surprisingly, later work on the concept of information in biology has rarely taken Crick’s own definition of information as a starting point. Griffiths and Stotz (2013) have suggested how this might be done and introduced the term ‘Crick information’. If a cause makes a specific difference (Woodward 2010) to the structure of a biomolecule, it contains Crick information for that molecule. This definition embodies the essential idea of Crick’s sequence hypothesis, but without necessarily limiting the location of information to nucleic acid sequences. Crick information can potentially be provided by other causal factors that affect the structure of gene products via the differential activation or selection of the coding potential of the genome, or by adding to that coding potential (e.g. by mRNA editing)

Crick information is not a general conception of information like as Shannon’s mutual information, because by definition it only applies to the order of elements in a biomolecule. But it has considerable generality as an account of biological information because genome expression constitutes a final common pathway for diverse causal influences on the development of phenotypes.

Crick, F. H. C. (1958). On Protein Synthesis. Symp. Soc. Exp. Biol., 12, 138-163.
Griffiths, P. E., & Stotz, K. (2013). Genetics and Philosophy: An introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Morange, M. (1998). A History of Molecular Biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Woodward, J. (2010). Causation in biology: stability, specificity, and the choice of levels of explanation. Biology and Philosophy, 25(3), 287-318.

Time’s Arrow and the Cosmos
Andreas Albrecht
University of California, Davis
Friday, 15 November 2013, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: The thermodynamic arrow of time appears to be deeply tied to very special (low entropy) initial conditions, a picture often discussed in terms of the "past hypothesis". Since Guth's famous 1981 paper on cosmic inflation, many cosmologists have been drawn to the idea that physical models of the universe can be constructed in which the conditions in the early universe are not special at all, but are actually "typical" in some sense. I will introduce and review these ideas and give my current assessment of these apparently contradictory perspectives on the early universe.

Peirce Opened
John Lyne
University of Pittsburgh, Dept. of Communication
Friday, 31 January 2014, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Triumphs of Normal Science:  Tales from 20th Century Chemistry
William Goodwin
University of South Florida
Friday, 14 February 2014, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: Though there have been many important insights and modifications, the basic approach of structural organic chemistry has been in place since about 1880. Furthermore, in spite of the notable lack of ‘revolutions’, there have been tremendous changes to, and progress within, organic chemistry over the years. In this talk I will consider several episodes that resulted in consistent extensions of the practice, allowing for the solution of a whole new range of problems formulated and evaluated in the still ongoing paradigm of structural organic chemistry. I will then use these triumphs of normal science as an opportunity to reflect on how Kuhnian machinery for thinking about normal science might be co-opted to flesh out his rather thin account of scientific progress.

Concepts and the Fragile Manifest
Alva Noe
University of California, Berkeley
Friday, 4 April 2014, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

The Annual Lecture Series is hosted by the Center for Philosophy of Science.

Generous financial support for this lecture series has been provided by
the Harvey & Leslie Wagner Endowment.      

Revised 1/15/14 - Copyright 2012