Aworkshop was held August 26–28, 2015, by the Earth- Life Science Institute (ELSI) Origins Network (EON, see Appendix I) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. This meeting gathered a diverse group of around 40 scholars researching the origins of life (OoL) from various perspectives with the intent to find common ground, identify key questions and investigations for progress, and guide EON by suggesting a roadmap of activities. Specific challenges that the attendees were encouraged to address included the following: What key (...) questions, ideas, and investigations should the OoL research community address in the near and long term? How can this community better organize itself and prioritize its efforts? What roles can particular subfields play, and what can ELSI and EON do to facilitate research progress? (See also Appendix II.) The present document is a product of that workshop; a white paper that serves as a record of the discussion that took place and a guide and stimulus to the solution of the most urgent and important issues in the study of the OoL. This paper is not intended to be comprehensive or a balanced representation of the opinions of the entire OoL research community. It is intended to present a number of important position statements that contain many aspirational goals and suggestions as to how progress can be made in understanding the OoL. The key role played in the field by current societies and recurring meetings over the past many decades is fully acknowledged, including the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL) and its official journal Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres, as well as the International Society for Artificial Life (ISAL). (shrink)
Twenty-two years after Charles Darwin began to think of character divergence from a common ancestor in his Notebook B, the now famous and iconic branching diagram appeared in the fourth chapter of On the Origin of Species.
We explore the distinctive characteristics of Mexico's society, politics and history that impacted the establishment of genetics in Mexico, as a new disciplinary field that began in the early 20th century and was consolidated and institutionalized in the second half. We identify about three stages in the institutionalization of genetics in Mexico. The first stage can be characterized by Edmundo Taboada, who was the leader of a research program initiated during the Cárdenas government (1934-1940), which was primarily directed towards improving (...) the condition of small Mexican farmers. Taboada is the first Mexican post-graduate investigator in phytotechnology and phytopathology, trained at Cornell University and the University of Minnesota, in 1932 and 1933, respectively. He was the first investigator to teach plant genetics at the National School of Agriculture and wrote the first textbook of general genetics, Genetics Notes, in 1938. Taboada's most important single genetics contribution was the production of "stabilized" corn varieties. The extensive exile of Spanish intellectuals to Mexico, after the end of Spain's Civil War (1936-1939), had a major influence in Mexican science and characterizes the second stage. The three main personalities contributing to Mexican genetics are Federico Bonet de Marco and Bibiano Fernández Osorio Tafall, at the National School of Biological Sciences, and José Luis de la Loma y Oteyza, at the Chapingo Agriculture School. The main contribution of the Spanish exiles to the introduction of genetics in Mexico concerned teaching. They introduced in several universities genetics as a distinctive discipline within the biology curriculum and wrote genetics text books and manuals. The third stage is identified with Alfonso León de Garay, who founded the Genetics and Radiobiology Program in 1960 within the National Commission of Nuclear Energy, which had been founded in 1956. The Genetics and Radiobiology Program rapidly became a disciplinary program, for it embraced research, teaching, and training of academics and technicians. The Mexican Genetics Society, created by de Garay in 1966, and the development of strains and cultures for genetics research were important activities. One of de Garay's key requirements was the compulsory training of the Program's scientists for at least one or two years in the best universities of the United States and Europe. De Garay's role in the development of Mexican genetics was fundamental. His broad vision encompassed the practice of genetics in all its manifestations. (shrink)
The aim of this work is to evaluate the role played by Alfonso Luis Herrera and Isaac Ochoterena in the institutionalization of academic biology in Mexico in the early 20th century. As biology became institutionalized in Mexico, Herrera's basic approach to biology was displaced by Isaac Ochoterena's professional goals due to the prevailing political conditions at the end of 1929. The conflict arose from two different conceptions of biology, because Herrera and Ochoterena had different discourses that were incommensurable, not only (...) linguistically speaking, but also socioprofessionally. They had different links to influential groups related to education, having distinct political and socioprofessional interests. The conflict between Herrrera and Ochoterena determined the way in which professional biology education has developed in Mexico, as well as the advancement in specific research subjects and the neglect of others. (shrink)
The history of science within the Ibero-American context has not received significant attention from historians of science. In the case of historical studies of science in Spain and Latin America, research has primarily been carried out under the umbrella of “centers and peripheries,” indicating that despite their historiographical and epistemological importance, narratives on science within certain national contexts have analytical limitations. Recent research has indicated a need to reconstruct transnational stories that account for how knowledge produced in developing countries forms (...) part of the circulation of international knowledge via international networks of collaboration. This perspective enables the... (shrink)
This paper will address the collaborative networks and the gendered organization of the scientific work at the first Unit on Human Genetics of the Mexican Institute for Social Security. There, women and men had different tasks, duties and authority according to their gender and individual and professional skills. I will focus on physician Susana Kofman, who specialized in cytogenetics with Jérôme Lejeune and Jean de Grouchy in France, and physician Leonor Buentello, who graduated in virus genetics in Germany. This narrative (...) intends to return them to the forefront of the history of cytogenetics and to illustrate the contribution of women to scientific developments when research on human genetics was becoming a medical domain for diagnosis at an international level. (shrink)
This article seeks to show how several rhetorical tools were used and, in fact, played a central role in the argumentation advanced by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould in their 1972 seminal article on the theory of Punctuated Equilibria. It is analyzed how Eldredge and Gould proceeded through three steps that, sequentially integrated, made their argument compelling. It is shown how they made use of analogies, metaphors and other rhetorical tools. It is sustained that they began by priming the (...) reader to distrust the current interpretation of the fossil record offered by most paleontologists and then, in a second step, they used specific visual representations in order to suggest that the competitor theory was committed to the idea of an even and slow evolution at a constant rate, an image utilized by them as straw man. Finally, it is analyzed how, in their third step, Eldredge and Gould made use of several rhetorical arguments to present their theory as new for paleontology while, at the same time, placing it well inside the frame of the modern synthesis, and how they also managed to present their theory as more promising and capable of making predictions for future researches than the competitor theory. (shrink)
In this review, we describe some of the central philosophical issues facing origins-of-life research and provide a targeted history of the developments that have led to the multidisciplinary field of origins-of-life studies. We outline these issues and developments to guide researchers and students from all fields. With respect to philosophy, we provide brief summaries of debates with respect to (1) definitions (or theories) of life, what life is and how research should be conducted in the absence of an accepted theory (...) of life, (2) the distinctions between synthetic, historical, and universal projects in origins-of-life studies, issues with strategies for inferring the origins of life, such as (3) the nature of the first living entities (the “bottom up” approach) and (4) how to infer the nature of the last universal common ancestor (the “top down” approach), and (5) the status of origins of life as a science. Each of these debates influences the others. Although there are clusters of researchers that agree on some answers to these issues, each of these debates is still open. With respect to history, we outline several independent paths that have led to some of the approaches now prevalent in origins-of-life studies. These include one path from early views of life through the scientific revolutions brought about by Linnaeus (von Linn.), Wöhler, Miller, and others. In this approach, new theories, tools, and evidence guide new thoughts about the nature of life and its origin.We also describe another family of paths motivated by a” circularity” approach to life, which is guided by such thinkers as Maturana & Varela, Gánti, Rosen, and others. These views echo ideas developed by Kant and Aristotle, though they do so using modern science in ways that produce exciting avenues of investigation. By exploring the history of these ideas, we can see how many of the issues that currently interest us have been guided by the contexts in which the ideas were developed. The disciplinary backgrounds of each of these scholars has influenced the questions they sought to answer, the experiments they envisioned, and the kinds of data they collected. We conclude by encouraging scientists and scholars in the humanities and social sciences to explore ways in which they can interact to provide a deeper understanding of the conceptual assumptions, structure, and history of origins-of-life research. This may be useful to help frame future research agendas and bring awareness to the multifaceted issues facing this challenging scientific question. (shrink)