This paper is concerned with the problem of giving a correct analysis of function statements as they are used in biology. Examples of such statements are (1) The function of the myelin sheath is to insulate the nerve fiber and (2) The function of chlorophyll is to enable photosynthesis to take place. After criticizing analyses of such statements developed by Braithwaite, Nagel and Hempel an analysis is presented by the author. Finally the question of whether function statements are explanations is (...) discussed briefly. (shrink)
Wesley Salmon has advanced a new model of explanations of particular facts which requires that the explanans contain laws. The laws used in explanations (according to this model) are of the form P(A· C1,B)=p1... P(A· Cn,B)=pn. A condition imposed by Salmon on these laws is that the reference classes, i.e. A· C1... A· Cn, be homogenous with reference to the property B. A reference class A is homogenous with reference to a property B if every property which determines a place (...) selection with reference to B within A is statistically irrelevant to B in A. It is argued here that the concept of homogeneity cannot in general be satisfied in scientific explanations and that even a weaker requirement, "epistemic homogeneity," may be too strong. (shrink)
In this paper the authors argue that ethical considerations are relevant for evaluating animal production systems and that in consequence agrologists should seriously consider the arguments of animal welfare supporters. Furthermore, the authors point out the ethical basis for some (though not all) of the conclusions proposed by supporters of animal welfare. In consequence it is necessary to determine the nature of animal welfare and methods of evaluating the welfare of animals and to recognize when production systems fail to satisfy (...) the needs of animals. (shrink)
The caliber of recent discourse regarding geneticallymodified organisms (GMOs) has suffered from a lack of consensuson terminology, from the scarcity of evidence upon which toassess risk to health and to the environment, and from valuedifferences between proponents and opponents of GMOs. Towardsaddressing these issues, we present the thesis that GM should bedefined as the forcible insertion of DNA into a host genome,irrespective of the source of the DNA, and exclusive ofconventional or mutation breeding.Some defenders of the commercial use of GMOs (...) have referred to thescientific work of GMO critics as ``junk science.'''' Such a claim isfalse and misleading, given that many papers critical of both theutility and safety of GMOs have been published in peer reviewedjournals by respected scientists. In contrast, there is a dearthof peer reviewed work to substantiate the frequently heardassertions of either safety or utility in GMOs. The polarity,which now characterizes much of the public discourse on GMOs,reflects not simply scientific disagreement, but alsodisagreement in underlying value assumptions. Value differencesstrongly affect the assessment of both benefit and harm fromGMOs. (shrink)
According to a rights view it is acceptable to kill animals if they are innocent threats or shields or are in a lifeboat situation. However, according to advocates of such a view, our practices of killing animals for food or scientific research may be morally unacceptable. In this paper we argue that, even if we grant the basic assumptions of a rights view, a good deal of killing of animals for food and scientific research continues to be morally acceptable.
Difficulties with the typological concept of species led biologists to reject the "typological" presupposition of an archetype which is manifest in each member of a species. The resulting concept of species, which is here called the phenotypic species concept, is considered as implying that biological species are not real. Modern population thinking has given rise to the concept of a species as a gene-pool. This modern concept is contrasted here with the phenotypic concept in light of some general criteria for (...) evaluating species concepts and is shown to be more satisfactory. Finally, it is held that to ask if a species is real is to ask whether the species grouping arrived at by applying the principles involved in the species concept corresponds with groups of organisms amongst which important biological relationships exist. It is argued that in this sense species, as defined by the gene-pool concept, are certainly real. (shrink)
In this paper an attempt is made to provide an analysis of the meaning of the term function and related terms as they are used by R. K. Merton in the first chapter of his book Social Theory and Social Structure. Several problems are suggested which must be solved if statements about functions are to be considered scientifically adequate. Secondly the term functionalism is defined and several of Merton's functionalist explanations of social phenomena are stated and criticized.
In a recent paper, the mathematician Harold Edwards claimed that Euler’s alleged proof, that Fermat’s last theorem is true for the case n = 3, is flawed. Fermat’s last theorem is the conjecture that there are no positive integers x, y, z, or n, such that n is greater than two and such that xn + yn = zn. In this paper we shall first briefly explain the specific flaw to which Edwards called attention. After that we briefly explain the (...) nature of mathematical proofs and with reference to such proofs explain the nature of gaps in proofs. Then we critically discuss an alternative view concerning the nature of proofs in mathematics and discuss the alternative view critically. Specifically we argue that advocates of this alternative view, which we call mathematical postulationism, have not provided a satisfactory account of the nature of gaps in proofs. The unsatisfactoriness of postulationist accounts of gaps in proofs is revealed through reflection concerning appropriate repairs to proofs with gaps. (shrink)
Some writers have suggested that it would be desirable to assess the state of the Earth''senvironments by making use of a concept of ecosystem health. We subject this suggestion toscrutiny first by calling attention to obscurities inthe notion of an ecosystem and then by callingattention to obscurities in and objections to someviews about ecosystem health. Finally, we note, thateven if ecosystem health can be adequately clarified, there are reasons for saying that whetherwe are morally obligated to protect the health ofsome (...) ecosystem depends on other circumstances. In many possible circumstances we would not beobligated to protect the health of a particularecosystem. (shrink)
A number of distinct definitions ofsustainable agriculture have been proposed. In this paper we criticize two such definitions, primarily for conflating sustainability with other objectives such as economic viability and ecological integrity. Finally, we propose and defend a definition which avoids our objections to the other definitions.
Mathematical objects, according to intuitionists, exist only in the mind of the mathematician. Such objects are, in reality, structures which are created by the mathematician. Creation of such structures is limited by the capability of the mind to generate sequences of objects. Knowledge of mathematical objects or structures is possible through the mind’s capability to survey or inspect the structures that it has created. The platonist, contrary to the intuitionist, maintains that mathematical objects have an existence which is not causally (...) dependent on the mind of the mathematician. Such objects, he believes, are not created through the mind’s activity. Both platonists and intuitionists agree that there are mathematical objects; they disagree with respect to the causal origin of such objects. (shrink)
Salmon farming is a rapidly expanding industry. In order for it to develop in an ethical manner, many ethical issues must be confronted. Among these are questions regarding the quality of life of salmon on farms. To develop reasonable answers to these questions considerable thought must be devoted to developing appropriate standards of care for salmon. If these questions are not addressed the results could be bad both for salmon and for salmon farmers.
If the principle of equal pay for work of equal value is valid, then the practice of paying workers in third-world countries at a lower rate than workers doing the same jobs in industrialized nations is unjust. Recently Henry Shue argued that the principle is not valid. In this paper I criticize Shue's arguments and offer additional arguments in support of his conclusion.