International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

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MONDAY, JULY 6  /  11:00 - 12:30  /  DS-1520
Organized session / diverse format
Natural Experiments

Carlos Mariscal (Dalhousie University, Canada); S. Andrew Inkpen (Harvard University, United States)


Carlos Mariscal (Dalhousie University, Canada)
S. Andrew Inkpen (Harvard University, United States)
Yoel Stuart (University of Texas, Austin, United States)
Adrian Currie (University of Calgary, Canada)

For understandable reasons, the laboratory experiment—in particular the replicated laboratory experiment in which the investigator intervenes and manipulates variables—has become a hallmark of the modern scientific method. It has been a powerful tool of inquiry for many modern sciences and is directly responsible for many important discoveries and technologies. But in other sciences, such as evolutionary biology and ecology, manipulative experiments are often impossible, impractical, would be ethically questionable to perform, or are simply misleading with regard to the questions being asked. In these sciences, many investigators have drawn attention to the importance of so-called “natural” experiments, in which scientists position themselves to observe the outcome of processes like economic meltdowns, hurricanes, or mass extinctions. This session will explore natural experiments from a variety of historical, conceptual, and empirical approaches. The speakers are two philosophers, a historian, and a biologist.