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

twitter 2015
     facebook 2015


WEDNESDAY, JULY 8  /  09:00 - 10:30  /  DS-M220
Individual papers
Experimentation and Documentations

Animal welfare is subjective welfare

Heather Browning (Australian National University, Australia)

Animal welfare science is primarily concerned with measuring the welfare of animals under different conditions, using behavioural and physiological indicators to map onto the state of welfare as experienced by the animal. This science therefore requires use of a meaningful welfare concept, describing what it is that we're trying to measure - what comprises the state of welfare itself. Most welfare scientists now accept a tripartite welfare concept, under which welfare consists in feeling good (subjective welfare), functioning well (physical welfare) and living naturally (teleological welfare). In this paper, I argue that subjective welfare is the primary state and is thus the only necessary component of a concept of animal welfare. I will also show how the other two proposed components (physical and teleological) can be collapsed onto subjective welfare. These conditions may then form an important part of the conditions required for the realisation of welfare, but do not themselves comprise the state of welfare.

“Because they tell such an amazing story”: Documentary filmmakers’ collaborative relationships with biologists

Eleanor Louson (York University, Canada)

David Kirby’s Lab Coats in Hollywood (2011) examined the understudied role of science consultants in blockbuster film production. Kirby argued that successful relationships between filmmakers and science consultants occur when scientists’ contributions are in service to the film’s story. I argue that this also applies within the context of wildlife and environmental documentary films; specifically, that filmmakers carefully manage their collaborative relationships with biologists and environmental scientists in order to enhance their films’ storytelling. When successful, the cooperative relationships between biologists and wildlife documentarians result in mutual benefits, including better footage of animal behaviour for filmmakers and greater research publicity for biologists. The filmmaker-science consultant relationship faces tension if scientists’ commitment to accuracy undermines filmmakers’ effective storytelling. My research into the representation of animal behaviour in wildlife films includes qualitative interviews with Canadian documentary filmmakers, investigating their attitudes and experiences surrounding their complex relationships with biologists. My results suggest that documentary filmmakers involve biologists in 3 main roles: as authoritative sources of information about animal behaviour, as providers of access to wild animals and field sites, and as on-screen experts. Each role offers specific challenges to the filmmaker-biologist relationship. Filmmakers rely on biologists’ published work and informal advice to contextualize the animal behaviour they capture on film, but their footage is not necessarily consistent with biologists’ accounts. They are required to be sensitive to the biologists’ highly constrained time in the field, as well as their unfamiliarity with presenting research to non-expert publics on camera, where a commitment to in-depth scientific accuracy or technical jargon may be inappropriate. Filmmakers emphasized that to be useful, a scientist’s contribution must enhance the film’s story. However, each understood that collaborating with consulting biologists offered enormous benefits, emphasizing the positive impact of biologists’ research for their films’ narrative.

The irreducibility of Piaget

John Collier (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)

The concept of instinct was used extensively by ethologists like Lorenz, Tinbergen and Audrey, but it fell into disfavour with the rise of scientific behaviorism. On the behaviorist account animals have certain behaviors that can be conditioned, and all behavior can be understood in terms of the relation between inputs (stimuli) and outputs (responses) under the control of reward and punishment. However, more recently, instinct has come back into favour, especially with anti-behaviorist work on language, like Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct, which develops Chomsky’s idea that language capacity cannot be reduced to behaviorist terms. Jean Piaget did much of his early work using a variant of the behaviorist model in which he postulated “circular reactions” that could be martialled and combined to produce more complex behaviours. By the late 1960s, however, he had decided that reflex arcs were not enough to explain behavior and learning, so he introduced instincts into his theory (Biology and Knowledge). These instincts are characterized by allowing patterns to be recognized and responded to that cannot be described solely in terms of inputs and outputs and their relations. I will explain Piaget’s view of instincts and then use ideas from complexity theory and especially the theory of emergent properties to explain how this might be possible. This approach leads to the possibility that organisms can respond to novel inputs that they are neither preconditioned nor innately structured for. I will then briefly explain how this idea can enhance Piaget’s biological theories of the origins of intelligence. I will briefly mention the application to evolutionary moral realism.