My project is challenging the main case for species pluralism, and arguing that this should motivate us to revise some fundamental beliefs about scientific categories and taxonomies. Bayesian epistemology and the Sally Clark double murder case : How can theoretical and applied philosophy inform each other? To elaborate interesting ways in which the two are reinforcing, this work joined debate about applying Bayesian epistemology to the famous legal case of Sally Clark.
But when she had another baby and it also died, Clark was charged with double murder. In the now famous ensuing court case, a statistician testified that the probability of double SIDS was astronomically low. Others have disagreed and claimed that the chance of double murder was even lower.
By drawing on theoretical Bayesianism, my work reached the applied conclusion that both sides are mistaken — the two probabilities are roughly equal, and the relevance of post-partum psychosis in this case has been overlooked. The work also reached a more theoretical conclusion — it generated a new general principle for how to infer prior probabilities from frequency data in a wide variety of cases. Canadian eugenics and its science and values : Unknown to many people, obvious and disturbing forms of eugenics were enshrined in provincial legislation and practiced repeatedly in Canada until very recently.
What roles did science play in this? What roles did human values play? What can this teach us about how science and values should interact, and how they sometimes must? Explanation and the natures of things : Are there some biological phenomena that could never be adequately explained by chemistry and physics — that can only be explained within biology itself?
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Can different biological explanations for the same phenomenon sometimes both be adequate? What is more fundamental to the living world, the biological individuals in it or instead the processes in which they participate? Evolution and conventionalism : What counts as an evolving group, such as a population or species or clade? Can facts alone always determine the answer to this question, or do some of our human conventions and values play a necessary role in determining what counts as an evolving group?
We argue for the necessity of conventions, based on reasons particular to evolutionary theory rather than based on more sweeping forms of conventionalism. With Joel D. Conservation biology and its values : How do presuppositions about what is valuable operate tacitly within conservation biology, and can we further improve the already impressive work in conservation biology by bringing these presuppositions about value out into the open?
Drawing on the growing literature on science and values, we will conduct a meta-analysis that helps answer these questions. With Dylan Fraser. I plan to show he was not, that his views about the nature of matter and explanation were more nuanced than has been appreciated, and that we have much to learn from this today. Race, realism, and Bayesian genetics : Should we believe that data analysis using the Bayesian computer program STRUCTURE provides evidence that human races are biologically real, as many authors have recently claimed when criticizing decades of anti-realism about race?
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I plan to show that such analysis has yet to provide the claimed evidence, and clarify more generally what type of race realisms we could get evidence about. History of species : Were taxonomists prior to Darwin as mistaken in their views of species and other taxa as many traditional historians have long claimed, or were their views much closer to our contemporary ones, as some history revisionists have recently argued? Concepts and methods for studying prosocial development : How do children develop prosocial behaviors, like tending to help and share?
Before answering such questions, what concepts of prosocial behavior should we start with and how does this starting point inform the methods and measures we should use? We plan to answer these questions in our search team consisting of philosophers, developmental psychologists and neuroscientists. Facebook Twitter LinkedIn. Department Chair, August - July Barker concordia. Education Ph. Samples of published work For a more complete list, see my cv on academia. Current research projects: 1. Recently completed projects: 1. Planned future projects: 1. Back to top. We all remain dependent on others — in respect of our means of subsistence, language, emotional well-being and basic social trust.
Once we remember that we begin life as babies and infants, dependency emerges as more basic than independence — independence takes place against a background of dependence, not vice versa. Because of our initial dependency, our early relationships with our caregivers have huge formative effects on us.
They form our selves: our patterns of emotional reaction, dispositions, habits and traits — and the personalities into which they are organised. None of this is set in stone — we can, of course, be deeply affected and reformed by subsequent relationships. But we are open to new relationships in ways shaped by the previous ones. When we consider birth, then, we see that relationships with others make us the individuals we are — our individual selfhood arises within a background of relationships.
At birth, each individual comes into a unique situation in the world, made up of a unique combination of historical, social, ethnic, geographical, familial, and generational circumstances. Our natal situations are given to us, not chosen — and as soon as we are born we begin to imbibe the culture around us. So, first and foremost, we are inheritors and receivers of culture and history.
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We may develop capacities to question, criticise and change what we have received, but this happens on the prior basis of reception. Why have I been leading the particular life I have, since birth? But perhaps my being born me is a fact that cannot be explained, only accepted. We can explain, at least to a point, why the particular body that I happen to be born with was conceived my parents met, a particular sperm fertilised a particular egg on a given occasion — and the rest.
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But that does not explain why this body is the one whose life I happen to be leading and experiencing directly, from the inside. This is just a fact, and because it is inexplicable, a dimension of mystery pervades my existence.
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That mystery can generate anxiety — one of several forms of birth anxiety. Philosophers Heidegger , for example have said much about anxiety about death, but being born also presents anxieties and existential difficulties. It can seem perplexing that I ever arrived in existence having not previously been there. This amnesia is a consequence of the staged development of our memory and cognitive systems during childhood.
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As we rise to more advanced forms of memory, we lose access to earlier memories laid down in less advanced forms. In turn, our staged cognitive development is a consequence of birth: we are born very immature and unformed but develop, eventually, to reach high levels of cognitive sophistication. Yet the early years that we forget are the most formative for us.
We therefore end up with much of our own emotional lives and reactions as mysteries to us. Why do we fall in and out of love with the people we do?