3 research outputs found

    Philosophical perspectives on time in biology

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    Although time is a central topic in philosophy, within the philosophy of science discussions of time in biology have largely been neglected. This dissertation argues for the philosophical importance of paying closer attention to the vastly different timescales at which biological phenomenon can be investigated and explained. The importance of timescales for four themes in philosophy of biology is examined: abstractions and manipulations of time in biological practice, metaphysical debates between the mechanistic and process ontology frameworks, the problem of synchronizing molecular clocks and fossil clocks, and reductionism in biology. This dissertation provides the first sustained philosophical examination of the role of time in biology. The first chapter explores how researchers manage the complexities of multiple timescales by abstracting from time physically, procedurally, mathematically, and conceptually. Understanding how researchers abstract from time in their investigations is important for determining what phenomena might be obscured by such practices. Chapter two turns to the debate in philosophy of biology between traditional mechanistic accounts and the new process ontology. While process ontology is an advance, insofar as it has the potential to bring temporal issues to the fore, it is better understood as an epistemological—not metaphysical—framework. A careful consideration of timescales highlights how different metaphysical frameworks can be more epistemologically appropriate in different contexts. The third chapter examines how molecular and fossil clocks are used to measure time in biology. In both cases, researchers use phenomena occurring at one timescale (e.g. DNA mutations) to measure durations across another scale (e.g., the evolutionary occurrence of a last common ancestor). Attempts to synchronize these clocks for key biological events in the deep past pose interesting methodological problems—and suggest new solutions—for how to deal with discordant and interdependent lines of evidence. The final chapter considers the consequences of this analysis of time in biology for debates about reductionism. Reductionism has focused almost exclusively on spatial scales. This chapter shows how a consideration of temporal scales transforms philosophical debates about reductionism in biology and poses new challenges. This dissertation demonstrates the fertility of extending the philosophy of time into the philosophy of biology

    Secret Spending in the States

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    Six years after Citizens United enabled unfettered spending in our elections, the use of so-called dark money has become disturbingly common. Contrary to the Supreme Court's assumption that this unlimited spending would be transparent to voters, at the federal level powerful groups have since 2010 poured hundreds of millions of dollars into influencing elections while obscuring the sources of their funding. But it is at the state and local levels that secret spending is arguably at its most damaging. For a clear understanding of the degree to which dark money is warping American democracy, state ballot referenda and local school board contests may be a better starting point than the presidential campaign or even congressional races. As Chris Herstam, a former Republican majority whip in the Arizona House of Representatives and now lobbyist, put it, "In my 33 years in Arizona politics and government, dark money is the most corrupting influence I have seen."This report documents how far outside spending -- election spending that is not coordinated with candidates -- at the state and local levels has veered from the vision of democratic transparency the Citizens United Court imagined, drawing on an extensive database of news accounts, interviews with a range of stakeholders, campaign finance and tax records, court cases, and social science research. For the first time, it also measures changes in dark money – and a thus far unrecognized rise in what we term "gray money" – at the state level, by analyzing spender and contributor reports in six of nine states where sufficient usable data were available. This set of six geographically and demographically diverse states, comprising Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts, represents approximately 20 percent of the nation's population.