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"Objectivity and the reconstruction of life’s past" Edna Suárez-Díaz (The National Autonomous University of Mexico)

Egenis seminar series

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date10 January 2018
Time15:30 to 17:00
PlaceByrne House

Egenis seminar series. Since the 1960s, the field of molecular systematics has been transformed by the mathematization and automation of criteria and decision-making. Its goal is the objective reconstruction of phylogenetic relations among biological species, also formulated as the elimination of subjectivity (E. Suárez-Díaz y Anaya-Muñoz 2008; Suárez y Anaya 2009). The molecularization of evolutionary biology, and the introduction of huge data-bases containing sequences of DNA and proteins, along with an increased use of computers and mathematical algorithms made this process possible. In this seminar, I will briefly describe the historical context for this “methodological anxiety”, and describe some of the statistical tools devised to solve the several problems arising in the reconstruction of life’s past. In a recent paper written with Victor Anaya we also argue that attention to the philosophical disputes between the taxonomic schools of cladism, evolutionary systematics, and phenetics has acted as an obstacle for a narrative focused on practices, and a historical and epistemological reflection on objectivity as practiced in a localized scientific field.

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