What's on: Course: Philosophy of Biological Systematics
A unique opportunity to acquire an understanding of the philosophical and scientific foundations necessary for systematics practice.
- Event Type:
- Special event
- 29 July 2013 to 2 August 2013
- Australian Museum, entry via William Street
- $250 ($210 for those also registering for the polychaete conference) including course notes in PDF and an end of course drinks function.
In association with the 11th International Polychaete Conference, we are please to be running a Philosophy of Biological Systematics course. Talks will be given every morning and afternoon. The course is widely applicable to all systematic biologists and not restricted to those registering for the Polychaete Conference.
About the course
Systematics courses routinely place most of their emphasis on the various methods available for systematics research, with little time spent addressing the philosophical and scientific foundations needed to critically evaluate either methods or procedures. The consequence is that a variety of contradictory approaches are available to systematists, but with little in the way of guidelines for how to make rational choices that are consistent with scientific practice.
This course offers a unique opportunity for participants to acquire an understanding of the philosophical and scientific foundations necessary for systematics practice, thus clear-cut guidelines for how to critically assess the worthiness of methods. This one-week course will cover the following topics:
1. The goal of science; the goal of biological systematics.
2. Causal relationships in systematics.
3. The nature of why-questions.
4. The three forms of reasoning: deduction, induction, abduction.
5. The uses of deduction, induction, and abduction in science.
6. Systematics involves abductive inference.
7. Inferences of systematics hypotheses, i.e. taxa.
8. Some implications for phylogenetic methods.
9. The requirement of total evidence.
10. Homology, homogeny & homoplasy.
11. Character coding.
12. The mechanics of hypothesis testing in biological systematics.
13. Implications for nomenclature.
14. Defining 'biodiversity' and 'conservation.'
PDF files with all course slides (~700) and associated notes, as well as the publications by Kirk Fitzhugh that form the basis for this course, will be made available to all participants.
About the course leader
Kirk Fitzhugh has been Curator of Polychaetes at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, USA, since 1990. He received his BS in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston in 1979, MS in Biology from Texas A&M University in 1983, and Ph.D. in Biology from George Washington University in 1988. He was Thorne Research Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History from 1988-90. Fitzhugh's research has largely focused on polychaete systematics, especially among members of the fan worm group, Sabellidae.
About 15 years ago, his interest shifted to the application of philosophy of science to biological systematics and evolutionary biology. The reason for this new direction was in response to the variety of systematics methods available, especially in relation to cladistics or phylogenetic inference, and the lack of any substantive criteria for deciding which methods to use. As a consequence, Fitzhugh's research into the philosophical foundations of systematics has strived to develop a framework for systematics that is as consistent as possible with the established requirements of scientific inquiry. His investigations have extended from the nature of our observations, the type of reasoning used in systematics, the nature of evidence and hypothesis support, homology, hypothesis testing, to the characterization of biodiversity.
How to register
Registration cost for the 5 day course is $250 ($210 for those also registering for the polychaete conference), which includes course notes in pdf, and an end of course drinks function.
Those attending the course will need to make their own accommodation arrangements.