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Société canadienne d'histoire et de philosophie des sciences

Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science


Carnegie Appointment in Humanities and Computing - Dalhousie University

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at Dalhousie University, in cooperation with the Faculty of Computer Science (FCS) at Dalhousie University and the History of Science and Technology Program (HOST) at the University of King’s College, invite applications for a probationary, tenure-stream Assistant Professor level position in Humanities and Computing. Details.

Appels de textes

Call for Papers: The Revolt against Expertise

Spontaneous Generations, a scholarly, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal published by the graduate students of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto, invites contributions to its 11th volume.

Experts occupy an increasingly contested space in our society. Politicians challenge the expertise of public health officials amidst the COVID-19 pandemic; climate change deniers that of climatologists; creationists that of evolutionary biologists and geologists. Even the rotundity of the Earth has not escaped renewed public scrutiny. Our cultural moment is increasingly defined by a populist revolt against expertise. While this is alarming, even the most stalwart defenders of expertise will acknowledge the risks inherent in excessive deference to experts. They can make mistakes of fact or ethical judgment. They can fall prey to the temptations of conformity. They can be corrupted by corporate or state patronage. A technologically sophisticated society can hardly function without experts, but neither can a democratic one exempt them from scrutiny.

Scholars involved in the study of science, technology, medicine, and mathematics are well-positioned to explore the pressing issues surrounding expertise. As experts who study other experts, they have a unique vantage point. The editors of Spontaneous Generations welcome contributions which explore the challenges inherent to expertise in an increasingly distrustful society. Questions which contributors might take up include, but are not limited to:
• How can the rights of marginalized individuals or communities be protected against the potential abuse of expertise? How can those of a democratic society?
• Has a particular historical episode or philosophical problem especially illuminated the risks & opportunities inherent in expertise?
• What public good results from your expertise? How would you fruitfully engage with a politician, layperson, or administrator who expressed skepticism about it?
• How has studying the expertise of others informed your own perspective and identity?

We invite contributions in the following formats:
• Reflective or conversational pieces, 2-3,000 words in length. Please include an abstract, 150-250 words in length.
• Research articles, 8-12,000 words in length, on the same theme. Please include an abstract, 150-250 words in length.
• Reviews of recent scholarly books (published no earlier than January, 2019) touching on expertise, 1-1,200 words in length for single reviews, 1,400-1,600 for double reviews.

Traditionally, Spontaneous Generations focuses on the history and philosophy of science. However, we are happy to consider contributions from other disciplinary perspectives. All contributions should follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition (footnote and bibliography), should be formatted in MS Word, and should be received no later than May 31, 2021. We will also be happy to review abstracts before that time. Please send all inquiries or contributions (along with your institutional and departmental affiliation) to Daniel Halverson at

Call for Papers for a Minds & Machines Special Issue on Machine Learning: Prediction Without Explanation?

Over the last decades, Machine Learning (ML) techniques have gained central prominence in many areas of science. ML typically aims at pattern recognition and prediction, and in many cases has become a better tool for these purposes than traditional methods. The downside, however, is that ML does not seem to provide any explanations, at least not in the same sense as theories or traditional models do.

This apparent lack of explanation is often also linked to the opacity of ML techniques, sometimes referred to as the ‘Black Box Challenge’. Methods such as heat maps or adversarial examples are aimed at reducing this opacity and opening the black box. But at present, it remains an open question how and what exactly these methods explain and what the nature of these explanations is.

While in some areas of science this may not create any interesting philosophical challenges, in many fields, such as medicine, climate science, or particle physics, an explanation may be desired; among other things for the sake of rendering subsequent decisions and policy making transparent. Moreover, explanation and understanding are traditionally construed as central epistemic aims of science in general. Does a turn to ML techniques hence imply a radical shift in the aims of science? Does it require us to rethink science-based policy making? Or does it mean we need to rethink our concepts of explanation and understanding?

In this Special Issue, we want to address this complex of questions regarding explanation and prediction, as it attaches to ML applications in science and beyond. We invite papers focusing on but not restricted to the following topics:

•    (How) can ML results be used for the sake of explaining scientific observations?
•    If so, what is the nature of these explanations?
•    Will future science favor prediction above explanation?
•    If so, what does this mean for science-based decision and policy making?
•    What is explained about ML by methods such as saliency maps and adversarials?
•    Does ML introduce a shift from classical notions of scientific explanation, such as causal-mechanistic, covering law-, or unification-based, towards a purely statistical one?
•    (Why) should we trust ML applications, given their opacity?
•    (Why) should we care about the apparent loss of explanatory power?

The Special Issue is guest edited by members of the project The impact of computer simulations and machine learning on the epistemic status of LHC Data, part of the DFG/FWF-funded interdisciplinary research unit The Epistemology of the Large Hadron Collider.

For more information, please visit []

Deadline for paper submissions: 28 February 2021
Deadline for paper reviewing: 19 April 2021
Deadline for submission of revised papers: 03 May 2021
Deadline for reviewing revised papers: 07 June 2021
Papers will be published in 2021

Submission Details
To submit a paper for this special issue, authors should go to the journal’s Editorial Manager [] The author (or a corresponding author for each submission in case of co- authored papers) must register into EM.

The author must then select the special article type: "Machine Learning: Prediction without Explanation?” from the selection provided in the submission process. This is needed in order to assign the submissions to the Guest Editor.
Submissions will then be assessed according to the following procedure:

  New Submission => Journal Editorial Office => Guest Editor(s) => Reviewers => Reviewers’ Recommendations => Guest Editor(s)’ Recommendation => Editor-in-Chief’s Final Decision => Author Notification of the Decision.
The process will be reiterated in case of requests for revisions.

Guest Editors
•    Dr. Florian J. Boge, postdoctoral researcher, Interdisciplinary Centre for Science and Technology Studies (IZWT), Wuppertal University
•    Paul Grünke, doctoral student, research group “Philosophy of Engineering, Technology Assessment, and Science”, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
•    Prof. Dr. Dr. Rafaela Hillerbrand, head of the research group “Philosophy of Engineering, Technology Assessment, and Science”, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

For any further information please contact:
-    Dr. Florian J. Boge:
-    Paul Grünke:


CFR: Dark Matter & Modified Gravity Conference

6-8 February 2019
Aachen, Germany
Call for Registration (deadline 13 January 2019)

The Research Unit “Epistemology of the LHC” invites students and other scholars in philosophy, history and sociology of physics/science, as well as in physics, to register for the conference “Dark Matter & Modified Gravity”, taking place from 6 to 8 February 2019 at RWTH Aachen University, Germany.

Astrophysical and cosmological observations as well as explanatory gaps in the Standard Model of particle physics imply the existence of Dark Matter and/or a modification of our theory of space and time. A decision between the Dark Matter (DM) and Modified Gravity (MG) approaches is hampered by problems of underdetermination at different levels and of different kinds. The plethora of Dark Matter and Modified Gravity approaches, and the corresponding underdetermination, even in the light of the vast amount of relevant collider based and astrophysical observations, clearly illustrates the complexity of this scientific problem. On the other hand, the overlap of the collider and astrophysical domains may allow for reducing the underdetermination, thus leading to a simplification of the model landscape. One focus of this conference is Dark Matter searches at the Large Hadron Collider and the connection between LHC results and theories of gravity. We will address the question of different kinds of underdetermination, both in choosing between the two research programs of Dark Matter and Modified Gravity, and also in choosing between different models within each program. In particular, we aim to provide an assessment of the explanatory power and the explanatory gaps of the Dark Matter and Modified Gravity hypotheses, and the extent to which these might reduce the issues of underdetermination.

Research topics include, but are not limited to:
-Is a strict conceptual distinction between DM and MG justified? How does this relate to the distinction between matter and spacetime?
-What are the explanatory successes and failures of the DM research programme, and of the MG research programme? Which models of explanation are being employed by the respective programmes, and how do those relate?
-Sociology of the DM-MG debate
-How do data, constraints and explanations at the LHC, in astrophysics and cosmology relate? Could the LHC, in principle, confirm dark matter by itself?
-Virtues and vices of simplified (dark matter) models. Do simplified models explain?
-Hybrid models, fifth forces & exotic theories that are neither MG nor DM
-Connections between dark energy and DM/MG
-Novel predictions, fine-tuning and falsifiability

Tessa Baker, University of Oxford (UK)
Lasha Berezhiani, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (Germany)
Felix Kahlhoefer, RWTH Aachen University (Germany)
Julien Lesgourgues, RWTH Aachen University (Germany)
Stacy McGaugh, Case Western Reserve University (USA)
Mordehai Milgrom, Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel)
Tobias Mistele, Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (Germany)
Robert Sanders, University of Groningen (The Netherlands)
Erik Curiel, Black Hole Initiative, Harvard University (USA)
Michela Massimi, University of Edinburgh (UK)
Niels Martens, RWTH Aachen University (Germany)
David Merritt, Rochester Institute of Technology (USA)
Robert Rynasiewicz, Johns Hopkins University (USA)
Jeroen van Dongen, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
Jaco de Swart, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Contributing speakers:
Siska de Baerdemaeker, University of Pittsburgh (USA)
Indranil Banik, University of Bonn (Germany)
Nora Mills Boyd, Siena College (USA)
Marc Holman, Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Western University (Canada)
Abhishek Kashyap, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (India)
Marcel Pawlowski, Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik, Potsdam (Germany)
Manus Visser, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

The organising committee invites participants from physics and from philosophy, history and sociology of physics/science, as well as anyone else who may be interested. In order to register for this conference, please email your name and affiliation to by 13 January 2019. Registration is free. (Note that the deadline for abstract submissions has passed.)

This conference is organized by the project “LHC and Gravity” within the interdisciplinary, DFG-funded research unit “Epistemology of the LHC”. For further information, eg. regarding practicalities and the schedule, see the conference website: or contact the organisers:
-Niels Martens (RWTH Aachen University)
-Dennis Lehmkuhl (University of Bonn)
-Michael Krämer (RWTH Aachen University)
-Erhard Scholz (University of Wuppertal)
-Miguel Ángel Carretero Sahuquillo (University of Wuppertal)

International Conference on Simplicities and Complexities
22-24 May 2019
Bonn, Germany
Call for Papers - Deadline: 15 January 2019

“Simplicities and Complexities" will take place from 22 to 24 May 2019 at the University of Bonn, Germany. It aims to bring together scientists and scholars from a spectrum of disciplines such as physics, biology, ecology, chemistry, and computational science, as well as from philosophy, sociology, and history of science. This conference is organized by the interdisciplinary, DFG- and FWF-funded research unit "Epistemology of the LHC".

Philosophers and scientists alike have often assumed simplicity to be an epistemic ideal. Some examples of theories taken as successful realizations of this ideal include General Relativity and Darwin's theory of Natural Selection. These theories influenced early and mid-20th century philosophers' understanding of the criteria successful scientific theories and practices had to meet, even when facing complex phenomena. However, this influence did not mean that the notion of simplicity was clear-cut. A suitable and encompassing definition of simplicity has yet to be developed. Some unanswered questions include: In what sense can and do physicists consider a theory, such as the Standard Model of elementary particle physics, as being sufficiently simple? How do ideals of simplicity differ when applied to disciplines other than physics? Biological concepts, for example, do not tend to refer to laws, whereas concepts from the social sciences frequently resort to notions of order and structure that are different from those of natural sciences. Are there, accordingly, simplicities (in plural) rather than a unified logic-inspired notion? Finally, are there cases where simplicity is simply a bad epistemic ideal, and not merely for the reason that it is often unreachable?

Throughout the 20th century the sciences have approached more and more complex phenomena, in tune with the increased social relevance of scientific knowledge. The perceived need to address complexity head-on has led to a broader reaction against simplification and reductionism within the sciences. However, if simplicity, in its various outfits, has proven an unreliable guide, what should it be replaced with? Looking at the various strategies of addressing complexity in the sciences and the disciplines reflecting upon them, it appears that the notion is at least as variegated as simplicity. To be sure, there exist measures of complexity as well as mathematical, empirical, or discursive strategies to deal with it, but they vary strongly from one discipline to another.


The aim of the conference is to analyze, differentiate, and connect the various notions and practices of simplicity and complexity, in physics as well as in other sciences, guided by the following questions:
* Which kinds and levels of simplicity can be distinguished (e.g. formal or ontological, structural or practical)? Which roles do they play and which purposes do they serve? Does simplicity, in a suitable reformulation, remain a valid ideal - and if so, in which fields and problem contexts? Or, instead, where has it been abandoned or replaced by a plurality of interconnected approaches and alternative perspectives?
* What about complexity? How is the complexity of an object of investigation addressed (represented, mirrored, negated, etc.) by the adopted theoretical and empirical approaches in different fields?
* Addressing complex problems, especially those relevant to society, requires institutional settings beyond the traditional research laboratory. How does the complexity of such settings relate to the complexity of epistemic strategies and of the problems themselves? In what sense can we trust the other players in a complex epistemic network?
* How should we conceive of the relation between simplicity and complexity? Are there alternatives to seeing complexity in opposition to simplicity? Does physics, in virtue of its history, maintain its special position in the contemporary debates on simplicity and complexity? What do reflections on the epistemic cultures of ecology, cultural anthropology, economics, etc. have to offer in terms of how simplicities and complexities can be balanced?

We invite contributors from a spectrum of disciplines, scientists and scholars reflecting on their respective and neighboring research fields, as well as historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science investigating the epistemologies, practices, and discourses of fellow epistemic communities. The conference will thrive on intense discussion surpassing disciplinary boundaries.

Invited Speakers

Robert Harlander, RWTH Aachen (Germany) 
Stephen Blundell, University of Oxford (UK) 
Beate Heinemann, DESY Freiburg (Germany)

Michael Stöltzner, University of South Carolina (US)
Marta Bertolaso, University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome (Italy)
Alan Baker, Swarthmore College (US)

Talia Dan-Cohen, Washington University in St. Louis (US)
Stefan Böschen, RWTH Aachen (Germany)

Other Sciences:
Volker Grimm, Helmholtz Centre for Enviromental Research (Germany)
Thomas Vogt, University of South Carolina (US)

Other speakers will be announced soon

Call for Papers

The organisation committee invites abstract submissions on the theme of the conference. Short abstracts (200-300 words) should be submitted to EasyChair by 15 January 2019. We aim to communicate our decision by 28 February. Submissions are welcome from the broad spectrum of scientific fields.


This workshop is organized by the DFG and FWF-funded research unit "Epistemology of the LHC".
* Cristin Chall (University of Bonn)
* Dennis Lehmkuhl (University of Bonn)
* Niels Martens (RWTH Aachen)
* Martina Merz (University of Klagenfurt)
* Miguel Ángel Carretero Sahuquillo (University of Wuppertal)
* Gregor Schiemann (University of Wuppertal)
* Michael Stöltzner (University of South Carolina)


For further information, please contact .



Maggie Osler Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship has been created in the name of Dr. Margaret “Maggie” J. Osler to honour her work and her 35-year contribution to the Department of History. It is given annually to the highest-achieving student in areas of Maggie's intellectual, teaching and research interests.

After graduating from Swarthmore College in 1963, Maggie went on to study under Richard S. Westfall in the Department and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University, where she obtained her Ph.D. in 1968. In 1975, she found her permanent academic home in Calgary. Among the many subjects that she studied, seventeenth-century French natural philosopher Pierre Gassendi remained at the core of her scholarship. She is remembered by her colleagues and students as an internationally known scholar devoted to excellence in the course of her teaching, actively involved in academic life until her death on September 15, 2010.

Award details:

To contribute to the scholarship, please donate here or contact:

Danielle Christensen
Advisor, Faculty of Arts at the University of Calgary
403.220.8291 |

Motion re: Federal Scientists

MOVED: The Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science endorses the principle of the federal scientists' freedom to communicate, and reaffirms the centrality of the ability of scientists to communicate for the advancement of science.

Link to the petition:

Motion re: Nova Scotia Bill 100

MOVED: In light of recent legislation in Nova Scotia, Bill 100, the Universities Accountability and Sustainability Act, given Royal Assent on May 11, 2015,
CSHPS deeply regrets the passage of this Act, because it:

• Threatens academic freedom and the integrity of academic institutions
• Fails to reflect adequately the contribution of universities to the economy and liberal society of Nova Scotia
• Does not properly recognize university governance structures and oversight mechanisms
• Fails to take into account the systemic underinvestment in PSE that has led to these issues
We therefore urge all governments to reject and repeal such legislation or draft regulations that remedy these concerns.

Link to NS Bill 100:

Manifeste de Manchester

À l’occasion du plus important congrès mondial rassemblant des historiens des sciences, des techniques et de la médecine, nous, administrateurs et membres de la Division internationale d’histoire des sciences et des techniques de l’Union internationale d’histoire et de philosophie des sciences et des techniques, proclamons :

(1) que la science, les techniques et la médecine constituent depuis des millénaires des traits constants de l’humanité et font partie intégrante de la société et de la culture dans le monde entier ;

(2) que les connaissances scientifiques, techniques et médicales sont un bien public ;

(3) que nous soutenons l’étude de la nature et nous efforçons de la rendre compréhensible à la communauté scientifique et au grand public par des recherches académiques scrupuleuses et par des actions de sensibilisation dans les nombreuses langues de la famille humaine ;

(4) que les recherches académiques sur les sciences, les techniques et la médecine doivent viser à une compréhension complète et nuancée de la croissance, du progrès, des problèmes et des perspectives de ces activités humaines essentielles. Ceci nourrit la conscience du fait que les sciences, les techniques et la médecine, lorsqu’elles sont correctement développées, sont un bien public ;

(5) que les historiens des sciences, des techniques et de la médecine peuvent jeter des ponts entre les diverses cultures par la collaboration et l’examen de perspectives, patrimoines et styles de pensée différents.

(6) que la compréhension de l’histoire des sciences, des techniques et de la médecine contribue positivement à l’enseignement de l’histoire générale ainsi qu’à celui des méthodes et du contexte des sciences, des techniques, et de la médecine ;

(7) que les produits des sciences, des techniques et de la médecine constituent une part essentielle du patrimoine matériel de l’humanité. Ces produits doivent être préservés, interprétés, et développés par des professionnels ayant une connaissance approfondie de leur signification culturelle.

En conséquence, dans le but d’une amélioration générale et d’une mise en œuvre de la connaissance, les participants réunis du 24e Congrès international d’histoire des sciences, des techniques et de la médecine, tenu à Manchester (Royaume Uni), en juillet 2013, déclarent :

1. L’histoire des sciences, des techniques et de la médecine doit être soutenue et financée de manière continue et régulière par les institutions publiques et privées de manière à garantir que les jeunes générations connaissent bien leur patrimoine scientifique, technique et médical tel qu’interprété par des historiens formés de manière appropriée.

2. L’histoire des sciences, des techniques et de la médecine mérite d’être intégrée de manière importante dans les programmes d’enseignement des écoles secondaires, des écoles supérieures et des universités. Les pratiques locales et nationales doivent guider cette intégration.


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