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February 2009


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Intl Soc for the Hist Phil and Soc St of Biol <[log in to unmask]>
"Roberta L. Millstein" <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 15 Feb 2009 19:55:40 -0800
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Intl Soc for the Hist Phil and Soc St of Biol <[log in to unmask]>
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Report on the ISHPSSB Kobe off-year workshop: Biology Studies in East Asia

The ISHPSSB off-year Workshop, "Biology Studies in East Asia" 
was held at Kobe University, Japan, 5-7 November 2008. This was the 
first ISHPSSB event held in Asia, co-sponsored by the Biological Unit 
of the History of Science Society of Japan and the Philosophy of 
Science Society, Japan. There were about 50 participants, 1 from 
Taiwan, 2 from Korea, 2 from China, 4 from the United States, 2 from 
Canada, 1 from France, and around 40 from Japan.
The past three off-year workshops (San Francisco 2004, Indiana 2006, 
St. Louis 2008) were aimed at helping graduate students explore their 
research careers.  In contrast, since this was the first ISHPSSB 
workshop in Asia, we organized it in a different way as described 
below, while taking over some parts of the ethos of past workshops at 
the same time.

We set the following objectives:  (1) to build a network of scholars 
researching biology in East Asia and (2) to foster interactions 
between these scholars and the current ISHPSSB members. In East Asia, 
there are many historians and sociologists of biology, and 
philosophers of biology are now increasing in number. However, East 
Asian participants in ISHPSSB biannual meetings is low. The hope is 
that smaller gatherings like this workshop will lead to increased 
interactions between East Asian scholars and the rest of the 
international community.

The workshop started with opening remarks by former ISHPSSB president 
Michael Dietrich, who read a letter of welcome from current 
president, James Griesemer. Togo Tsukahara, chair of the organizing 
committee, extended a welcome from the host institution, Kobe 
University. The following sessions ensued: Emerging Philosophy of 
Biology in East Asia, Systematic Biology and the Species Problem, 
Neuroethics: East and West, History of Eugenics in East Asia,  and 
Japanese Biology in Colonial Imperial Universities.  Each session had 
three to four speakers, most of whom were invited from East Asian 
countries, with some from the United States and Canada. Most sessions 
had younger speakers, according to the concept of former workshops. 
There were 22 speakers, including 5 graduate students and 3 post docs.

In the 'Emerging Philosophy of Biology in East Asia' session, 
reflecting burgeoning interests in this field, such variety of topics 
as biology and ethics, intelligent design hypothesis, cultural 
evolution, evolutionary theory seen as an informational theory, 
Kimura's neutral theory, Richard Owen's views on heredity, massive 
modular theory, and evolutionary psychology were discussed.  In the 
'Species Problem' session, traditional problems of continuities and 
discontinuities between species, that is homology and species 
discretization, were viewed from the perspectives of evo-devo or 
theoretical ecology. The 'Neuroethics' session included new topics 
that have not been present in the past ISHPSSB programs: an emerging 
concern about the enhancement of brain functions, brain-machine 
interface, the influence of computer games on our brain (in a 
typically Japanese game-addict cultural context), or whether the 
brand-new 'neuroethics' can really add something new to traditional 
applied ethics. In the 'History of Eugenics' session, detailed case 
studies of eugenic policies in China, Hong Kong, and Japan, as well 
as a study of the connection between the prevalent antenatal testing 
and eugenic intentions were provided. Finally, in the 'Japanese 
Biology in Colonial Imperial Universities' session, there were 
presentations on taxonomy in colonial Korea, rice breeding in Korea 
and Taiwan, and sericulture in Thailand. This reflects the current 
situation that East Asian historians are beginning to share interests 
on science under Japanese Empire, as colonial science has been an 
important topic in western history of science. You can see more 
information on presentations and abstracts at our webpage: 

Besides invited speeches, there was an informal session for graduate 
students working on the history of eugenics. In addition, an 
excursion was held at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology 
(CDB), one of the most distinguished institutions for embryology, 
stem cell research, and regenerative medicine. We were first given a 
briefing on the research activities of the CDB and then had a tour 
through the many labs. Continuing the tradition started by the 2004 
FDISH off-year workshop, "happy office hours" were held, but with a 
Japanese twist - at an izakaya, a Japanese pub.

The workshop was quite successful in building a network of scholars 
across East Asia. It was the first ISHPSSB activity for most of the 
East Asian participants, and many were excited to meet historians and 
philosophers of biology from different countries. It was the first 
talk given in English for many of the graduate students and some are 
excited to further this experience with talks at the Brisbane meeting 
next July. Some of the sessions of this workshop are now planning to 
have a panel session at the next Brisbane meeting.
The workshop was funded by several governmental and private funds: 
JSPS Grant in Aid for Scientific Research, JSPS Global COE Program 
for Ars Vivendi : Forms of Human Life and Survival, University of 
Tokyo Center for Philosophy, Kao Foundation for Arts and Sciences, 
and the CASIO Science Promotion Foundation. Funding was provided with 
support from members of the organizing committee: Togo Tsukahara 
(Kobe University), Yoko Matsubara (Ritsumeikan University), Shunkichi 
Matsumoto (Tokai University), Nobuhiro Minaka (NIAES, University of 
Tokyo), Osamu Sakura (University of Tokyo), and Akihisa Setoguchi 
(Osaka City University). We also appreciate Grant Yamashita (Arizona 
State University) and Lisa Onaga (Cornell University) for their 

*** End of announcement

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