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2011 Marjorie Grene Prize

The Marjorie Grene Prize Committee received a total of eleven submissions for the 2011 prize.  All submissions were of superb quality, with over half already published or accepted for publication.  Once again the committee was reminded of the creativity and talent of the more junior members of ISHPSSB, as well as the breadth of expertise that defines our society.

Angela Potochnik, currently assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati, is the recipient of the 2011 Marjorie Grene Prize for the best manuscript based on a presentation at one of the two previous ISHPSSB meetings by someone who was, at the time of presentation, a graduate student.  Her submission, "Explanatory Independence and Epistemic Interdependence: A Case Study of the Optimality Approach" is an important contribution to our understanding of modelling strategies in science.  In a well-argued and precise analysis, Potochnik explores the pursuit of optimality models in evolutionary and behavioural ecology, the criticisms that have been levelled against them, and the reasons for the persistence of such models. Arguing that optimality models have value as evolutionary explanations, Potochnik shows that such models have explanatory independence: they neglect certain aspects of the evolutionary process such as genetic transmission.  At the same time, however, the applicability of such optimality models must be evaluated by looking beyond the dynamics represented by them--thus they are epistemically dependent on other models.  Potochnik draws broad conclusions about the tension between these two features, and her paper is an original contribution to philosophical discussions about the roles of modelling in science, the nature of scientific explanation, and the constraints and complexities of scientific practice.

Tara Abraham (Chair), on behalf of the rest of the Grene Prize Committee:
Gillian Barker, Kevin Elliott, Marta Halina, Greg Radick, Adam Shapiro, and V. Betty Smocovitis

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