S-ANU 2016

15-17 June 2016
Bundanoon Hotel


Thursday 16

8:30–9:30 Breakfast, Bundanoon Hotel  
10:00–10:50 Carl Brusse Responsiveness and robustness in the David Lewis signalling game
10:50–11:40 Isobel Ronai The importance of natural mechanisms for molecular biology techniques
11:40–12:10 Tea Break  
12:10–1:00 Heather Browning Measuring Subjective Welfare
1:00–2:00 Lunch, Ye Olde Bicycle Shoppe café  
2:00–2:50 Zhang Xin Image of ADHD in Light of Evolutionary Medicine
2:50–3:40 Dave Kalkman Against animal communication as ‘information-mediated influence’
3:40–4:10 Tea Break  
4:10–5:00 Wesley Fang How Scientific Models Explain: A Holistic Account
7.00–? Dinner, Bundanoon Hotel


Carl Brusse (presenting joint research with Justin Bruner): Responsiveness and robustness in the David Lewis signalling game

We consider modifications to the standard David Lewis signalling game and relax a number of unrealistic implicit assumptions that are often built into the framework. In particular, we explore realistic asymmetries that exist between the sender and receiver roles. We find that endowing receivers with a more realistic set of responses significantly decreases the likelihood of signalling, while allowing for unequal selection pressure often has the opposite effect. We argue that the results of this paper can also help make sense of a well-known evolutionary puzzle regarding the absence of an evolutionary arms race between sender and receiver in conflict of interest signalling games.

Isobel Ronai: The importance of natural mechanisms for molecular biology techniques

The most successful molecular biology techniques all have the striking characteristic that they repurpose mechanisms found in organisms. For example, RNA interference (RNAi) utilises a mechanism that exists in eukaryotes to destroy foreign nucleic acid. Other examples include restriction enzymes, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats—CRISPR associated (CRISPR–Cas). Biologists therefore utilise mechanisms that have been optimised by evolution for both biological specificity and efficiency. I will show that the development of molecular biology techniques, such as RNAi, can be divided into four phases of research. The first phase is detection of the mechanism in an organism. The second phase is identification of the trigger component of the mechanism. The third phase is application of the trigger as a molecular biology technique—interestingly this phase is the most valued by the scientific community. The fourth phase is the maturation of the molecular biology technique. The development of new molecular biology techniques transforms mechanistic knowledge and generates new scientific knowledge. Overall, I argue that the characterisation of natural systems needs to be prioritised in order to make progress in molecular biology.

Heather Browning: Measuring Subjective Welfare

The goal of animal welfare science is to measure and compare the welfare of animals under different conditions. There are good reasons to think that animal welfare consists in subjective experience of animals. It is therefore important for the science that subjective experience of this type is a measurable attribute. In this paper I will look it what is required for an attribute to be considered measurable, and show how subjective experience meets these criteria.

Zhang Xin: Image of ADHD in Light of Evolutionary Medicine

Psychiatric diseases have been intensely examined from both scientific and sociological perspectives. The scientific sector views psychiatric diseases as medical entities as concrete as any bodily suffering, while the sociological sector treats psychiatric diseases as social constructs as fragile as Drapetomania. Adopting ADHD as a particular case, this article attempts to re-draw the image of psychiatric diseases in light of evolutionary medicine, combined with Millikan’s idea of direct proper function. By doing this, this article argues that both scientific and sociological images of ADHD are at least oversimplified. They are just two facets of a more complex picture of ADHD, the complexity of which is still yet to be uncovered.

Dave Kalkman: Against animal communication as ‘information-mediated influence’

Recently, Andrea Scarantino (2013) argued for a definition of animal communication (or ‘signalling’) based around the idea of information-mediated influence. According to Scarantino, both information and influence are needed in an adequate definition of animal communication. Without a focus on influence, we miss out on what drives the selection of signals in senders, which is the effect these signals have on receivers. But without a focus on information, we miss out on what distinguishes communication from forms of non-communicative influence. I will argue that an information-mediated influence definition fails. It fails for similar reasons that led Scarantino (2013) to rule out both a purely influence based definition and a purely informational definition; namely extensional inadequacy. I will argue that an information-mediated influence definition is itself extensionally inadequate. It fails to distinguish communication from other forms of co-adapted behaviours. It is too liberal. I will end with what I think is the take home message from the discussion, which is that communication in the nonhuman animal world is a multi-dimensional phenomenon that is not definable in terms of one or two concepts.

Wesley Fang: How Scientific Models Explain: A Holistic Account

This paper aims to develop a holistic account of model explanation on the basis of James Woodward’s account of explanation. I claim that a model can be explanatory because it can answer what-if-things-had-been-different questions, that is, it can answer how changes or interventions in explanans would be systematically associated with changes in the explananda. I further suggest that the reason why a model can do so is because a model is a structure, that is, an interdependence relationship among elements. Given this conception of model explanation, I then address the problem of how non-causal models can also be explanatory. Since the term “structure” is also employed by the semantic view of theories (and models), I finally clarify my position by suggesting a deflationary conception of the notion of structure.