Front to back on the left: Nic Fillion, Kino Zhao, Weixin Cai, & a potential SFU grad; Front to back on right: Marissa Bennett, Kathleen Creel, Imran Thobani, Travis LaCroix, & a visitor.


Philosophy of Science Association Meeting 2018

November 13, 2018

November 1-4, 2018 saw the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association in Seattle, WA. This meeting, held once every two years, has grown in become a highly prestigious, interdisciplinary philosophy conference —and one of philosophy’s most enjoyable events. (Some typical comments from attendees were: ‘fantastic’ ‘cutting edge’ ‘amazing opportunity’ and ‘surprisingly kind and accessible [presenters]’.) The PSA is held concurrently with the History of Philosophy of Science meetings. It also hosts a large public lecture, this entitled Values and Accountability in AI and Data Science.

The SFU philosophy department was represented by professors Holly Andersen and Nic Fillion (who presented a poster Concepts of Approximate Solutions and the Finite Element Method ) plus an impressive contingent of SFU graduate students, both current MA students and past graduates of the program. Current SFU MA students, Weixin Cai, Cem Erkli, Zili Dong, Shiminn Zhao, and David Rattray experienced their first PSA meeting. Weixin Cai was selected to present his paper The Role of Non-Causally Related Variables in Causal Models and by all accounts, did a brilliant job especially in the question and answer session.

Past graduates of our MA program, now in PhD programs, were a strong presence at the meeting.

* Katie Creel and her colleague from the Pittsburgh History and Philosophy of Science program, David Colaco, had a joint poster What’s the Signal?: Philosophical Misuses of the Signal-Noise Distinction.

* Travis LaCroix, a PhD student in the Department of Logic and Science, at Irvine University, took part in a symposium on Evolutionary Explanations of Compositional Communications, with a paper Less Is More: Degrees of Compositionality for Complex Signals.

* Kino Zhao, also PhD student at Irvine, presented a paper A Statistical Learning Approach to a Problem of Induction in a session on Confirmation and Evidence.

* Imran Thobani, now a PhD student at Stanford, presented a poster Deep Learning Models in Computational Neuroscience.

At least two other former SFU students, Marissa Bennett, now in the PhD program at the University of Toronto, and Amanda Bryant, assistant professor at Trent University, were also at the meetings. This entire group of current and past graduates plus faculty gathered for a reunion dinner organized by Marissa Bennett (thank you Marissa!).

Dr. Andersen had the honour of introducing this year’s Presidential Address given by Dr. Sandra Mitchell, who is a Distinguished Professor in the History and Philosophy of Science Department at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Mitchell stressed the genuine importance of public engagement for all philosophers of science, of explaining how scientific reasoning works, pointing out the manipulation or deliberate oversight of scientific evidence for political gain, and of generally being an education resource for these times of ‘alternative facts’.