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Articles of 2021

  1. Computational empiricism : the reigning épistémè of the sciences

    Computational empiricism : the reigning épistémè of the sciences

    Philosophy World Democracy


    What do mainstream scientists acknowledge as original scientific contributions, that is, what is the current épistémè in natural sciences?

    Abstract

    What do mainstream scientists acknowledge as original scientific contributions? In other words, what is the current épistémè in natural sciences? This essay attempts to characterize this épistémè as computational empiricism. Scientific works are primarily empirical, generating data and computational, to analyze them and reproduce them with models. This épistémè values primarily the investigation of specific phenomena and thus leads to the fragmentation of sciences. It also promotes attention-catching results showing limits of earlier theories. However, it consumes these theories since it does not renew them, leading more and more fields to be in a state of theory disruption.

    Keywords: theory, statistical tests, empiricism, models, computation

  2. Entropies and the Anthropocene crisis

    Entropies and the Anthropocene crisis

    AI and society


    Entropy is a transversal notion to understand the Anthropocene, from physics to biology and social organizations. For the living, it requires a counterpart: anti-entropy.

    Abstract

    The Anthropocene crisis is frequently described as the rarefaction of resources or resources per capita. However, both energy and minerals correspond to fundamentally conserved quantities from the perspective of physics. A specific concept is required to understand the rarefaction of available resources. This concept, entropy, pertains to energy and matter configurations and not just to their sheer amount.
    However, the physics concept of entropy is insufficient to understand biological and social organizations. Biological phenomena display both historicity and systemic properties. A biological organization, the ability of a specific living being to last over time, results from history, expresses itself by systemic properties, and may require generating novelties The concept of anti-entropy stems from the combination of these features. We propose that Anthropocene changes disrupt biological organizations by randomizing them, that is, decreasing anti-entropy. Moreover, second-order disruptions correspond to the decline of the ability to produce functional novelties, that is, to produce anti-entropy.

    Keywords: entropy, anti-entropy, resources, organization, disruption, Anthropocene

  3. Disruption of biological processes in the Anthropocene: the case of phenological mismatch


    Biologists increasingly report anthropogenic disruptions of both organisms and ecosystems, suggesting that these processes are a fundamental, qualitative component of the Anthropocene crisis, seemingly generating disorder. Nonetheless, the notion of disruption has not yet been theorized as such in...

    Abstract

    Biologists increasingly report anthropogenic disruptions of both organisms and ecosystems, suggesting that these processes are a fundamental, qualitative component of the Anthropocene crisis, seemingly generating disorder. Nonetheless, the notion of disruption has not yet been theorized as such in biology. To progress on this matter, we build on a specific case. Relatively minor temperature changes disrupt plant-pollinator synchrony, tearing apart the web of life. Understanding this phenomenon requires a specific rationale since models describing them use both historical and systemic reasoning. Specifically, history justifies that the system is initially in a narrow part of the possibility space where it is viable, and the disruption randomizes this configuration. Building on this rationale, we develop a formal framework inspired by Boltzmann’s entropy. This framework defines the randomization of the system and leads to analyze its consequences systematically. Notably, maximum randomization does not lead to the complete collapse of the ecosystem. Moreover, pollinators’ robustness mostly increases viability for low randomizations, while resilience enhances viability after high randomizations. Applying this framework to empirical networks, we show historical trends depending on latitude, providing further evidence of climate change’s impact on ecosystems via phenology changes. These results lead to an initial definition of disruption in ecology. When a specific historical outcome contributes to a system’s viability, disruption is the randomization of this outcome, decreasing this viability.

  4. Vaccines, Germs, and Knowledge

    Vaccines, Germs, and Knowledge

    Philosophy World Democracy


    To provide a rational assessment of COVID-19 vaccines, we take a step back on both the history of this practice and the current theories in immunology.

    Abstract

    Vaccines for COVID-19 have led to questions, debates, and polemics on both their safety and the political and geopolitical dimension of their use. We propose to take a step back on both the history of this practice and how current theories in immunology understand it. Both can contribute to providing a rational assessment of COVID-19 vaccines. This assessment cannot consider vaccine as an isolated procedure, and we discuss its intergradation with the broader question of knowledge and politics in the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Keywords: epistemology, immunology, politics

  5. Sciences et entropocène. Autour de Qu’appelle-t-on panser ? de Bernard Stiegler

    Sciences et entropocène. Autour de Qu’appelle-t-on panser ? de Bernard Stiegler

    EcoRev’


    Bernard Stiegler soulignait l’importance de la question de l’entropie, conduisant au concept d’entropocène. L’auteur introduit et illustre ce concept pour montrer sa pertinence d’un point de vue physique, biologique et social.

    Abstract

    En examinant le second tome de Qu’appelle-t-on panser (1), le théoricien de la biologie et épistémologue Maël Montévil, qui a collaboré avec Bernard Stiegler à la fois sur des questions théoriques et sur des expérimentations territoriales, s’arrête sur le rôle des sciences dans l’Anthropocène pour souligner leur difficulté à penser cette ère et, ce faisant, à prendre soin des vivants, humains et non-humains, des techniques et des sciences elles-mêmes. Stiegler soulignait l’importance de la question de l’entropie, conduisant au concept d’entropocène. L’auteur introduit et illustre ce concept pour montrer sa pertinence d’un point de vue physique, biologique et social. Ce faisant, il insiste sur la parenté mais aussi sur les différences entre ces phénomènes. Dans le cas des humains, les savoirs jouent un rôle central pour lutter contre l’entropie, et les sciences pourraient retrouver leur compte en contribuant au développement – urgent – de savoirs territoriaux.