How Did Kettlewell’s Experiment End?

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Rudge, David
conference paper description
The past quarter century has seen an enormous growth of interest among scholars of science and technology in both particular experimental episodes and the process of experimentation. Among the most influential accounts have been those developed by Allan Franklin (1986, 1990), Deborah Mayo (1996) and Peter Galison (1987), each of which was developed primarily with reference to examples drawn from the history of physics. One useful way to access the generality of an account of experiment is to see how it fares with reference to examples drawn from disciplines far removed from the context within which it was developed. In previous essays I examined and compared the adequacy of Franklin and Mayo’s views on experiment with reference to an episode drawn from the history of evolutionary biology, H.B.D. Kettlewell's classic studies of the phenomenon of industrial melanism (Rudge 1998, 2001). The present essay reanalyzes Kettlewell’s work once more, this time as a test of Peter Galison’s provocative account of experimentation in the sciences. Kettlewell’s investigations can indeed be interpreted within Galison’s perspective, but this appears to reflect the vagueness of many key distinctions Galison makes more than any special insights his views provide on the nature of experimentation in evolutionary biology.