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Dr. Thomas Hegna
Dr. Thomas Hegna

Dr. Thomas Hegna

  • September 26, 2022
  • Marketing and Communications staff

The 2022 William T. and Charlotte N. Hagan Young Scholar/Artist Award will be presented to Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences Assistant Professor Thomas Hegna at a ceremony in Rosch Recital Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 2 p.m.

Dr. Hegna will also give a lecture, "Species, Vague Boundaries, and Biodiversity: Reframing Woodger’s Paradox," in place of the Robert W. Kasling Lecture Award that will not be given this year. Much of Hegna’s talk will be drawn from a lecture he gave at the Future of the Past: Philosophical Issues in the Historical Sciences virtual conference held in July.

Professor Woodger was a British biologist and philosopher from the first half of the 20th century. Woodger’s Paradox can be defined as the realization that species membership is traditionally regarded as a binary matter – either a species is a part of a given species, or it is not.

The paradox that bears his name seems to have first been posed in an appendix to his 1952 book, "Biology and Language," Hegna suggests. “He was not terribly succinct in his phrasing, so I prefer the phrasing from Willermet and Hill, 1997: ‘… if an animal can only be a member of one taxonomic unit (such as species), then at certain points along an evolutionary trajectory, a child must belong to a different species than its parents.’"

Hegna’s interpretation is that this paradox demonstrates that the temporal boundaries of species are inherently subjective or arbitrary. And this interpretation raises a whole host of thorny, previously unrecognized, issues for biology/paleontology/taxonomy/conservation, etc., Hegna said.

The annual Hagan award, which recognizes an individual who has made outstanding recent achievements in research or creativity, is named in honor of SUNY Distinguished Professor William T. Hagan, an eminent scholar specializing in the history of the American Indian, who taught at SUNY Fredonia from 1965 to 1988, and his wife, Charlotte.

The award ceremony and lecture are free and open to the public.