• Kon-Tiki Experiments
    with Aaron Novick, Eden W. McQueen, and Nathan L. Brouwer
    Philosophy of Science 87 (2): 213-236. 2020.
    We identify a species of experiment—Kon-Tiki experiments—used to demonstrate the competence of a cause to produce a certain effect, and we examine their role in the historical sciences. We argue that Kon-Tiki experiments are used to test middle-range theory, to test assumptions within historical narratives, and to open new avenues of inquiry. We show how the results of Kon-Tiki experiments are involved in projective inferences, and we argue that reliance on projective inferences does not provide…Read more
  • Big dragons on small islands: generality and particularity in science
    Biology and Philosophy 33 (3 - 4): 1-12. 2018.
    Angela Potochnik’s Idealization and the Aims of Science defends an ambitious and systematic account of scientific knowledge: ultimately science pursues human understanding rather than truth. Potochnik argues that idealization is rampant and unchecked in science. Further, given that idealizations involve departures from truth, this suggests science is not primarily about truth. I explore the relationship between truths about causal patterns and scientific understanding in light of this, and sugge…Read more
  •  6
    Isabelle F. Peschard and Bas C. van Fraassen (Eds.): The Experimental Side of Modeling
    Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 1-4. forthcoming.
  •  8
    Why experiments matter
    with Arnon Levy
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (9-10): 1066-1090. 2019.
    ABSTRACTExperimentation is traditionally considered a privileged means of confirmation. However, why and how experiments form a better confirmatory source relative to other strategies is unclear, and recent discussions have identified experiments with various modeling strategies on the one hand, and with ‘natural’ experiments on the other hand. We argue that experiments aiming to test theories are best understood as controlled investigations of specimens. ‘Control’ involves repeated, fine-graine…Read more
  •  15
    Creativity and Philosophy
    British Journal of Aesthetics 60 (2): 225-229. 2020.
    Creativity and PhilosophyBerys Gaut and Matthew Kieran Routledge. 2018. pp. 394. £30.99.
  •  1
    Historical sciences like paleontology and archaeology have uncovered unimagined, remarkable and mysterious worlds in the deep past. How should we understand the success of these sciences? What is the relationship between knowledge and history? In Scientific Knowledge and the Deep Past: History Matters, Adrian Currie examines recent paleontological work on the great changes that occurred during the Cretaceous period - the emergence of flowering plants, the splitting of the mega-continent Gondwana…Read more
  •  14
    Epistemic Optimism, Speculation, and the Historical Sciences
    Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 11. 2019.
    Here’s something I’m willing to claim we know: Homo sapiens, in particular the Polynesian settlers who first arrived in Aotearoa around the twelfth century, take the lion’s share of causal blame for the extinction of a lineage of enormous flightless birds: the moa. Stretching to three metres at their tallest, moa were a distinctive and remarkable feature of Aotearoa’s primeval forests, playing the main browser and grazer role in this unique bird-based ecosystem. Once humans turned up forests wer…Read more
  •  37
    Paleobiology and philosophy
    Biology and Philosophy 34 (2): 31. 2019.
    I offer four ways of distinguishing paleobiology from neontology, and from this develop a sketch of the philosophy of paleobiology. I then situate and describe the papers in the special issue Paleobiology and Philosophy, and reflect on the value and prospects of paleontology-focused philosophy.
  •  31
    Simplicity, one-shot hypotheses and paleobiological explanation
    History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 41 (1): 10. 2019.
    Paleobiologists often provide simple narratives to explain complex, contingent episodes. These narratives are sometimes ‘one-shot hypotheses’ which are treated as being mutually exclusive with other possible explanations of the target episode, and are thus extended to accommodate as much about the episode as possible. I argue that a provisional preference for such hypotheses provides two kinds of productive scaffolding. First, they generate ‘hypothetical difference-makers’: one-shot hypotheses h…Read more
  •  20
    Bottled Understanding: The Role of Lab Work in Ecology
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. forthcoming.
    It is often thought that the vindication of experimental work lies in its capacity to be revelatory of natural systems. I challenge this idea by examining laboratory experiments in ecology. A central task of community ecology involves combining mathematical models and observational data to identify trophic interactions in natural systems. But many ecologists are also lab scientists: constructing microcosm or ‘bottle’ experiments, physically realizing the idealized circumstances described in math…Read more
  •  8
    Creativity, conservativeness & the social epistemology of science
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 76 1-4. 2019.
  •  20
    Introduction: Creativity, Conservatism & the Social Epistemology of Science
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science A. forthcoming.
  •  11
    Existential risk, creativity & well-adapted science
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 76 39-48. 2019.
  •  32
    Why Experiments Matter
    with Arnon Levy
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (9-10): 1-25. 2018.
    Traditionally, experimentation is considered a privileged means of confirmation. However, how experiments are a better confirmatory source than other strategies is unclear, and recent discussions have identified experiments with various modeling strategies on the one hand, and with ‘natural’ experiments on the other hand. We argue that experiments aiming to test theories are best understood as controlled investigations of specimens. ‘Control’ involves repeated, fine-grained causal manipulation o…Read more
  •  13
    Existential Risk, Creativity & Well-Adapted Science
    Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science. forthcoming.
  •  35
    Mass extinctions as major transitions
    Biology and Philosophy 34 (2): 29. 2019.
    Both paleobiology and investigations of ‘major evolutionary transitions’ are intimately concerned with the macroevolutionary shape of life. It is surprising, then, how little studies of major transitions are informed by paleontological perspectives and. I argue that this disconnect is partially justified because paleobiological investigation is typically ‘phenomena-led’, while investigations of major transitions are ‘theory-led’. The distinction turns on evidential relevance: in the former case,…Read more
  •  43
    Frameworks for Historians & Philosophers
    Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 9 1-34. 2018.
    The past can be a stubborn subject: it is complex, heterogeneous and opaque. To understand it, one must decide which aspects of the past to emphasise and which to minimise. Enter frameworks. Frameworks foreground certain aspects of the historical record while backgrounding others. As such, they are both necessary for, and conducive to, good history as well as good philosophy. We examine the role of frameworks in the history and philosophy of science and argue that they are necessary for both for…Read more
  •  10
    Philosophy of Science and the Curse of the Case Study
    In Christopher Daly (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophical Methods, Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 553-572. 2015.
  •  31
    Method Pluralism, Method Mismatch, & Method Bias
    with Shahar Avin
    Philosophers' Imprint 19. 2019.
    Pluralism about scientific method is more-or-less accepted, but the consequences have yet to be drawn out. Scientists adopt different methods in response to different epistemic situations: depending on the system they are interested in, the resources at their disposal, and so forth. If it is right that different methods are appropriate in different situations, then mismatches between methods and situations are possible. This is most likely to occur due to method bias: when we prefer a particular…Read more
  •  12
    Geoengineering Tensions
    Futures. forthcoming.
    There has been much discussion of the moral, legal and prudential implications of geoengineering, and of governance structures for both the research and deployment of such technologies. However, insufficient attention has been paid to how such measures might affect geoengineering in terms of the incentive structures which underwrite scientific progress. There is a tension between the features that make science productive, and the need to govern geoengineering research, which has thus far gone un…Read more
  •  45
    Angela Potochnik’s Idealization and the Aims of Science defends an ambitious and systematic account of scientific knowledge: ultimately science pursues human understanding rather than truth. Potochnik argues that idealization is rampant and unchecked in science. Further, given that idealizations involve departures from truth, this suggests science is not primarily about truth. I explore the relationship between truths about causal patterns and scientific understanding in light of this, and sugge…Read more
  •  28
    In defence of story-telling
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 62 14-21. 2017.
    We argue that narratives are central to the success of historical reconstruction. Narrative explanation involves tracing causal trajectories across time. The construction of narrative, then, often involves postulating relatively speculative causal connections between comparatively well-established events. But speculation is not always idle or harmful: it also aids in overcoming local underdetermination by forming scaffolds from which new evidence becomes relevant. Moreover, as our understanding …Read more
  •  20
    From Models-as-Fictions to Models-as-Tools
    Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 4. 2017.
    Many accounts of scientific modeling conceive of models as fictions: scientists interact with models in ways analogous to various aesthetic objects. Fictionalists follow most other accounts of modeling by taking them to be revelatory of the actual world in virtue of bearing some resemblance relation to a target system. While such fictionalist accounts capture crucial aspects of modelling practice, they are ill-suited to some design and engineering contexts. Here, models sometimes serve to underw…Read more
  •  16
    From Models-as-Fictions to Models-as-Tools
    Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 4. 2017.
    Many accounts of scientific modeling conceive of models as fictions: scientists interact with models in ways analogous to various aesthetic objects. Fictionalists follow most other accounts of modeling by taking them to be revelatory of the actual world in virtue of bearing some resemblance relation to a target system. While such fictionalist accounts capture crucial aspects of modelling practice, they are ill-suited to some design and engineering contexts. Here, models sometimes serve to underw…Read more
  •  25
    Newton on Islandworld: Ontic-Driven Explanations of Scientific Method
    Perspectives on Science 26 (1): 119-156. 2018.
    As philosophers, we are often in the business of explaining scientific method. That is, we ask why such-and-such investigation was carried out as it was, what worked and what didn't, and why. Here, we introduce a framework for understanding "ontic-driven" responses to these kinds of questions. Explanations of method are ontic-driven when they appeal to properties of the systems under investigation. We shall use our framework to develop a fruitful and plausible hypothesis: that several methodolog…Read more
  •  24
    The argument from surprise
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (5): 639-661. 2018.
    I develop an account of productive surprise as an epistemic virtue of scientific investigations which does not turn on psychology alone. On my account, a scientific investigation is potentially productively surprising when results can conflict with epistemic expectations, those expectations pertain to a wide set of subjects. I argue that there are two sources of such surprise in science. One source, often identified with experiments, involves bringing our theoretical ideas in contact with new em…Read more
  •  22
    In Denis Walsh’s Organisms, Agency, and Evolution, he argues that new developments in the science of biology motivate a radical change to our metaphysical picture of life: what he calls ‘Situated Darwinism’. The central claim is that we should take the biological world to be at base about organisms, and organisms in a fundamentally teleological sense. We critically examine Walsh’s arguments and suggest further developments.
  •  62
    Can we be realists about a general category but pluralists about concepts relating to that category? I argue that paleobiological methods of delineating species are not affected by differing species concepts, and that this underwrites an argument that species concept pluralists should be species category realists. First, the criteria by which paleobiologists delineate species are ‘indifferent’ to the species category. That is, their method for identifying species applies equally to any species c…Read more