•  562
    Abstract: Hasok Chang (Sci Educ 20:317–341, 2011) shows how the recovery of past experimental knowledge, the physical replication of historical experiments, and the extension of recovered knowledge can increase scientific understanding. These activities can also play an important role in both science and history and philosophy of science education. In this paper I describe the implementation of an integrated learning project that I initiated, organized, and structured to complement a course in h…Read more
  •  462
    Species concepts aim to define the species category. Many of these rely on defining species in terms of natural lineages and groupings. A dominant gene-centred metaconception has shaped notions of what constitutes both a natural lineage and a natural grouping. I suggest that relying on this metaconception provides an incomplete understanding of what constitute natural lineages and groupings. If we take seriously the role of epigenetic, behavioural, cultural, and ecological inheritance systems, r…Read more
  •  456
    Synthetic Biology and Biofuels
    In Paul B. Thompson & David M. Kaplan (eds.), Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics, Springer. 2014.
    Synthetic biology is a field of research that concentrates on the design, construction, and modification of new biomolecular parts and metabolic pathways using engineering techniques and computational models. By employing knowledge of operational pathways from engineering and mathematics such as circuits, oscillators, and digital logic gates, it uses these to understand, model, rewire, and reprogram biological networks and modules. Standard biological parts with known functions are catalogued in…Read more
  •  418
    “Proof of concept” is a phrase frequently used in descriptions of research sought in program announcements, in experimental studies, and in the marketing of new technologies. It is often coupled with either a short definition or none at all, its meaning assumed to be fully understood. This is problematic. As a phrase with potential implications for research and technology, its assumed meaning requires some analysis to avoid it becoming a descriptive category that refers to all things scientifica…Read more
  •  412
    Race as a Physiosocial Phenomenon
    History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 33 (2): 191-222. 2011.
    This paper offers both a criticism of and a novel alternative perspective on current ontologies that take race to be something that is either static and wholly evident at one’s birth or preformed prior to it. In it I survey and critically assess six of the most popular conceptions of race, concluding with an outline of my own suggestion for an alternative account. I suggest that race can be best understood in terms of one’s experience of his or her body, one’s interactions with other individuals…Read more
  •  259
    Hybridity in Agriculture
    In Paul B. Thompson & David M. Kaplan (eds.), Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics., Springer. 2014.
    In a very general sense, hybrid can be understood to be any organism that is the product of two (or more) organisms where each parent belongs to a different kind. For example; the offspring from two or more parent organisms, each belonging to a separate species (or genera), is called a “hybrid”. “Hybridity” refers to the phenomenal character of being a hybrid. And “hybridization ” refers to both natural and artificial processes of generating hybrids. These processes include mechanisms of selecti…Read more
  •  224
    Philosophical investigation in synthetic biology has focused on the knowledge-seeking questions pursued, the kind of engineering techniques used, and on the ethical impact of the products produced. However, little work has been done to investigate the processes by which these epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical forms of inquiry arise in the course of synthetic biology research. An attempt at this work relying on a particular area of synthetic biology will be the aim of this chapter. I foc…Read more
  •  189
    Considering the Role Marked Variation Plays in Classifying Humans: A Normative Approach
    Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 13 (10): 1-15. 2018.
    The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the ongoing analyses that aim to confront the problem of marked variation. Negatively marked differences are those natural variations that are used to cleave human beings into different categories (e.g., of disablement, of medicalized pathology, of subnormalcy, or of deviance). The problem of marked variation is: Why are some rather than other variations marked as epistemically or culturally significant or as a diagnostic of pathology, and What is th…Read more
  •  188
    Debates in Philosophy of Biology: One Long Argument, or Many?
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (1). 2011.
    Philosophy of biology, perhaps more than any other philosophy of science, is a discipline in flux. What counts as consensus and key arguments in certain areas changes rapidly.The publication of Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology (2010 Wiley-Blackwell) is reviewed and is used as a catalyst to a discussion of the recent expansion of subjects and perspectives in the philosophy of biology as well as their diverse epistemological and methodological commitments.
  •  153
    Can the Epistemic Value of Natural Kinds Be Explained Independently of Their Metaphysics?
    with John Grey
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (2): 359-376. 2021.
    The account of natural kinds as stable property clusters is premised on the possibility of separating the epistemic value of natural kinds from their underlying metaphysics. On that account, the co-instantiation of any sub-cluster of the properties associated with a given natural kind raises the probability of the co-instantiation of the rest, and this clustering of property instantiation is invariant under all relevant counterfactual perturbations. We argue that it is not possible to evaluate t…Read more
  •  153
    John Wilkins and Malte Ebach respond to the dismissal of classification as something we need not concern ourselves with because it is, as Ernest Rutherford suggested, mere ‘‘stamp collecting.’’ They contend that classification is neither derivative of explanation or of hypothesis-making but is necessarily prior and prerequisite to it. Classification comes first and causal explanations are dependent upon it. As such it is an important (but neglected) area of philosophical study. Wilkins and Ebach…Read more
  •  123
    Discussions over whether these natural kinds exist, what is the nature of their existence, and whether natural kinds are themselves natural kinds aim to not only characterize the kinds of things that exist in the world, but also what can knowledge of these categories provide. Although philosophically critical, much of the past discussions of natural kinds have often answered these questions in a way that is unresponsive to, or has actively avoided, discussions of the empirical use of natural ki…Read more
  •  107
    Reengineering Metaphysics: Modularity, Parthood, and Evolvability in Metabolic Engineering
    with Todd T. Eckdahl
    Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (8). 2017.
    The premise of biological modularity is an ontological claim that appears to come out of practice. We understand that the biological world is modular because we can manipulate different parts of organisms in ways that would only work if there were discrete parts that were interchangeable. This is the foundation of the BioBrick assembly method widely used in synthetic biology. It is one of a number of methods that allows practitioners to construct and reconstruct biological pathways and devices u…Read more
  •  95
    Ontology and values anchor indigenous and grey nomenclatures: a case study in lichen naming practices among the Samí, Sherpa, Scots, and Okanagan
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 84 101340. 2020.
    Ethnobotanical research provides ample justification for comparing diverse biological nomenclatures and exploring ways that retain alternative naming practices. However, how (and whether) comparison of nomenclatures is possible remains a subject of discussion. The comparison of diverse nomenclatural practices introduces a suite of epistemic and ontological difficulties and considerations. Different nomenclatures may depend on whether the communities using them rely on formalized naming conventio…Read more
  •  91
    This edited volume of 13 new essays aims to turn past discussions of natural kinds on their head. Instead of presenting a metaphysical view of kinds based largely on an unempirical vantage point, it pursues questions of kindedness which take the use of kinds and activities of kinding in practice as significant in the articulation of them as kinds. The book brings philosophical study of current and historical episodes and case studies from various scientific disciplines to bear on natural kinds a…Read more
  •  78
    Homology is a natural kind concept, but one that has been notoriously elusive to pin down. There has been sustained debate over the nature of correspondence and the units of comparison. But this continued debate over its meaning has focused on defining homology rather than on its use in practice. The aim of this chapter is to concentrate on the practices of homologizing. I define “homologizing” to be a concept-in-use. Practices of homologizing are kinds of rule following, the satisfaction of whi…Read more
  •  75
    The history and philosophy of taxonomy as an information science
    History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (3): 1-9. 2020.
    We undeniably live in an information age—as, indeed, did those who lived before us. After all, as the cultural historian Robert Darnton pointed out: ‘every age was an age of information, each in its own way’ (Darnton 2000: 1). Darnton was referring to the news media, but his insight surely also applies to the sciences. The practices of acquiring, storing, labeling, organizing, retrieving, mobilizing, and integrating data about the natural world has always been an enabling aspect of scientific wo…Read more
  •  62
    An ontogenetic-ecological conception of species: A new approach to an old idea
    EPSA09: 2nd Conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association. Online at PhilSci Archive. 2010.
    This paper outlines an alternative perspective on species that avoids some of the underlying assumptions held by the BSC and other gene-centred species concepts. It begins with a characterisation of the species problem and some of the assumptions underpinning conceptions of species. In particular, the underlying bias of some conceptions (such as the BSC) to focus exclusively on the adult stage of the life cycle in articulating what a species is.
  •  55
    The Ethics of Speculative Anticipation and the Covid-19 Pandemic
    with Wenda K. Bauchspies
    Hypatia 36 (1): 228-236. 2021.
    This paper explores the role of speculative anticipation in ethics during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides a structure to think about ethical decision-making in times of extreme uncertainty. We identify three different but interwoven domains within which speculative anticipation can be found: global, local, and projective anticipation. Our analysis aims to open possibilities of seeing the situatedness of others both locally and globally in order to address larger social issues that have been l…Read more
  •  41
    Scott Lidgard and Lynn K. Nyhart, eds. Biological Individuality: Integrating Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Perspectives (review)
    Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 8 (2): 475-480. 2018.
    Biologists, historians of biology, and philosophers of biology often ask what is it to be an individual, really. This book does not answer that question. Instead, it answers a much more interesting one: How do biologists individuate individuals? In answering that question, the authors explore why biologists individuate individuals, in what ways, and for what purposes. The cross-disciplinary, dialogical approach to answering metaphysical questions that is pursued in the volume may seem strange …Read more
  •  28
    Titles and abstracts for the Pitt-London Workshop in the Philosophy of Biology and Neuroscience: September 2001
    with Karen Arnold, James Bogen, Ingo Brigandt, Joe Cain, Paul Griffiths, James Lennox, Alan C. Love, Peter Machamer, Jacqueline Sullivan, Gianmatteo Mameli, Sandra D. Mitchell, David Papineau, Karola Stotz, and D. M. Walsh
    Titles and abstracts for the Pitt-London Workshop in the Philosophy of Biology and Neuroscience: September 2001.
  •  23
    Reconstructing the concept of homology for genomics
    Pittsburgh/London Colloquium on Philosophy of Biology and Neuroscience, University of London. Online at PhilSci Archive. 2001.
    Homology has been one of, if not the most, fecund concepts which has been used towards the understanding of the genomes of the model organisms. The evidence for this claim can be supported best with an examination of current research in comparative genomics. In comparative genomics, the information of genes or segments of the genome, and their location and sequence, are used to search for genes similar to them, known as 'homologues'. Homologues can be either within that same organism (paralogues…Read more