Model Evaluation: An Adequacy-for-Purpose View

Abstract: According to an adequacy-for-purpose view, models should be assessed with respect to their adequacy or fitness for particular purposes. Such a view has been advocated by scientists and philosophers alike. Important details, however, have yet to be spelled out. This article attempts to make progress by addressing three key questions: What does it mean for a model to be adequate-for-purpose? What makes a model adequate-for-purpose? How does assessing a model’s adequacy-for-purpose differ from assessing its representational accuracy? In addition, responses are given to some objections that might be raised against an adequacy-for-purpose view.

A radical solution to the Race problem

Abstract: It has become customary among philosophers and biologists to claim that folk racial classification has no biological basis. This paper attempts to debunk that view. In this paper, I show that ‘race’, as used in current U.S. race talk, picks out a biologically real entity. I do this by, first, showing that ‘race’, in this use, is not a kind term, but a proper name for a set of human population groups. Next, using recent human genetic clustering results, I show that this set of human population groups is a partition of human populations that I call ‘the Blumenbach partition’.

Organisms as Persisters

Abstract: This paper addresses the question of what organisms are and therefore what kinds of biological entities qualify as organisms. For some time now, the concept of organismality has been eclipsed by the notion of individuality. Biological individuals are those systems that are units of selection. I develop a conception of organismality that does not rely on evolutionary considerations, but instead draws on development and ecology. On this account, organismality and individuality can come apart. Organisms, in my view, are as Godfrey-Smith puts it “essentially persisters.” I argue that persistence is underpinned by differentiation, integration, development, and the constitutive embeddedness of organisms in their worlds. I examine two marginal cases, the Portuguese Man O’ War and the honey bee colony, and show that both count as organisms in light of my analysis. Next, I examine the case of holobionts, hosts plus their microsymbionts, and argue that they can be counted as organisms even though they may not be biological individuals. Finally, I consider the question of whether other, less tightly integrated biological systems might also be treated as organisms.

Involuntary experiments in former colonies: The case for a moratorium

Abstract: There is a rich literature on the use of medical trials as a model for designing and evaluating the outcomes of social policy interventions in former colonies. Yet social experimentalists have not engaged in a correspondingly vibrant discussion of medical ethics. A systematic review of social experiments shows that few studies explicitly discuss informed consent, or the serious constraints on securing informed consent from impoverished or child participants, particularly in the context of cluster randomization. The silence on informed consent, and in some cases active denial thereof, suggests that it is often considered less important than other elements of experimental design. This matters since involuntary experimentation on vulnerable people violates their personhood, increases the risk of unintended harm, and establishes continuities with colonial experimentation. There is a need to develop more effective mechanisms for regulating social experiments in former colonies. In the interim, scholars in the South have a responsibility to call for a moratorium on experiments.

What knowers know well: Women, work and the academy

Abstract: Research on the status and experience of women in academia in the last 30 years has challenged conventional explanations of persistent gender inequality, bringing into sharp focus the cumulative impact of small scale, often unintentional differences in recognition and response: the patterns of ‘post-civil rights era’ dis­crimination made famous by the 1999 report on the status of women in the MIT School of Science. I argue that feminist standpoint theory is a useful resource for understanding how this sea change in understanding gender inequity was realized. At the same time, close attention to activist research on workplace environment issues suggests ways in which our understanding of standpoint theory can fruitfully be refined. I focus on the implications of two sets of distinctions: between types of epistemic injustice (and correlative advantage) that may affect marginalized knowers; and between the resources of situated knowledge and those of a critical standpoint on knowledge production.

Uses of value judgments in science: A general argument, with lessons from a case study of feminist research on divorce

Abstract: The underdetermination argument establishes that scientists may use political values to guide inquiry, without providing criteria for distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate guidance. This paper supplies such criteria. Analysis of the confused arguments against value-laden science reveals the fundamental criterion of illegitimate guidance: when value judgments operate to drive inquiry to a predetermined conclusion. A case study of feminist research on divorce reveals numerous legitimate ways that values can guide science without violating this standard.

Values in Social Science

Introduction: The social sciences have long had an inferiority complex. Because the social sciences emerged as distinct disciplines after the natural sciences, comparisons between the mature and successful natural sciences and the fledgling social sciences were quickly made. One of the primary concerns that arose was over the role of values in the social sciences. There were several reasons for this. First, the social sciences did not have the clear empirical successes that the natural sciences did in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to bolster confidence in their reliability. Some postulated that an undue influence of values on the social sciences contributed to this deficit of empirical success. Second, social sciences such as economics and psychology emerged from their philosophical precursors gradually and often carried with them the clear normative trappings of their disciplinary origins. Third, although formal rules on the treatment of human subjects would not emerge until the second half of the twentieth century, by the time the social sciences emerged, it was obvious there were both ethical and epistemic challenges to experimenting on human subjects and human communities. Controlled settings were (and are) often difficult to achieve (or are unethical to achieve), making clear empirical success even more elusive. Finally, there is the additional com-plication that social sciences invariably study and/or comment upon human values. All of these considerations lent credence to the view that social sciences were inevitably more value-laden, and as a result less reliable, than the natural sciences.

Routledge Handbook of Feminist Philosophy of Science

The Routledge Handbook of Feminist Philosophy of Science is a comprehensive resource for feminist thinking about and in the sciences. Its 33 chapters were written exclusively for this Handbook by a group of leading international philosophers as well as scholars in gender studies, women’s studies, psychology, economics, and political science.

The chapters of the Handbook are organized into four main parts:

  1. Hidden Figures and Historical Critique
  2. Theoretical Frameworks
  3. Key Concepts and Issues
  4. IV. Feminist Philosophy of Science in Practice.

The chapters in this extensive, fourth part examine the relevance of feminist philosophical thought for a range of scientific and professional disciplines, including biology and biomedical sciences; psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience; the social sciences; physics; and public policy.

The Handbook gives a snapshot of the current state of feminist philosophy of science, allowing students and other newcomers to get up to speed quickly in the subfield and providing a handy reference for many different kinds of researchers.

The Virtue of Civility

Abstract: The decline of civility has increasingly become the subject of lament both in popular media and in daily conversation. Civility forestalls the potential unpleasantness of a life with other people. Without it, daily social exchanges can turn nasty and sometimes hazardous. Civility thus seems to be a basic virtue of social life. Moral philosophers, however, do not typically mention civility in their catalogues or examples of virtue. In what follows, I want to suggest that civility is a particularly interesting virtue for moral philosophers because giving an adequate account of the virtue of civility requires us to rethink the relationship between moral virtue and compliance with social norms.

Feminist Perspectives on Science

Introduction: There are a variety of ways that feminists have reflected upon and engaged with science critically and constructively each of which might be thought of as perspectives on science. Feminists have detailed the historically gendered participation in the practice of science—the marginalization or exclusion of women from the profession and how their contributions have disappeared when they have participated. Feminists have also noted how the sciences have been slow to study women’s lives, bodies, and experiences. Thus from both the perspectives of the agents—the creators of scientific knowledge—and from the perspectives of the subjects of knowledge—the topics and interests focused on—the sciences often have not served women satisfactorily. We can think of these perspectives as generating two types of equity issues: limitations on the freedom to participate as reflected in the historical underrepresentation of women in the scientific professions and the relative lack of attention to research questions relevant to women’s lives.