Rice University, USA
Fall Term 2013
Collaborative Explanation: Causal Unification without Laws
Melinda Bonnie Fagan is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Her research focuses on experiment, explanation and modeling in life sciences, with particular emphasis on social aspects of scientific practice. She is the author of Philosophy of Stem Cell Biology: Knowledge in Flesh and Blood (2013, Palgrave Macmillan) and articles on social epistemology, philosophy of science, and history and philosophy of biology. Before joining the Rice philosophy faculty in 2007, she obtained degrees in History and Philosophy of Science (Ph.D. 2007, Indiana University), Philosophy (M.A. 2002, University of Texas at Austin) and Biology (B.A. 1992, Williams College; Ph.D. 1998, Stanford University). Her research in biology focused on colonial organisms (plants and protochordates) and the evolution of histocompatibility. Relations between science and philosophy, and philosophy and other humanistic disciplines, are the starting point for most of her research, and she is involved in a number of interdisciplinary initiatives, including Rice’s new Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences, where she serves on the Steering Committee. While at Pittsburgh, she will pursue a new research project on connections between collaboration and explanation. She also hopes to run, hike and rockclimb in the surrounding area, and to reflect on the works of Michael Chabon.
As of 2014: Assoc. Professor & Sterling McMurrin Chair at the University of Utah
I published several articles, with one more in press. Listed here.
"Philosophy of stem cell biology: an introduction." Philosophy Compass
8: 1147-1158, 2013.
"The stem cell uncertainty principle." Philosophy of Science 80: 945-957, 2013.
"Do groups have scientific knowledge?", In: Sara Chant, Frank Hindriks,
and Gerhard Preyer (eds.) From Individual to Collective Intentionality: New Essays,
Oxford University Press, 163-186, 2014.
"Cell and body: individuals in stem cell biology" To appear in:
Individuals Across the Sciences. (eds, T. Pradeu and A. Guay, Oxford
I also co-wrote an article on Evolutionary Systems Biology with philosopher Sara Green and biologist Johannes Jaeger (submitted to Biological Theory), and am currently preparing a paper for a Special Section on explanation and scientific practice in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.
I gave invited talks at the Konrad Lorenz Institute (Altenberg, Austria, 9/8/2013), Wesleyan University (Middletown CT, 11/20/2013), and the Eastern APA (Baltimore, MD, 12/29/2013) on Evolutionary Systems Biology, experimental evidence in stem cell research, and collaborative explanation, respectively. I also gave a short invited talk for Rice’s Scientia Institute ‘Power of Ideas’ Speaker Series (2/11/2014), on ‘Collaboration.’
My 2013 book, Philosophy of Stem Cell Biology (Palgrave Macmillan) received a Choice award and was nominated for the Lakatos Prize. I discuss the book (with Carrie Figdor) in a recent New Books in Philosophy podcast.