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Profile: Melinda Bonnie Fagan (University of Utah)
  1. Melinda Bonnie Fagan (forthcoming). Collaborative Explanation and Biological Mechanisms. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A.
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  2. Melinda Bonnie Fagan (forthcoming). The Stem Cell Uncertainty Principle. Philosophical Explorations 80 (5):945-957.
    Stem cells are defined as having capacities for both self-renewal and differentiation. Many different entities satisfy this working definition. I show that this general stem cell concept is relative to a cell lineage, temporal duration, and characters of interest. Experiments specify values for these variables. So claims about stem cells must be understood in terms of experimental methods used to identify them. Furthermore, the stem cell concept imposes evidential constraints on interpretation of experimental results. From these constraints, it follows that (...)
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  3. Melinda Fagan (2015). Stem Cell Lacunae. Metascience 24 (1):147-153.
    Sarah Franklin’s Biological relatives: IVF, stem cells, and the future of kinship and Charis Thompson’s Good science: the ethical choreography of stem cell research, examine recently normalized biotechnologies. Franklin’s monograph extends her previous work on in vitro fertilization , deconstructing the success of a technology that, she argues, has grown “curiouser and curiouser” while taking hold in scientific and social life. IVF in its diverse aspects becomes a lens for scrutinizing our ambivalence about new technology, which Franklin articulates by putting (...)
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  4. Sara Green, Melinda Fagan & Johannes Jaeger (2015). Explanatory Integration Challenges in Evolutionary Systems Biology. Biological Theory 10 (1):18-35.
    Evolutionary systems biology aims to integrate methods from systems biology and evolutionary biology to go beyond the current limitations in both fields. This article clarifies some conceptual difficulties of this integration project, and shows how they can be overcome. The main challenge we consider involves the integration of evolutionary biology with developmental dynamics, illustrated with two examples. First, we examine historical tensions between efforts to define general evolutionary principles and articulation of detailed mechanistic explanations of specific traits. Next, these tensions (...)
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  5. Melinda Bonnie Fagan (2013). Human Experiments: Waves and Rifts in Synthetic Biology. [REVIEW] Metascience 22 (2):371-374.
  6. Melinda Bonnie Fagan (2013). Philosophy of Stem Cell Biology – an Introduction. Philosophy Compass 8 (12):1147-1158.
    This review surveys three central issues in philosophy of stem cell biology: the nature of stem cells, stem cell experiments, and explanations of stem cell capacities. First, I argue that the fundamental question ‘what is a stem cell?’ has no single substantive answer. Instead, the core idea is explicated via an abstract model, which accounts for many features of stem cell experiments. The second part of this essay examines several of these features: uncertainty, model organisms, and manipulability. The results shed (...)
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  7. Melinda Fagan (2012). Collective Scientific Knowledge. Philosophy Compass 7 (12):821-831.
    Philosophical debates about collective scientific knowledge concern two distinct theses: groups are necessary to produce scientific knowledge, and groups have scientific knowledge in their own right. Thesis has strong support. Groups are required, in many cases of scientific inquiry, to satisfy methodological norms, to develop theoretical concepts, or to validate the results of inquiry as scientific knowledge. So scientific knowledge‐production is collective in at least three respects. However, support for is more equivocal. Though some examples suggest that groups have scientific (...)
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  8. Melinda Fagan (2012). Standards in History: Evaluating Success in Stem Cell Experiments. In Henk W. de Regt (ed.), Epsa Philosophy of Science: Amsterdam 2009. Springer. 43--53.
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  9. Melinda Fagan (2012). Waddington Redux: Models and Explanation in Stem Cell and Systems Biology. Biology and Philosophy 27 (2):179-213.
    Stem cell biology and systems biology are two prominent new approaches to studying cell development. In stem cell biology, the predominant method is experimental manipulation of concrete cells and tissues. Systems biology, in contrast, emphasizes mathematical modeling of cellular systems. For scientists and philosophers interested in development, an important question arises: how should the two approaches relate? This essay proposes an answer, using the model of Waddington’s landscape to triangulate between stem cell and systems approaches. This simple abstract model represents (...)
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  10. Melinda Bonnie Fagan (2012). The Joint Account of Mechanistic Explanation. Philosophy of Science 79 (4):448-472.
  11. Melinda B. Fagan (2011). Social Experiments in Stem Cell Biology. Perspectives on Science 19 (3):235-262.
    Stem cell biology is driven by experiment. Its major achievements are striking experimental productions: "immortal" human cell lines from spare embryos (Thomson et al. 1998); embryo-like cells from "reprogrammed" adult skin cells (Takahashi and Yamanaka 2006); muscle, blood and nerve tissue generated from stem cells in culture (Lanza et al. 2009, and references therein). Well-confirmed theories are not so prominent, though stem cell biologists do propose and test hypotheses at a profligate rate. 1 This paper aims to characterize the role (...)
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  12. Melinda Bonnie Fagan (2011). Is There Collective Scientific Knowledge? Arguments From Explanation. Philosophical Quarterly 61 (243):247-269.
    If there is collective scientific knowledge, then at least some scientific groups have beliefs over and above the personal beliefs of their members. Gilbert's plural-subjects theory makes precise the notion of ‘over and above’ here. Some philosophers have used plural-subjects theory to argue that philosophical, historical and sociological studies of science should take account of collective beliefs of scientific groups. Their claims rest on the premise that our best explanations of scientific change include these collective beliefs. I argue that Gilbert's (...)
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  13. Melinda Bonnie Fagan (2011). Review of Steve Fuller, Science. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2011 (2).
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  14. Melinda Fagan, Experimental Standards: Evaluating Success in Stem Cell Biology.
    This paper aims to bring the epistemic dimensions of stem cell experiments out of the background, and show that they can be critically evaluated. After introducing some basic concepts of stem cell biology, I set out the current “gold standard” for experimental success in that field (§2). I then trace the origin of this standard to a 1988 controversy over blood stem cells (§3). Understanding the outcome of this controversy requires attention to the details of experimental techniques, the organization of (...)
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  15. Melinda B. Fagan (2010). Social Construction Revisited: Epistemology and Scientific Practice. Philosophy of Science 77 (1):92-116.
    Philosophy of scientific practice aims to critically evaluate as well as describe scientific inquiry. Epistemic norms are required for such evaluation. Social constructivism is widely thought to oppose this critical project. I argue, however, that one variety of social constructivism, focused on epistemic justification, can be a basis for critical epistemology of scientific practice, while normative accounts that reject this variety of social constructivism (SCj) cannot. Abstract, idealized epistemic (...)
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  16. Melinda Bonnie Fagan (2010). Stems and Standards: Social Interaction in the Search for Blood Stem Cells. Journal of the History of Biology 43 (1):67 - 109.
    This essay examines the role of social interactions in the search for blood stem cells, in a recent episode of biomedical research. Linked to mid-20th century cell biology, genetics and radiation research, the search for blood stem cells coalesced in the 1960s and took a developmental turn in the late 1980s, with significant ramifications for immunology, stem cell and cancer biology. Like much contemporary biomedical research, this line of inquiry exhibits a complex social structure and includes several prominent scientific successes, (...)
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  17. Melinda Fagan, Collaboration, Toward an Integrative Philosophy of Scientific Practice.
    Philosophical understanding of experimental scientific practice is impeded by disciplinary differences, notably that between philosophy and sociology of science. Severing the two limits the stock of philosophical case studies to narrowly circumscribed experimental episodes, centered on individual scientists or technologies. The complex relations between scientists and society that permeate experimental research are left unexamined. In consequence, experimental fields rich in social interactions (notably biomedicine) have received only patchy attention from philosophers of science. This paper sketches a remedy for both the (...)
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  18. Melinda B. Fagan (2009). Fleck and the Social Constitution of Scientific Objectivity. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 40 (4):272-285.
    Ludwik Fleck’s theory of thought-styles has been hailed as a pioneer of constructivist science studies and sociology of scientific knowledge. But this consensus ignores an important feature of Fleck’s epistemology. At the core of his account is the ideal of ‘objective truth, clarity, and accuracy’. I begin with Fleck’s account of modern natural science, locating the ideal of scientific objectivity within his general social epistemology. I then draw on Fleck’s view of scientific objectivity to improve upon reflexive accounts of the (...)
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  19. Melinda Bonnie Fagan (2009). Review of Heather E. Douglas, Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (12).
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  20. Melinda Fagan, Social Epistemology of Scientific Inquiry: Beyond Historical Vs. Philosophical Case Studies.
    In this paper, I propose a new way to integrate historical accounts of social interaction in scientific practice with philosophical examination of scientific knowledge. The relation between descriptive accounts of scientific practice, on the one hand, and normative accounts of scientific knowledge, on the other, is a vexed one. This vexatiousness is one instance of the gap between normative and descriptive domains. The general problem of the normative/descriptive divide takes striking and problematic form in the case of social aspects of (...)
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  21. Melinda B. Fagan (2007). Wallace, Darwin, and the Practice of Natural History. Journal of the History of Biology 40 (4):601 - 635.
    There is a pervasive contrast in the early natural history writings of the co-discoverers of natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin. In his writings from South America and the Malay Archipelago (1848-1852, 1854-1862). Wallace consistently emphasized species and genera, and separated these descriptions from his rarer and briefer discussions of individual organisms. In contrast, Darwin's writings during the Beagle voyage (1831-1836) emphasized individual organisms, and mingled descriptions of individuals and groups. The contrast is explained by the different practices (...)
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  22. Melinda B. Fagan (2007). The Search for the Hematopoietic Stem Cell: Social Interaction and Epistemic Success in Immunology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 38 (1):217-237.
    Epistemology of science is currently polarized. Descriptive accounts of the social aspects of science coexist uneasily with normative accounts of scientific knowledge. This tension leads students of science to privilege one of these important aspects over the other. I use an episode of recent immunology research to develop an integrative account of scientific inquiry that resolves the tension between sociality and epistemic success. The search for the hematopoietic stem cell by members of Irving Weissman’s laboratory at Stanford University Medical Center (...)
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  23. Melinda Fagan, Patrick Forber, Vivette GarcÍa Deister, Matthew H. Haber, Andrew Hamilton & Grant Yamashita (2005). Meeting Report: First ISHPSSB Off-Year Workshop. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 20 (4):927-929.
  24. Melinda Fagan & Sahotra Sarkar (2001). Darwinism in Philosophy, Social Science and Public Policy. Biology and Philosophy 16 (5):747-749.