Main Research Interests
Philosophy of Biology & Scientific Classification
I have been thinking about philosophical questions about (primarily biological) classification for a long time now. My first book, on the species problem (see right), was an unexpected spinoff of the research I pursued in 2010–11 thanks to a Scholar's Award from the National Science Foundation. During that time, I developed a general account of natural kinds — the Stable Property Cluster (SPC) account — suitable to accommodate biological categories. The details can be found in my "Natural Kindness" (2015, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science); I apply this account to cell-types in my "Cell Types as Natural Kinds" (Biological Theory) and to ecosystems in my "Anchoring in Ecosystemic Kinds" (Synthese) I've been thinking a lot about the role that norms play in classification, a subject that comes up in my "Pluto and the Platypus".
Before this, I explored the issue of natural kinds monism vs. pluralism in connection with enantiomers in my "Monism on the One Hand, Pluralism on the Other" (get it!?) and biological macromolecules in "Macromolecular Pluralism". I plan to consider sub-cellular components, organ systems and tissues, races, and disease as future case studies for my account of natural kinds in a manuscript in progress entitled The Nature of Biological Kinds — a sort of sequel to Are Species Real?.
General Philosophy of Science & Social Epistemology
Recently, I've become quite interested in epistemology — particularly issues in social epistemology (such as deference and testimony), dogmatic skepticism, conspiracy theories, disagreement, and understanding as they pertain to the general problem of scientific literacy and the division of cognitive labor. A major project on this — "The Production of Public Understanding of Science" (or "PoPUS") — kicked off in 2014 thanks to a grant from the Varieties of Understanding Project and is currently underway.
In the Philosophy of Science more generally, I have some joint projects now in their initial stages concerning special science autonomy, natural laws, and ontological commitment. I’ve also been thinking about science education and strategies for effective teaching in philosophy of science (following up on my “How to Justify Teaching False Science” in a special issue of Science Education).
I regularly co-teach a course on the science and ethics of climate change with my colleague from Geography Duane Griffin that has got me thinking more about evidential and ethical issues bound up in this problem, especially as pertain to my interests in epistemology.