Conceptual Change

Many important biological concepts are both dynamic and flexible. They are defined and used in different ways at any given time, and these properties also change over time. How does this behavior support the development of new knowledge? My dissertation addresses these questions for homology, which has been called “the central concept for all of biology.” Drawing on several major debates in its recent history, I propose a new general theory of conceptual change that accounts for both cohesion and differentiation over time.

Articles in Progress

  • "Essentially Dynamic Concepts and the Case of Homology" (manuscript)
  • Revise & Resubmit — a philosophical interpretation of a key historical debate


Scientific Analogies

How does analogical reasoning support scientific explanation? Biologists and philosophers commonly analogize Newtonian forces with evolutionary processes. I argue that different "first laws" of biology support different explanatory aims. One variant, the Hardy-Weinberg principle, has played many other epistemic roles over time. I am exploring the implications for the debate between casualist and statisticalist interpretations of evolutionary theory.



Data Interpretation

Scientific data must be interpreted before it can serve as evidence. But what makes for a good interpretation? The most familiar answer is reliability — scientists need to minimize experimental artifacts and other sources of error. I call attention to a different virtue of good interpretations — they are the most relevant among many possible options. Solidifying relevance is a major function of scientific publication. This project draws on laboratory research I did with Ilya Ruvinsky and Erin Aprison (now at Northwestern).

Article in Progress

  • "Following the Evidence Where it Leads"

Scientific Publication

  • Gouvêa, Aprison, and Ruvinsky. “Experience Modulates the Reproductive Response to Heat Stress in C. elegans via Multiple Physiological Processes.” PLOS One 10 (2015) (PDF).