Melinda B. Fagan
Philosophy of Stem Cell Biology
Knowledge in Flesh and Blood
Palgrave Macmillan 2013
Philosophy of science has come a very long way from its historically rooted focus on theories, explanations, and evidential relations in physics elaborated in terms of a rather mythical “theory T”. But even in philosophy of biology, attention has largely been on the concepts and abstract mathematics of evolutionary biology, not the in-the-trenches work of cell biology. Melinda B. Fagan, associate professor of philosophy at Rice University, stakes out new ground in Philosophy of Stem Cell Biology: Knowledge in Flesh and Blood (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), which was recently selected as an outstanding academic title by Choice magazine. Fagan examines the interplay of experimental manipulation of cells and tissues with the mathematical modeling of cells and their developmental landscapes, and the interaction between the methods and goals of scientific knowledge production with the practical therapeutic goals of clinical medicine. She discusses the basic concepts of stem cell biology, its experimental and collaborative methods, and its models, and considers how these features alter our thinking about evidence, explanation, causality, unification, and the role of values in science.