Lauren N. Ross
I am very pleased to announce that Dr. Lauren N. Ross will join my current research group at University of Calgary in June 2016 as an Eyes High Postdoctoral Fellow. Lauren will complete her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from University of Pittsburgh in May. She has accepted a tenure track position at University of California, Irvine, but she is keen on coming to Calgary and secured a one-year deferment from Irvine. Needless to say, on behalf of myself, my research group, and the Philosophy Department at Calgary, we are honored by her choice to spend next year with us, and we are looking forward to her joining our thriving philosophical community. Please find below Lauren's description of her research. -Ken
My research concerns explanation and causation, particularly in the domains of biology, neuroscience, and medicine. One main area of my work examines causal selection which has to do with the distinction we make between background conditions and the “true” cause or causes of some outcome of interest. A longstanding consensus in philosophy views causal selection as lacking any objective rationale and as guided by considerations that are arbitrary, pragmatic, and unscientific. This position faces significant problems in the context of biomedicine where scientists commonly identify “the” cause or causes of specific diseases. I argue that causal selection for disease traits is guided by a principled rationale that is best understood in terms of the causal control that the selected factors have over the disease of interest. This work informs future projects which include interpreting the monocausal model of disease and clarifying the role of pragmatic considerations in scientific explanation.
A second main area of my work examines the nature of explanation in the biological sciences, in particular, explanations that appeal to causal pathways. I see the notion of a pathway as a central explanatory concept in biology and as distinct from notions like mechanism. While mainstream philosophical views claim that all or most explanations in biology and neuroscience are “mechanistic” I argue that pathway explanations represent an explanatory pattern that does not fit the mechanistic paradigm. This work reveals how explanations in these sciences are much more diverse than has been appreciated in the extant literature. In other projects I examine criteria of disease causation, including Koch’s postulates and the Bradford-Hill criteria, and bioethical issues that relate to the medical concept of brain death and characterizations of stem cells in the scientific literature.
[pdf of cv] [link to department profile]