Three HPS Students Present at the IU HPS&M Women’s Leadership Conference

Author: Char Brecevic

Three HPS students, Char Brecevic, Abigail Holmes, and Isabelle Lahaie, will be presenting at the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine Women's Leadership Conference at Indiana University, Bloomington. For more information about this conference, please follow this link: The titles and abstracts for their talks and poster are presented below:

"A Singular Semirealist Account of Biological Sex"
Char Brecevic
Over the past several decades, medical institutions have emphasized the importance of using biological sex as an independent variable in medical research. Many medical scientists have argued that sex differences are not limited to reproductive organs and functions, but instead may exist throughout human anatomy and physiology. At first glance, these claims seem to put pressure on certain feminist theories of sex. In this presentation, I argue that reconciliation between medical research and feminist metaphysics may be found in adopting a singularist semirealist about biological sex. An important consequence of using this framework is that it may, in principle, encourage the selection of more causally relevant independent variables beyond biological sex in certain experimental contexts.

"Quantum Acausal Conspiracy Theories and Explanation"
Abigail Holmes

Bell’s theorem is widely believed to prove that no deterministic local hidden variables theory can be empirically adequate. In fact, it is possible to construct such a theory if one is willing to reject Independence, the condition that the choices of measurement settings in a Bell-type experiment are independent of the complete state of the particles. Lewis (2006) explores this possibility space and identifies two types of quantum “conspiracy theories”: those that posit a common cause which correlates the measurement settings and particle states and those that reject both Independence and the principle of the common cause (and so reject the need to provide a causal explanation for the correlations). Fine’s (1989) argument that the correlations of Bell-type experiments do not require causal explanation is used to justify the lack of causal explanation for the correlations in this type of “acausal conspiracy theory”. But an examination of Fine’s claims and their context shows that his argument can not be used to free Lewis’s acausal conspiracy theory from the burden of explanation. Fine is clear that it is only given the quantum formalism that the correlations can be taken as Toulmin’s (1963) “ideals of natural order.” This model-dependent argument cannot be appropriated in the way Lewis claims for his acausal conspiracy theory. This result is significant because it further narrows the field of possible empirically adequate theories.

"Of Monsters and Men: The Supernatural and the Sanctity of Sex in Jacob Rueff's Trostbüchle"
Isabelle Lahaie
In the second half of the sixteenth century, an abundance of wonder books flooded Germany.  These books were wildly popular collections of "wonder births" and "Monstra," children with incredible deformities or conjoined twins whose births were "against the natural order."  Many of these wonder books were heavily influenced by Jacob Rueff’s handbook for midwives, the Trostbüchle, which contained an illustrated collection of both contemporary German and ancient wonder births.  Few historians have analyzed Rueff’s Monstra within their immediate context: the fifth book of the Trostbüchle.  The chapters that flank the Monstra notably emphasize the natural causes for deformities, problems with pregnancies, and false conceptions, and the final chapter of the book provides an extensive refutation of popular theories on devils’ abilities to cause or manipulate pregnancies. Throughout the fifth book, Rueff reduces God's role in the conception and creation of Monstra to a passive permission rather than an active interference.  I argue that through an emphasis on natural causation and by limiting the role of supernatural beings in conception and gestation, Rueff protected human procreation as a part of the natural order.  In doing so, he could also protect the humanity of his Monstra.