“Analogical Reasoning in Scientific Practice:  The Problem of Ingrained Analogies”


From metaphors that direct scientific inquiry to analogical inferences that justify particular hypotheses or models, analogical reasoning plays numerous roles in scientific practice. In some cases, the analogy is explicit and carefully controlled. Often, however, scientific communities are not aware of the analogies that inform their research. When the analogical correspondences presupposed by a metaphor are taken for granted, a community’s uncritical use of analogy becomes problematic. For example, the race as species metaphor that guided 19th century race science endorsed a research program, which promoted a hierarchy of race based on assumptions consistent with societal expectations and also resulted in social policies that marginalized large segments of American society. In this case, not only did analogical reasoning hinder the acquisition of knowledge, it also resulted in social policies that had profound, negative effects. Drawing from feminist theory and social epistemology, I argue that communities must adopt strategies that bring analogies to the surface for systematic, critical assessment. In doing so, scientific communities not only avoid being misled by analogical reasoning, but by instituting practices that limit harm, they also become more socially responsible.

Dissertation Committee:

Dr. Alison Wylie (Chair), University of Washington
Dr. Lynn Hankinson-Nelson, University of Washington
Dr. Andrea Woody, University of Washington
Dr. Carole Lee, University of Washington
Dr. Paul Bartha, University of British Columbia
Dr. Bruce Hevly (Graduate School Representative), University of Washington

Research Statement: link

Works in Progress:

In Progess. “Mixed-Race Epistemologies: A Possible Complement to the Feminist Critique of Science?”
In Progress. “Scientific Practice and Metaphor: The Problem of Ingrained Analogy”
In Progress. “Native American Philosophy” (co-authored) for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy