P.D. Magnus (research)

Hormone Research as an Exemplar of Underdetermination

Based on work presented at the conference Value Free Science at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (February 2001). Published in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Versions available


Debates about the underdetermination of theory by data often turn on specific examples. Many cases are invoked often enough that they become familiar, even well-worn. Here I consider one such commonplace: the connection between prenatal hormone levels and gender-linked childhood behavior. Since Helen Longino's original discussion of this case a decade-and-a-half ago, it has become become one of the stock examples of underdetermination. However, the case is not genuinely underdetermined. We can easily imagine a possible experiment to decide the question. The fact that we would not perform this experiment is a moral, rather than epistemic, point. Further, I argue that Longino need not have appealed to 'underdetermination' to establish her central claim about the case.


	AUTHOR = {P.D. Magnus},
	TITLE = {Hormone research as an exemplar of underdetermination},
	JOURNAL = {Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical
	YEAR = {2005},
	VOLUME = {36},
	NUMBER = {3},
	MONTH = sep,
	PAGES = {559--567}