How Practical Know-how Contextualizes Theoretical Knowledge: Exporting Causal Knowledge from Laboratory to Nature

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Waters, C. Kenneth
preprint description
Leading philosophical accounts of classical genetics presume that Morgan’s transmission theory can be understood independently of experimental practices. Experimentation is taken to be relevant to confirming, rather than interpreting, the transmission theory. But the construction of Morgan’s theory went hand-in-hand with the reconstruction of the chief experimental object, the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster. This raises an important question about theoretical knowledge gained in laboratory settings: when a theory (such as the theory of classical genetics) is constructed to account for phenomena in a carefully controlled laboratory setting, what knowledge, if any, indicates the theory’s relevance or applicability to phenomena outside highly-controlled settings? The answer, I argue, is found within the procedural knowledge embedded within laboratory practice.