My main research project focuses on topics in the Philosophy of Physics and Metaphysics of Science. The second main area of my research focuses on public engagement with science and public participation in science. My third area of research focuses on topics in Scholarship of Teaching a Learning related to philosophy pedagogy.
Philosophy of Physics/Metaphysics of Science
My philosophy of physics research has been primarily focused in the foundations of of quantum theory, with a particular interest in whether Quantum Information Theory offers the interpretational resources to effectively deal with the important questions—the measurement problem in particular—raised by the proponents of the psi-ontic interpretations of quantum theory. I am interested in the kinds of explanations that are available in information-theoretic interpretations of quantum mechanics.
Some of the work on this topic has been on Bub and Pitowsky’s Information-Theoretic Interpretation of quantum mechanics, most completely detailed in Bub’s book Bananaworld and Bub and Pitowsky’s 2010 paper “Two Dogmas About Quantum Mechanics”.
Other philosophy of physics work has focused on the metaphysical presuppositions underlying David Deutsch’s model for the behavior of quantum systems in the presence of closed timelike curves. I argue that Deutsch’s solutions to the paradoxes of time travel cannot be embedded in the standard Everett Interpretation on which he seems to rely. Rather, they require the existence of a more general notion of the multiverse in which there are timelessly existent parallel identical worlds, which become connected up in the presence of a CTC. The existence of these worlds—which cannot result from the standard branching Everett story—play an ineliminable causal role in generating the results of the D-CTC model, even in simple cases. Because of this metaphysical commitment implicit in the model, its wide adoption in the quantum information literature should be reexamined.
“Is the Information-Theoretic Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics an Ontic Stuctural Realist View?” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 91, 41-48.
“Would the Existence of a CTC Allow for Nonlocal Signaling?” Erkenntnis 84 (1), 215-234.
“Do the EPR Correlations Pose a Problem for Causal Decision Theory?” A. Koberinski, L. Dunlap, W. Harper. Synthese 196, 3711-3722.
“The Metaphysics of D-CTCs: On the Underlying Assumptions of Deutsch’s Quantum Solution to the Paradoxes of Time Travel”. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, Volume 56.
“On the Common Structure of the Primitive Ontology Approach and Information-Theoretic Interpretation of Quantum Theory”. Topoi vol. 34, issue 2.
Public Engagement with Science/Public Participation in Science
Research outputs from this project include the co-authored paper entitled “Divergence of Values and Goals in Participatory Research” published in Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, and an invited book chapter (in preparation) co-authored with Dr. Melissa Jacquart for Philosophy of Science: A User’s Guide in preparation for MIT Press. In this chapter, we offer a framework for analyzing, and practical advice for doing, public engagement activities as a philosopher of science. We argue that expertise in philosophy of science can contribute positively to public engagement efforts focused on science. This can manifest itself in (at least) two ways:
Firstly, studying philosophy of science requires one to develop a sophisticated view of science as an institution, that incorporates elements of historical knowledge, sociology of science, epistemology of science, topic expertise, and many other facets. This perspective on science developed through study of the philosophy of science puts philosophers in a special epistemic position with respect to critical engagement with science and science topics that is very useful when developing public engagement with science activities.
Secondly, the philosophical skill we will call “diagnosis and prescription” is a powerful tool in meeting members of the public where they are in terms of their understanding of science. The skill, which is practiced by philosophers of all kinds, and is a core part of the philosophical toolbox, involves the ability to diagnose the source of a misunderstanding by analyzing the implicit assumptions at play in the expression of a view, and to prescribe a corrective that will improve understanding. For example, in certain cases, a question that a member of the public asks in a public engagement context can reveal something about an implicit understanding of the topic that is incorrect. The ability to diagnose that misunderstanding, and offer a corrective of better information or a better way to think about the topic, is a hallmark of philosophical discourse. It doesn’t need to be confined to content knowledge, as well. A diagnosis of where the application of a skill is going wrong, and advice about corrective action, is also a way this skill may be applied. This is what we do when we teach about fallacies, for example, in critical thinking classes. We have diagnosed and named common misapplications of patterns of reasoning, and we offer students advice about how to avoid these pitfalls.
“Divergence of Values and Goals in Participatory Research”. L. Dunlap, A. Corris, M. Jacquart, Z. Biener, A. Potochnick. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 88, 284-291.