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‘Extreme’ Organisms and the Problem of Generalization: Interpreting the Krogh Principle

Green, Sara and Dietrich, Michael R. and Leonelli, Sabina and Ankeny, Rachel (2018) ‘Extreme’ Organisms and the Problem of Generalization: Interpreting the Krogh Principle. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Many biologists appeal to the so-called Krogh principle when justifying their choice of experimental organisms. The principle states that “for a large number of problems there will be some animal of choice, or a few such animals, on which it can be most conveniently studied”. Despite its popularity, the principle is often critiqued for implying unwarranted generalizations from optimal models. We argue that the Krogh principle should be interpreted in relation to the historical and scientific contexts in which it has been developed and used. We interpret the
Krogh Principle as a heuristic, i.e., as a recommendation to approach biological problems through organisms where a specific trait or physiological mechanism is expected to be most distinctively displayed or most experimentally accessible. We designate these organisms “Krogh organisms.” We clarify the differences between uses of model organisms and non-standard Krogh organisms. Among these is the use of Krogh organisms as “negative models” in biomedical research, where organisms are chosen for their dissimilarity to human physiology. Importantly, the representational scope of Krogh organisms and the generalizability of their
characteristics are not fixed or assumed but explored through experimental studies. Research on Krogh organisms is steeped in the comparative method characteristic of zoology and comparative physiology, in which studies of biological variation produce insights into general physiological constraints. Accordingly, we conclude that the Krogh principle exemplifies the advantages of studying biological variation as a strategy to produce generalizable insights.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Green, Sarasaraehrenreichgreen@gmail.com
Dietrich, Michael R.
Leonelli, Sabinas.leonelli@exeter.ac.uk0000-0002-7815-6609
Ankeny, Rachel
Keywords: August Krogh Principle; experimental organisms; comparative physiology; adaptation; generalization; model organisms
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Depositing User: Dr. Sara Green
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2018 23:41
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2018 23:41
Item ID: 15225
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Date: 2018
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15225

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