Nov 2, 2018

'Extreme' organisms and the problem of generalization: interpreting the Krogh principle

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Sara GreenRachel A Ankeny

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 explo...Continue Reading

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Study
Research
Heuristics
Stoicism
Biologist (General)
Physiology
Physiological Aspects
Biomedicine
Biomedical Research
Physiology, Comparative

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