Can We Talk About Feminist Epistemic Values Beyond Gender? Lessons from the Gut Microbiome

Tamar Schneider*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


I examine the feminist epistemic values in science, presented by Helen Longino, and their role in framing microbiome causality in the study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In particular, I show how values presented as feminist give an alternative view in scientific theories—focusing on ontological heterogeneity and mutuality of interactions rather than simplicity and one causal direction—when looking at relations between organisms and microorganisms, and between organisms (particularly humans) and their environment. I identify two approaches in microbiome study, an immunological approach that looks at the microbiome pathogenicity and an ecological approach that studies the microbial activity and functions. I show the puzzles stemming from the traditional background beliefs of the immune self and germ theory in the study of IBD causality. Furthermore, I argue for the benefits of a shift to the ecological view of body-microbe interrelations. I conclude with the benefits and advantages of feminist values over traditional ones, both in creating new ways of understanding organisms’ physiology and immune systems and for future biomedical studies involving microbiome causality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-38
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Epistemic values
  • Germ theory
  • Immune-self
  • Microbiome
  • Mutuality of interactions
  • Ontological heterogeneity


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