Associate Professor, (Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy)

Contact Information

Carla Fehr portraitOffice: HH 367
Phone: 519-888-4567 x31386


PhD, Duke University
BSc, University of Saskatchewan

Areas of Interest

Philosophy of Biology, Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, Feminist Science Studies, Philosophy of Science

Current Research

Carla Fehr works in the areas of socially relevant philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and feminist epistemology. Her research examines the social nature of scientific research. Simply put, she argues that diversity promotes excellence. Scientific communities that include members from a diversity of social and material locations, and members who hold different theoretical perspectives, facilitate research that is more creative, more rigorous, and better able to meet the needs of a wide range of publics and policy makers, than homogeneous scientific communities. This means that research communities ought to value diversity not only for ethical and political reasons, but also because it makes our science better.

She is also interested in exploring ways to foster this diversity. She conducts research in feminist philosophy of biology, in which she develops critiques of biological accounts of sex differences in human cognition and in the division of labour. Understanding this sex difference research is particularly important because it has frequently been used to justify the relative absence of women in science and technology careers.

She works in the epistemology of ignorance, exploring why smart people of goodwill resist acknowledging the how race, gender and other social categories structure both our knowledge producing institutions and the knowledge that we produce in those institutions. This work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on research in sociology and psychology.

Dr. Fehr’s research program has explicit and direct, practical and policy implications. These implications range from equitably setting national research priorities, to creating a positive culture in academic professional organizations, to developing and implementing university policies that promote the recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty, to the development of departmental climates in which all faculty members are enabled to do their best work. Dr. Fehr frequently consults on climate issues and flexible career policies within the academy. 

She is a founder of the American Philosophical Association, Committee on the Status of Women, Site Visit Program. This program is a resource for philosophy departments across the USA and Canada who would like to improve the climate for women philosophers. She is also the Chair of the Status of Women and Equity Committee at the University of Waterloo.

Selected Publications

  • Fehr, C., 2012, “Feminist Engagement with Evolutionary Psychology, Hypatia, 27 (1): 50–72.
  • Fehr, C., 2011. "Feminist Philosophy of Biology", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming.
  • Fehr, C., 2011. “What is in it for me? The benefits of diversity in scientific communities,” in Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science: Power in Knowledge, ed. Heidi Grasswick, Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Fehr, C. and Plaisance, K., 2010, “Socially relevant philosophy of science (SRPOS): An introduction,” Synthese, 177 (3): 301-492.
  • Fehr, C., 2008, “Feminist perspectives on philosophy of biology,” Oxford Handbook on the Philosophy of Biology, Michael Ruse, ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Fehr, C., 2008, “Thinking ecologically about Bison,” Ethics, Place and Environment, 2008 11(1), 56-65.
  • Fehr, C., 2007, “Are smart men smarter than smart women? The epistemology of ignorance, women and the production of knowledge,” The 'Woman Question' and Higher Education: Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge Production in America, Ann Mari May, ed., Edward Elgar: Northampton, MA and Cheltenham, UK.
  • Schutler, D., Clark, R., Fehr, C. and Diamond, A., 2006, "Time and recruitment costs as currencies in manipulation studies on the costs of reproduction: Evidence from Tree Swallows,” Ecology, November 2006 87(11): 2938–2946.
  • Fehr, C., 2006, “Explanations of the evolution of sex: A plurality of local mechanisms,” Scientific Pluralism, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, eds. Stephen H. Kellert, Helen E. Longino, C. Kenneth Waters, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Fehr, C. and Rausher, M., 2004, “Effects of variation at the flower-color A locus on mating system parameters of Ipomoea purpurea,” Molecular Ecology 13 (7): 1839-1847.
  • Fehr, C., 2004, “Feminism and science: Mechanism without reductionism,” National Women’s Studies Association Journal, 16:1, 136-156. Reprinted in Jill M. Bystydzienski and Sharon R. Bird (eds.) Removing Barriers: Women in Academic Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.
  • Fehr, C., 2001, “Pluralism and sex: More than a pragmatic issue,” Philosophy of Science, 68, S237-S250.
  • Fehr, C., 2001, “The evolution of sex: Domains and explanatory pluralism,” Biology and Philosophy, 16:2 145-170.


  • Plaisance, K. and Fehr, C., 2010, Socially relevant philosophy of science, Synthese, special issue, 177 (3).

Grants, Fellowships, Awards

  • National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Award, co-Principal Investigator, 2006-2011, $3,300,000
  • “Pragmatic mechanism and explanatory pluralism,” National Science Foundation, Science and Technology Studies Scholar Award, Principal Investigator, 2005, $73,000
  • “Perspectives on Molecular Evolution,” May 19-26 2004, Dibner Biological Seminar, Dibner Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory
  • “Ovarian authority: Credibility of women studying female reproduction,” Iowa State University, Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Grant, Summer 2004
  • “Feminist Epistemologies Seminar,” National Endowment for the Humanities, Pennsylvania State University, 2003
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Post Graduate Fellowship, 1996­-1998

Teaching Awards

  • Iowa State University (ISU) Foundation Award for Early Excellence in Teaching
  • Shakeshaft Master Teacher Award
University of Waterloo

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