Fashioning descriptive models in biology: Of Worms and wiring diagrams

Philosophy of Science 67 (3):272 (2000)
The biological sciences have become increasingly reliant on so-called 'model organisms'. I argue that in this domain, the concept of a descriptive model is essential for understanding scientific practice. Using a case study, I show how such a model was formulated in a preexplanatory context for subsequent use as a prototype from which explanations ultimately may be generated both within the immediate domain of the original model and in additional, related domains. To develop this concept of a descriptive model, I focus on use of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans and the wiring diagrams that were developed as models of its neural structure. In addition, implications of the concept of a descriptive model, particularly its relevance for the data-phenomena distinction as well as its relation to long-standing debates on realism, are briefly examined
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Rachel A. Ankeny & Sabina Leonelli (2011). What's so Special About Model Organisms? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (2):313-323.
Jason Scott Robert (2008). The Comparative Biology of Human Nature. Philosophical Psychology 21 (3):425 – 436.
Nathaniel Comfort (2009). The Prisoner as Model Organism: Malaria Research at Stateville Penitentiary. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 40 (3):190-203.

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