Understanding Biological Mechanisms: Using Illustrations from Circadian Rhythm Research

Abstract
In many fields of biology, researchers explain a phenomenon by characterizing the responsible mechanism. This requires identifying the candidate mechanism, decomposing it into its parts and operations, recomposing it so as to understand how it is organized and its operations orchestrated to generate the phenomenon, and situating it in its environment. Mechanistic researchers have developed sophisticated tools for decomposing mechanisms but new approaches, including modeling, are increasingly being invoked to recompose mechanisms when they involve nonsequential organization of nonlinear operations. The results often are dynamical mechanistic explanations. The steps in mechanistic research are illustrated using research on circadian rhythms
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