Models of and models for: Theory and practice in contemporary biology

Philosophy of Science 67 (3):86 (2000)
Two decades of critique have sensitized historians and philosophers of science to the inadequacies of conventional dichotomies between theory and practice, thereby prompting the search for new ways of writing about science that are less beholden than the old ways to the epistemological mores of theoretical physics, and more faithful to the actual practices not only of physics but of all the natural sciences. The need for alternative descriptions seems particularly urgent if one is to understand the place of theory (and, in parallel, the role of modeling) in contemporary molecular biology, a science where, until now, no division between theory and experiment has obtained, and where distinctions between representing and intervening, and more generally, between basic and applied science, are daily becoming more blurred. Indeed, the very division between theory and experiment threatens to slight the extensive and sophisticated theoretical analyses (and even modeling) on which experimental work in contemporary molecular biology so often depends. My aim in this paper is to find a way of talking about theoretical practices in biology that is directly rooted in the mix of conceptual and material work that biologists do. As an example of such theoretical practices, I choose for the focus of my analysis the development of a model for gene regulation out of the experimental work of Eric Davidson and his colleagues at Cal Tech
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DOI 10.1086/392810
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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.

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