The Central Dogma as a Thesis of Causal Specificity

I present a reconstruction of F.H.C. Crick's two 1957 hypotheses "Sequence Hypothesis" and "Central Dogma" in terms of a contemporary philosophical theory of causation. Analyzing in particular the experimental evidence that Crick cited, I argue that these hypotheses can be understood as claims about the actual difference-making cause in protein synthesis. As these hypotheses are only true if restricted to certain nucleic acids in certain organisms, I then examine the concept of causal specificity and its potential to counter claims about causal parity of DNA and other cellular components. I first show that causal specificity is a special kind of invariance under interventions, namely invariance of generalizations that range over finite sets of discrete variables. Then, I show that this notion allows the articulation of a middle ground in the debate over causal parity.
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DOI 10.2307/23334188
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Melinda Bonnie Fagan (2015). Collaborative Explanation and Biological Mechanisms. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 52:67-78.
Karola Stotz & Paul Griffiths (forthcoming). Dissecting Developmental Biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

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