Although “theory” has been the prevalent unit of analysis in the meta-study of science throughout most of the twentieth century, the concept remains elusive. I further explore the leitmotiv of several authors in this issue: that we should deal with theorizing (rather than theory) in biology as a cognitive activity that is to be investigated naturalistically. I first contrast how philosophers and biologists have tended to think about theory in the last century or so, and consider recent calls to upgrade (...) the role of theory in the life sciences against the background of the recent “data deluge” in molecular biology, systems biology, etc. I then review thinking about theory in biology in relation to physical theory as a positive or negative exemplar. I conclude by discussing various aspects of a positive program for “naturalizing theorizing.”. (shrink)
This is the first of two articles in which I reflect on “generalized Darwinism” as currently discussed in evolutionary economics. I approach evolutionary economics by the roundabouts of evolutionary epistemology and the philosophy of biology, and contrast evolutionary economists’ cautious generalizations of Darwinism with “imperialistic” proposals to unify the behavioral sciences. I then discuss the continued resistance to biological ideas in the social sciences, focusing on the issues of naturalism and teleology. In the companion article (Callebaut, Biol Theory 6. doi:10.1007/s13752-013-0087-1, (...) 2011, this issue) I assess generalized Darwinism, concentrating on the roles of theory and model building, generative replication, and the relation between selection and self-organization; and I point to advances in biology that promise to be more fruitful as sources of inspiration for evolutionary economics than the project to generalize Darwinism in its current, “hardened Modern Synthesis” form. (shrink)
This is the second of two articles in which I reflect on “generalized Darwinism” as currently discussed in evolutionary economics. In the companion article (Callebaut, Biol Theory 6. doi:10.1007/s13752-013-0086-2, 2011, this issue) I approached evolutionary economics from the naturalistic perspectives of evolutionary epistemology and the philosophy of biology, contrasted evolutionary economists’ cautious generalizations of Darwinism with “imperialistic” proposals to unify the behavioral sciences, and discussed the continued resistance to biological ideas in the social sciences. Here I assess Generalized Darwinism as (...) propounded by Geoffrey Hodgson, Thorbjørn Knudsen, and others, concentrating on the roles of theory and model building in science (and the roles of analogy and metaphor therein), generative replication, and the relation between selection and self-organization. I then point to advances in current biology that promise to be more fruitful as sources of inspiration for evolutionary economics than the project to generalize Darwinism in its current, “hardened Modern Synthesis” form; and I draw some conclusions. (shrink)
I discuss various reactions to my article “Again, what the philosophy of science is not” [Callebaut (Acta Biotheor 53:92–122 (2005a))], most of which concern the naturalism issue, the place of the philosophy of biology within philosophy of science and philosophy at large, and the proper tasks of the philosophy of biology.
Systems biology is largely tributary to genomics and other “omic” disciplines that generate vast amounts of structural data. “Omics”, however, lack a theoretical framework that would allow using these data sets as such (rather than just tiny bits that are extracted by advanced data-mining techniques) to build explanatory models that help understand physiological processes. Systems biology provides such a framework by adding a dynamic dimension to merely structural “omics”. It makes use of bottom-up and top-down models. The former are based (...) on data about systems components, the latter on systems-level data. We trace back both modeling strategies (which are often used to delineate two branches of the field) to the modeling of metabolic and signaling pathways in the bottom-up case, and to biological cybernetics and systems theory in the top-down case. We then argue that three roots of systems biology must be discerned to account adequately for the structure of the field: pathway modeling, biological cybernetics, and “omics”. We regard systems biology as merging modeling strategies (supplemented by new mathematical procedures) from data-poor fields with data supply from a field that is quite deficient in explanatory modeling. After characterizing the structure of the field, we address some epistemological and ontological issues regarding concepts on which the top-down approach relies and that seem to us to require clarification. This includes the consequences of identifying modules in large networks without relying on functional considerations, the question of the “holism” of systems biology, and the epistemic value of the “systeome” project that aspires to become the cutting edge of the field. (shrink)
There are many things that philosophy of biology might be. But, given the existence of a professional philosophy of biology that is arguably a progressive research program and, as such, unrivaled, it makes sense to define philosophy of biology more narrowly than the totality of intersecting concerns biologists and philosophers (let alone other scholars) might have. The reasons for the success of the “new” philosophy of biology remain poorly understood. I reflect on what Dutch and Flemish, and, more generally, European (...) philosophers of biology could do to improve the situation of their discipline locally, regionally, and internationally, paying particular attention to the lessons to be learned from the “Science Wars.”. (shrink)