Philosophy of Experimental Biology explores some central philosophical issues concerning scientific research in experimental biology, including genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, developmental biology, neurobiology, and microbiology. It seeks to make sense of the explanatory strategies, concepts, ways of reasoning, approaches to discovery and problem solving, tools, models and experimental systems deployed by scientific life science researchers and also integrates developments in historical scholarship, in particular the New Experimentalism. It concludes that historical explanations of scientific change that are based on local laboratory (...) practice need to be supplemented with an account of the epistemic norms and standards that are operative in science. This book should be of interest to philosophers and historians of science as well as to scientists. (shrink)
This paper provides an overview of the contemporary debate on the concepts and definitions of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Sustainability (CS). The conclusions, based on historical perspectives, philosophical analyses, impact of changing contexts and situations and practical considerations, show that "one solution fits all"-definition for CS(R) should be abandoned, accepting various and more specific definitions matching the development, awareness and ambition levels of organizations.
The significance of consciousness in modern science is discussed by leading authorities from a variety of disciplines. Presenting a wide-ranging survey of current thinking on this important topic, the contributors address such issues as the status of different aspects of consciousness; the criteria for using the concept of consciousness and identifying instances of it; the basis of consciousness in functional brain organization; the relationship between different levels of theoretical discourse; and the functions of consciousness.
This article examines the role of experimental generalizations and physical laws in neuroscientific explanations, using Hodgkin and Huxley’s electrophysiological model from 1952 as a test case. I show that the fact that the model was partly fitted to experimental data did not affect its explanatory status, nor did the false mechanistic assumptions made by Hodgkin and Huxley. The model satisfies two important criteria of explanatory status: it contains invariant generalizations and it is modular (both in James Woodward’s sense). Further, I (...) argue that there is a sense in which the explanatory heteronomy thesis holds true for this case. †To contact the author, please write to: SNF‐Professorship for Philosophy of Science, University of Basel, Missionsstrasse 21, 4003 Basel, Switzerland; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
Identities were “murderous” in Algeria, to borrow an expression from Amin Maalouf. However, through this process, Algeria won its independence. Albert Camus, a son of France and a child of Algeria, caught between his two mothers’ identities, was torn apart and sometimes had to make choices; he was blamed for his Franco-French vision of Algeria and, above all, in the crucial hours, for preferring his biological mother to his cultural one. In other words, Camus had a poor record in Algeria. (...) And yet, there is something like a tuning fork vibrating in unison at the sound of “Camus” and “Algeria”: it is Camus’ Mediterranean, with its timeless and universal present, which takes its sense and essence from the “Algerian Mediterraneanness”. It is a fact: Algeria allows us to understand Camus, but Camus also allows us to know Algeria. Questionable dark areas lie within either of them, but would not it be better if we imagined that Camus and Algeria could find together a world beyond the absurd and revolt, on a quest for universality that would not abolish identities which are still asserted but played down today? (shrink)
Daily correlations of ambient seismic noise on a large landslide at Utiku, New Zealand, reveal seismic velocity changes up to [Formula: see text] that follow a summer/winter cycle consistent with the pore-water pressures monitored at the basal slip surface in the landslide. The annual pattern of velocity changes is borne by a limited frequency band that suggests a localized change in the medium. The Rayleigh waves that form the seismic signal within this frequency band have a maximum sensitivity at a (...) depth of 2–3 m below the ground surface, consistent with the water table level. Fluid saturation changes in the landslide modeled using the Biot-Gassmann theory explain the limited frequency band and the amplitude of the seismic velocity change. This set of arguments suggests that seismic noise correlations are sensitive to water table oscillations through saturation changes and could be used as a nondestructive hydrologic monitoring tool. (shrink)
Griffiths et al. (2015) have proposed a quantitative measure of causal specificity and used it to assess various attempts to single out genetic causes as being causally more specific than other cellular mechanisms, for example, alternative splicing. Focusing in particular on developmental processes, they have identified a number of important challenges for this project. In this discussion note, I would like to show how these challenges can be met.
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. (shrink)
Emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola, Hendra, SARS, West Nile, Hepatitis E and avian influenza have led to a renewed recognition of how diseases in human beings, wildlife and livestock are interlinked. The changing prevalence and spread of such infections are largely determined by human activities and changes in environment and climate—where the latter are often also caused by human activities. Since the beginning of the 21st century, these insights have been brought together under the heading of OneHealth—a concept that (...) calls for interdisciplinary collaboration between various sciences as well as professional practices to promote and protect the health of human and non-human animals and the natural environment. Just as insights from public health have led to a broadened focus for health policy and medical care, from treating individual patients to protecting and promoting population health, OneHealth calls for an even broader perspective, including a concern for the environment and animals, and for social-cultural factors that affect human, animal and environmental health. OneHealth not only covers collaborative work to understand and control zoonotic diseases, but also other ways in which interactions between animals, plants and humans may positively or negatively impact on each other’s health. Thus, studies in veterinary medicine and environmental sciences may lead to new insights in human medicine, and vice versa. Acknowledgment of the links between environmental, animal and social health is of course not a novel insight. Hippocrates already pointed to the importance of a clean environment as a requirement for good health; the early public health movements emphasized hygienic living conditions including good-quality housing, sewage systems and clean air and water; and the founders of modern medicine such as William Osler and Rudolf Virchow promoted …. (shrink)
Causal selection is the task of picking out, from a field of known causally relevant factors, some factors as elements of an explanation. The Causal Parity Thesis in the philosophy of biology challenges the usual ways of making such selections among different causes operating in a developing organism. The main target of this thesis is usually gene centrism, the doctrine that genes play some special role in ontogeny, which is often described in terms of information-bearing or programming. This paper is (...) concerned with the attempt of confronting the challenge coming from the Causal Parity Thesis by offering principles of causal selection that are spelled out in terms of an explicit philosophical account of causation, namely an interventionist account. I show that two such accounts that have been developed, although they contain important insights about causation in biology, nonetheless fail to provide an adequate reply to the Causal Parity challenge: Ken Waters's account of actual-difference making and Jim Woodward's account of causal specificity. A combination of the two also doesn't do the trick, nor does Laura Franklin-Hall's account of explanation (in this volume). We need additional conceptual resources. I argue that the resources we need consist in a special class of counterfactual conditionals, namely counterfactuals the antecedents of which describe biologically normal interventions. (shrink)
Experimental modeling in biology involves the use of living organisms (not necessarily so-called "model organisms") in order to model or simulate biological processes. I argue here that experimental modeling is a bona fide form of scientific modeling that plays an epistemic role that is distinct from that of ordinary biological experiments. What distinguishes them from ordinary experiments is that they use what I call "in vivo representations" where one kind of causal process is used to stand in for a physically (...) different kind of process. I discuss the advantages of this approach in the context of evolutionary biology. (shrink)
Going back at least to Duhem, there is a tradition of thinking that crucial experiments are impossible in science. I analyse Duhem's arguments and show that they are based on the excessively strong assumption that only deductive reasoning is permissible in experimental science. This opens the possibility that some principle of inductive inference could provide a sufficient reason for preferring one among a group of hypotheses on the basis of an appropriately controlled experiment. To be sure, there are analogues to (...) Duhem's problems that pertain to inductive inference. Using a famous experiment from the history of molecular biology as an example, I show that an experimentalist version of inference to the best explanation does a better job in handling these problems than other accounts of scientific inference. Furthermore, I introduce a concept of experimental mechanism and show that it can guide inferences from data within an IBE-based framework for induction. Introduction Duhem on the Logic of Crucial Experiments ‘The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology’ Why Not Simple Elimination? Severe Testing An Experimentalist Version of IBE 6.1 Physiological and experimental mechanisms 6.2 Explaining the data 6.3 IBE and the problem of untested auxiliaries 6.4 IBE-turtles all the way down Van Fraassen's ‘Bad Lot’ Argument IBE and Bayesianism Conclusions. (shrink)