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  1. The Diversity of Engineering in Synthetic Biology.Massimiliano Simons - 2020 - NanoEthics 14 (1):71-91.
    A recurrent theme in the characterization of synthetic biology is the role of engineering. This theme is widespread in the accounts of scholars studying this field and the biologists working in it, in those of the biologists themselves, as well as in policy documents. The aim of this article is to open this black-box of engineering that is supposed to influence and change contemporary life sciences. Too often, both synthetic biologists and their critics assume a very narrow understanding of what (...)
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  • Living Machines: Metaphors We Live By.Nora S. Vaage - 2020 - NanoEthics 14 (1):57-70.
    Within biology and in society, living creatures have long been described using metaphors of machinery and computation: ‘bioengineering’, ‘genes as code’ or ‘biological chassis’. This paper builds on Lakoff and Johnson’s argument that such language mechanisms shape how we understand the world. I argue that the living machines metaphor builds upon a certain perception of life entailing an idea of radical human control of the living world, looking back at the historical preconditions for this metaphor. I discuss how design is (...)
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  • The Evolution of Human Birth and Transhumanist Proposals of Enhancement.Eduardo R. Cruz - 2015 - Zygon 50 (4):830-853.
    Some transhumanists argue that we must engage with theories and facts about our evolutionary past in order to promote future enhancements of the human body. At the same time, they call our attention to the flawed character of evolution and argue that there is a mismatch between adaptation to ancestral environments and contemporary life. One important trait of our evolutionary past which should not be ignored, and yet may hinder the continued perfection of humankind, is the peculiarly human way of (...)
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  • The end of science? On human cognitive limitations and how to overcome them.Maarten Boudry, Michael Vlerick & Taner Edis - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (1):1-16.
    What, if any, are the limits of human understanding? Epistemic pessimists, sobered by our humble evolutionary origins, have argued that some parts of the universe will forever remain beyond our ken. But what exactly does it mean to say that humans are ‘cognitively closed’ to some parts of the world, or that some problems will forever remain ‘mysteries’? In this paper we develop a richer conceptual toolbox for thinking about different forms and varieties of cognitive limitation, which are often conflated (...)
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  • Engineering and Biology: Counsel for a Continued Relationship.Brett Calcott, Arnon Levy, Mark L. Siegal, Orkun S. Soyer & Andreas Wagner - 2015 - Biological Theory 10 (1):50-59.
    Biologists frequently draw on ideas and terminology from engineering. Evolutionary systems biology—with its circuits, switches, and signal processing—is no exception. In parallel with the frequent links drawn between biology and engineering, there is ongoing criticism against this cross-fertilization, using the argument that over-simplistic metaphors from engineering are likely to mislead us as engineering is fundamentally different from biology. In this article, we clarify and reconfigure the link between biology and engineering, presenting it in a more favorable light. We do so (...)
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  • Do We Need a ‘Theory’ of Development?: Alessandro Minelli and Thomas Pradeu : Towards a Theory of Development. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014, 304 Pp, $125 , ISBN 978-0-19-967142-7.Ingo Brigandt - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (4):603-617.
    Edited by Alessandro Minelli and Thomas Pradeu, Towards a Theory of Development gathers essays by biologists and philosophers, which display a diversity of theoretical perspectives. The discussions not only cover the state of art, but broaden our vision of what development includes and provide pointers for future research. Interestingly, all contributors agree that explanations should not just be gene-centered, and virtually none use design and other engineering metaphors to articulate principles of cellular and organismal organization. I comment in particular on (...)
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  • Engineering and Evolvability.Brett Calcott - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):293-313.
    Comparing engineering to evolution typically involves adaptationist thinking, where well-designed artifacts are likened to well-adapted organisms, and the process of evolution is likened to the process of design. A quite different comparison is made when biologists focus on evolvability instead of adaptationism. Here, the idea is that complex integrated systems, whether evolved or engineered, share universal principles that affect the way they change over time. This shift from adaptationism to evolvability is a significant move for, as I argue, we can (...)
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  • Design Methodologies and the Limits of the Engineering-Dominated Conception of Synthetic Biology.Tero Ijäs - 2019 - Acta Biotheoretica 67 (1):1-18.
    Synthetic biology is described as a new field of biotechnology that models itself on engineering sciences. However, this view of synthetic biology as an engineering field has received criticism, and both biologists and philosophers have argued for a more nuanced and heterogeneous understanding of the field. This paper elaborates the heterogeneity of synthetic biology by clarifying the role of design and the variability of design methodologies in synthetic biology. I focus on two prominent design methodologies: rational design and directed evolution. (...)
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  • Is Synthetic Biology Mechanical Biology?Sune Holm - 2015 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 37 (4):413-429.
    A widespread and influential characterization of synthetic biology emphasizes that synthetic biology is the application of engineering principles to living systems. Furthermore, there is a strong tendency to express the engineering approach to organisms in terms of what seems to be an ontological claim: organisms are machines. In the paper I investigate the ontological and heuristic significance of the machine analogy in synthetic biology. I argue that the use of the machine analogy and the aim of producing rationally designed organisms (...)
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  • Science and Common Sense: Perspectives From Philosophy and Science Education.Sara Green - 2019 - Synthese 196 (3):795-818.
    This paper explores the relation between scientific knowledge and common sense intuitions as a complement to Hoyningen-Huene’s account of systematicity. On one hand, Hoyningen-Huene embraces continuity between these in his characterization of scientific knowledge as an extension of everyday knowledge, distinguished by an increase in systematicity. On the other, he argues that scientific knowledge often comes to deviate from common sense as science develops. Specifically, he argues that a departure from common sense is a price we may have to pay (...)
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