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  1. Grounding Knowledge and Normative Valuation in Agent-Based Action and Scientific Commitment.Catherine Elizabeth Kendig - 2018 - In Hauke Riesch, Nathan Emmerich & Steven Wainwright (eds.), Philosophies and Sociologies of Bioethics: Crossing the Divides. Cham, Switzerland: pp. 41-64.
    Philosophical investigation in synthetic biology has focused on the knowledge-seeking questions pursued, the kind of engineering techniques used, and on the ethical impact of the products produced. However, little work has been done to investigate the processes by which these epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical forms of inquiry arise in the course of synthetic biology research. An attempt at this work relying on a particular area of synthetic biology will be the aim of this chapter. I focus on the reengineering of (...)
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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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  • Can Biological Complexity Be Reverse Engineered?Sara Green - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 53:73-83.
    Concerns with the use of engineering approaches in biology have recently been raised. I examine two related challenges to biological research that I call the synchronic and diachronic underdetermination problem. The former refers to challenges associated with the inference of design principles underlying system capacities when the synchronic relations between lower-level processes and higher-level systems capacities are degenerate. The diachronic underdetermination problem regards the problem of reverse engineering a system where the non-linear relations between system capacities and lower-level mechanisms are (...)
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  • Reengineering Metaphysics: Modularity, Parthood, and Evolvability in Metabolic Engineering.Catherine Kendig & Todd T. Eckdahl - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (8).
    The premise of biological modularity is an ontological claim that appears to come out of practice. We understand that the biological world is modular because we can manipulate different parts of organisms in ways that would only work if there were discrete parts that were interchangeable. This is the foundation of the BioBrick assembly method widely used in synthetic biology. It is one of a number of methods that allows practitioners to construct and reconstruct biological pathways and devices using DNA (...)
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  • Multiple Realizability as a Design Heuristic in Biological Engineering.Rami Koskinen - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (1):15.
    Recently, several critics of the multiple realizability thesis have argued that philosophers have tended to accept the thesis on too weak grounds. On the one hand, the analytic challenge has problematized how philosophers have treated the multiple realization relation itself, claiming that assessment of the sameness of function and the relevant difference of realizers has been uncritical. On the other hand, it is argued that the purported evidence of the thesis is often left empirically unverified. This paper provides a novel (...)
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  • Sameness, Novelty, and Nominal Kinds.David Haig - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (6):857-872.
    Organisms and their genomes are mosaics of features of different evolutionary age. Older features are maintained by ‘negative’ selection and comprise part of the selective environment that has shaped the evolution of newer features by ‘positive’ selection. Body plans and body parts are among the most conservative elements of the environment in which genetic differences are selected. By this process, well-trodden paths of development constrain and direct paths of evolutionary change. Structuralism and adaptationism are both vindicated. Form plays a selective (...)
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  • Design Under Randomness: How Variation Affects the Engineering of Biological Systems.Tero Ijäs - 2018 - Biological Theory 13 (3):153-163.
    Synthetic biology offers a powerful method to design and construct biological devices for human purposes. Two prominent design methodologies are currently used. Rational design adapts the design methodology of traditional engineering sciences, such as mechanical engineering. Directed evolution, in contrast, models its design principles after natural evolution, as it attempts to design and improve systems by guiding them to evolve in a certain direction. Previous work has argued that the primary difference between these two is the way they treat variation: (...)
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  • A Philosophical Perspective on Evolutionary Systems Biology.Maureen A. O’Malley, Orkun S. Soyer & Mark L. Siegal - 2015 - Biological Theory 10 (1):6-17.
    Evolutionary systems biology is an emerging hybrid approach that integrates methods, models, and data from evolutionary and systems biology. Drawing on themes that arose at a cross-disciplinary meeting on ESB in 2013, we discuss in detail some of the explanatory friction that arises in the interaction between evolutionary and systems biology. These tensions appear because of different modeling approaches, diverse explanatory aims and strategies, and divergent views about the scope of the evolutionary synthesis. We locate these discussions in the context (...)
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  • The Machine Conception of the Organism in Development and Evolution: A Critical Analysis.Daniel J. Nicholson - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 48:162-174.
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  • Design Sans Adaptation.Sara Green, Arnon Levy & William Bechtel - 2015 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (1):15-29.
    Design thinking in general, and optimality modeling in particular, have traditionally been associated with adaptationism—a research agenda that gives pride of place to natural selection in shaping biological characters. Our goal is to evaluate the role of design thinking in non-evolutionary analyses. Specifically, we focus on research into abstract design principles that underpin the functional organization of extant organisms. Drawing on case studies from engineering-inspired approaches in biology we show how optimality analysis, and other design-related methods, play a specific methodological (...)
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