Generalization and discovery by assuming conserved mechanisms: Cross‐species research on circadian oscillators

Philosophy of Science 76 (5):762-773 (2009)
Abstract
In many domains of biology, explanation takes the form of characterizing the mechanism responsible for a particular phenomenon in a specific biological system. How are such explanations generalized? One important strategy assumes conservation of mechanisms through evolutionary descent. But conservation is seldom complete. In the case discussed, the central mechanism for circadian rhythms in animals was first identified in Drosophila and then extended to mammals. Scientists' working assumption that the clock mechanisms would be conserved both yielded important generalizations and served as a heuristic for discovery, especially when significant differences between the insect and mammalian mechanism were identified. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Programs in Science Studies and Cognitive Science, 0119, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093‐0119; e‐mail: bill@mechanism.ucsd.edu.
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DOI 10.1086/605790
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References found in this work BETA
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.
Strategies in the Interfield Discovery of the Mechanism of Protein Synthesis.Lindley Darden & Carl Craver - 2002 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 33 (1):1-28.

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The Concept of Mechanism in Biology.Daniel J. Nicholson - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):152-163.

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Thinking Again About Biological Mechanisms.Lindley Darden - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (5):958-969.
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.

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