Humana Mente 13 (38) (2020)

Federico Boem
Università degli Studi di Milano
The experimental practice in contemporary molecular biology oscillates between the creativity of the researcher in tinkering with the experimental system, and the necessity of standardization of methods of inquiry. Experimental procedures, when standardized in lab protocols, might definitely be seen as actual recipes. Considering these protocols as recipes can help us understand some epistemological characteristics of current practice in molecular biology. On the one hand, protocols represent a common ground, i.e. the possibility of reproducibility, which constitutes one of the essential properties for contemporary science to define an actual discovery. At the same time, however, protocols are flexible enough to be adapted by the individual researcher to his/her specific needs. These variations, just like the recipes, remind us that the legitimacy of an experimental practice, involves both objective and subjective constraints and it is articulated on a fuzzy background rather than a rigid and clear context. Moreover, looking at experiments according to this perspective can provide a key to understanding how different forms of science, such as computational biology, are precisely different in the use of a different “cookbook”.Indeed, given the procedural/operational realism of biologists towards phenomena, the clash of different procedures has opened a discussion also about the nature and the meaning of the obtained results. Thus, according to the recipe-perspective that, the methodological struggle over the nature of biological phenomena among scientists, might be seen as a not always explicit, epistemological debate, however coming from the practice of science itself.
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