Explanation in Biology. An Enquiry into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences

Dordrecht: Springer. Edited by Pierre-Alain Braillard & Christophe Malaterre (2015)
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Abstract

Explanation in biology has long been characterized as being very different from explanation in other scientific disciplines, very much so from explanation in physics. One of the reasons was the existence in biology of explanation types that were unheard of in the physical sciences: teleological explanations (e.g. Hull 1974), evolutionary explanations (e.g. Mayr 1988), or even functional explanations (e.g. Neander 1991). More recently, and owing much to the rise of molecular biology, biological explanations have been depicted as mechanisms (e.g; Machamer, Darden and Craver 2000). The aim of this volume is to shed some new light on the diversity of explanation types in biology. What are the different types of explanation that occur in biology? Are these types of explanation specific to particular sub-disciplines of biology, or to particular types of problems across biology? How do they relate to each another? Do they compete with one another for answering the same questions? Or do they complement each other, providing insights to different questions? What are the reasons for such diversity? Can this diversity be overcome by a broader unifying model of explanation or is it more profound and irreducible? Why? This volume aims at making sense of this diversity of types of explanations that are found in biology, of their relationship with one another. After all, explanation in biology may prove not only different from explanation in the physical sciences, but also much more diverse than originally anticipated.

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Christophe Malaterre
Université Du Québec À Montréal (UQAM)

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