Abstract
Big data biology—bioinformatics, computational biology, systems biology (including ‘omics’), and synthetic biology—raises a number of issues for the philosophy of science. This article deals with several such: Is data-intensive biology a new kind of science, presumably post-reductionistic? To what extent is big data biology data-driven? Can data ‘speak for themselves?’ I discuss these issues by way of a reflection on Carl Woese’s worry that “a society that permits biology to become an engineering discipline, that allows that science to slip into the role of changing the living world without trying to understand it, is a danger to itself.” And I argue that scientific perspectivism, a philosophical stance represented prominently by Giere, Van Fraassen, and Wimsatt, according to which science cannot as a matter of principle transcend our human perspective, provides the best resources currently at our disposal to tackle many of the philosophical issues implied in the modeling of complex, multilevel/multiscale phenomena.
Keywords Big data biology  Data-driven research  Engineering approach to life  Scientific perspectivism  Carl Woese
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2011.10.007
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References found in this work BETA

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Unity of Science as a Working Hypothesis.Paul Oppenheim & Hilary Putnam - 1958 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 2:3-36.
Cortical Coordination Dynamics and Cognition.Steven L. Bressler & J. A. Scott Kelso - 2001 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 5 (1):26-36.

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Citations of this work BETA

Classificatory Theory in Data-Intensive Science: The Case of Open Biomedical Ontologies.Sabina Leonelli - 2012 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 26 (1):47 - 65.
Integrating Data to Acquire New Knowledge: Three Modes of Integration in Plant Science.Sabina Leonelli - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):503-514.

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