‘Genetic Coding’ Reconsidered : An Analysis of Actual Usage

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (3):707-730 (2016)
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Abstract

This article reconsiders the theoretical role of the genetic code. By drawing on published and unpublished sources from the 1950s, I analyse how the code metaphor was actually employed by the scientists who first promoted its use. The analysis shows that the term ‘code’ picked out mechanism sketches, consisting of more or less detailed descriptions of ordinary molecular components, processes, and structural properties of the mechanism of protein synthesis. The sketches provided how-possibly explanations for the ordering of amino acids by nucleic acids. I argue that employing the code metaphor was justified in virtue of its descriptive-denotational and explanatory roles, and because it highlighted a similarity with conventional codes that was particularly salient at the time. 1 Introduction2 Coding Schemes in the 1950s2.1 The research problem: Determining amino acid sequences2.2 The solution: Mapping schemes or ‘codes’3 The Code Metaphor Played Descriptive and Explanatory Roles4 Theness of Codes and the Expendability of the Code Metaphor5 The Role of Arbitrariness6 Conclusions.

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Ulrich Stegmann
University of Aberdeen

References found in this work

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation.Stuart Glennan - 2002 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.
Causes That Make a Difference.C. Kenneth Waters - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy 104 (11):551-579.

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