Design Principles as Minimal Models

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 105:50-58 (2024)
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In this essay I suggest that we view design principles in systems biology as minimal models, for a design principle usually exhibits universal behaviors that are common to a whole range of heterogeneous (living and nonliving) systems with different underlying mechanisms. A well-known design principle in systems biology, integral feedback control, is discussed, showing that it satisfies all the conditions for a model to be a minimal model. This approach has significant philosophical implications: it not only accounts for how design principles explain, but also helps clarify one dispute over design principles, e.g., whether design principles provide mechanistic explanations or a distinct kind of explanations called design explanations.



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Wesley Fang
Shanxi University

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