Authors
Robert W. Batterman
University of Pittsburgh
Sara-Lee Green
Lund University
Abstract
A common reductionist assumption is that macro-scale behaviors can be described "bottom-up" if only sufficient details about lower-scale processes are available. The view that an "ideal" or "fundamental" physics would be sufficient to explain all macro-scale phenomena has been met with criticism from philosophers of biology. Specifically, scholars have pointed to the impossibility of deducing biological explanations from physical ones, and to the irreducible nature of distinctively biological processes such as gene regulation and evolution. This paper takes a step back in asking whether bottom-up modeling is feasible even when modeling simple physical systems across scales. By comparing examples of multi-scale modeling in physics and biology, we argue that the “tyranny of scales” problem presents a challenge to reductive explanations in both physics and biology. The problem refers to the scale-dependency of physical and biological behaviors that forces researchers to combine different models relying on different scale-specific mathematical strategies and boundary conditions. Analyzing the ways in which different models are combined in multi-scale modeling also has implications for the relation between physics and biology. Contrary to the assumption that physical science approaches provide reductive explanations in biology, we exemplify how inputs from physics often reveal the importance of macro-scale models and explanations. We illustrate this through an examination of the role of biomechanics modeling in developmental biology. In such contexts, the relation between models at different scales and from different disciplines is neither reductive nor completely autonomous, but interdependent.
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Reprint years 2017
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2016.12.003
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References found in this work BETA

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter K. Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Top-Down Causation Without Top-Down Causes.Carl F. Craver & William Bechtel - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):547-563.
Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist.Ernst Mayr - 1988 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Sum of the Parts: Large-Scale Modeling in Systems Biology.Fridolin Gross & Sara Green - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (10).
Scale Dependency and Downward Causation in Biology.Sara Green - 2018 - Philosophy of Science 85 (5):998-1011.
Universal EvoDevo?Stuart Newman - 2018 - Biological Theory 13 (2):67-68.

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