Abstract
In this paper I discuss how, given the complexity of biological systems, reliance on theoretical models in the development and testing of biological theories leads to an uncomfortable form of anti-realism. I locate the source of this discomfort in the uniqueness and hence diversity of biological phenomena, in contrast with the simplicity and uniformity of the subject matter of physics. I have argued elsewhere that the use of theoretical models creates an unresolvable tension between the explanatory strength and predictive power of hypotheses, and I review this argument again here. My discussion parallels that of Nancy Cartwright, who claims that the use of ceteris paribus laws in physics creates an antagonism between truth and explanation that requires theoretical models to figure centrally in scientific explanation, thereby precluding realism. I argue instead that in biology it is the use of theoretical models that creates this conflict, and conclude that adequate biological explanation cannot rely on the modeling approach alone. Finally, I claim that if we accept the semantic view of theories, which makes theoretical models an integral part of our conception of theories, we must accept anti-realism as well.
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