Biological Theory 13 (3):153-163 (2018)

Authors
Tero Ijäs
University of Helsinki
Abstract
Synthetic biology offers a powerful method to design and construct biological devices for human purposes. Two prominent design methodologies are currently used. Rational design adapts the design methodology of traditional engineering sciences, such as mechanical engineering. Directed evolution, in contrast, models its design principles after natural evolution, as it attempts to design and improve systems by guiding them to evolve in a certain direction. Previous work has argued that the primary difference between these two is the way they treat variation: rational design attempts to suppress it, whilst direct evolution utilizes variation. I argue that this contrast is too simplistic, as it fails to distinguish different types of variation and different phases of design in synthetic biology. I outline three types of variation and show how they influence the construction of synthetic biological systems during the design process. Viewing the two design approaches with these more fine-grained distinctions provides a better understanding of the methodological differences and respective benefits of rational design and directed evolution, and clarifies the constraints and choices that the different design approaches must deal with.
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DOI 10.1007/s13752-018-0294-x
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References found in this work BETA

Varieties of Noise: Analogical Reasoning in Synthetic Biology.Tarja Knuuttila & Andrea Loettgers - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 48:76-88.
Basic Science Through Engineering? Synthetic Modeling and the Idea of Biology-Inspired Engineering.Tarja Knuuttila & Andrea Loettgers - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):158-169.
Engineering and Evolvability.Brett Calcott - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):293-313.
Basic Science Through Engineering?: Synthetic Modeling and the Idea of Biology-Inspired Engineering.Tarja Knuuttila & Andrea Loettgers - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):158-169.
From Bricolage to BioBricks™: Synthetic Biology and Rational Design.Tim Lewens - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4b):641-648.

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Design Sans Adaptation.Sara Green, Arnon Levy & William Bechtel - 2015 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (1):15-29.

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