Basic science through engineering?: Synthetic modeling and the idea of biology-inspired engineering

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):158-169 (2013)
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Abstract

Synthetic biology is often understood in terms of the pursuit for well-characterized biological parts to create synthetic wholes. Accordingly, it has typically been conceived of as an engineering dominated and application oriented field. We argue that the relationship of synthetic biology to engineering is far more nuanced than that and involves a sophisticated epistemic dimension, as shown by the recent practice of synthetic modeling. Synthetic models are engineered genetic networks that are implanted in a natural cell environment. Their construction is typically combined with experiments on model organisms as well as mathematical modeling and simulation. What is especially interesting about this combinational modeling practice is that, apart from greater integration between these different epistemic activities, it has also led to the questioning of some central assumptions and notions on which synthetic biology is based. As a result synthetic biology is in the process of becoming more “biology inspired.”

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Author Profiles

Tarja Knuuttila
University of Vienna
Andrea Loettgers
University of Vienna

Citations of this work

Modelling as Indirect Representation? The Lotka–Volterra Model Revisited.Tarja Knuuttila & Andrea Loettgers - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (4):1007-1036.
Epistemic artifacts and the modal dimension of modeling.Tarja Knuuttila - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (3):1-18.
Specialisation and the Incommensurability Among Scientific Specialties.Vincenzo Politi - 2019 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (1):129-144.
Exploring biological possibility through synthetic biology.Tero Ijäs & Rami Koskinen - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (2):1-17.

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