Mechanistic Explanation in Systems Biology: Cellular Networks

Dana Matthiessen
Georgetown University
It is argued that once biological systems reach a certain level of complexity, mechanistic explanations provide an inadequate account of many relevant phenomena. In this article, I evaluate such claims with respect to a representative programme in systems biological research: the study of regulatory networks within single-celled organisms. I argue that these networks are amenable to mechanistic philosophy without need to appeal to some alternate form of explanation. In particular, I claim that we can understand the mathematical modelling techniques of systems biologists as part of a broader practice of constructing and evaluating mechanism schemas. This argument is elaborated by considering the case of bacterial chemotactic networks, where some research has been interpreted as explaining phenomena by means of abstract design principles.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axv011
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References found in this work BETA

Explaining the Brain.Carl F. Craver - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter K. Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.

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The Nonmechanistic Option: Defending Dynamical Explanation.Russell Meyer - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:0-0.

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