‘On the Different Ways of ‘‘Doing Theory’’ in Biology‘

Biological Theory 7 (4): 287-297 (2013)
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Abstract

‘‘Theoretical biology’’ is a surprisingly heter- ogeneous field, partly because it encompasses ‘‘doing the- ory’’ across disciplines as diverse as molecular biology, systematics, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Moreover, it is done in a stunning variety of different ways, using anything from formal analytical models to computer sim- ulations, from graphic representations to verbal arguments. In this essay I survey a number of aspects of what it means to do theoretical biology, and how they compare with the allegedly much more restricted sense of theory in the physical sciences. I also tackle a recent trend toward the presentation of all-encompassing theories in the biological sciences, from general theories of ecology to a recent attempt to provide a conceptual framework for the entire set of biological disciplines. Finally, I discuss the roles played by philosophers of science in criticizing and shap- ing biological theorizing.

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Author's Profile

Massimo Pigliucci
CUNY Graduate Center

References found in this work

How the laws of physics lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Science without laws.Ronald N. Giere - 1999 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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