Biology and Philosophy 36 (1):1-28 (2021)

Authors
Anya Plutynski
Washington University in St. Louis
Abstract
In 2015, Tomasetti and Vogelstein published a paper in Science containing the following provocative statement: “… only a third of the variation in cancer risk among tissues is attributable to environmental factors or inherited predispositions. The majority is due to “bad luck,” that is, random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells.” The paper—and perhaps especially this rather coy reference to “bad luck”—became a flash point for a series of letters and reviews, followed by replies and yet further counterpoints. In this paper, I critically assess Tomasetti and Vogelstein's argument, discuss the meaning of “luck” in the context of the debate, and use this case study to address larger questions about methodological criteria for causal explanations of population level patterns in biomedicine.
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-020-09778-8
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Animal Species and Evolution.Ernst Mayr - 1963 - Belknap of Harvard University Press.
High-Level Explanation and the Interventionist’s ‘Variables Problem’.L. R. Franklin-Hall - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (2):553-577.
How Physics Makes Us Free.Jenann Ismael - 2016 - Oxford University Press USA.

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