Authors
Rami Koskinen
University of Vienna
Abstract
Many scientific models in biology are how-possibly models. These models depict things as they could be, but do not necessarily capture actual states of affairs in the biological world. In contemporary philosophy of science, it is customary to treat how-possibly models as second-rate theoretical tools. Although possibly important in the early stages of theorizing, they do not constitute the main aim of modelling, namely, to discover the actual mechanism responsible for the phenomenon under study. In the paper it is argued that this prevailing picture does not do justice to the synthetic strategy that is commonly used in biological engineering. In synthetic biology, how-possibly models are not simply speculations or eliminable scaffolds towards a single how-actually model, but indispensable design hypotheses for a field whose ultimate goal is to build novel biological systems. The paper explicates this by providing an example from the study of alternative genetic systems by synthetic biologist Steven Benner and his group. The case will also highlight how the method of synthesis, even when it fails, provides an effective way to limit the space of possible models for biological systems.
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DOI 10.1007/s13194-017-0176-2
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References found in this work BETA

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Citations of this work BETA

Multiple Realization in Systems Biology.Wei Fang - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (4):663-684.
Multiple Realizability as a Design Heuristic in Biological Engineering.Rami Koskinen - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (1):15.

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