Experimental complexity in biology: Some epistemological and historical remarks

Philosophy of Science 64 (4):254 (1997)
My paper draws on examples from molecular biology, the details of which I have developed elsewhere (Rheinberger 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997). Here, I can give only a brief outline of my argument. Reduction of complexity is a prerequisite for experimental research. To make sense of the universe of living beings, the modern biologist is bound to divide his world into fragments in which parameters can be defined, quantities measured, qualities identified. Such is the nature of any "experimental system." Ontic complexity has to be reduced in order to make experimental research possible. The complexity of the research object, however, is epistemically retained in the rich context of an experimental landscape, where the eruption of "volcanic systems" can change the scenery dramatically as the result of particular, unprecedented findings
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DOI 10.1086/392604
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