Approximations, Idealizations and 'Experiments' at the Physics-Biology Interface

Abstract
This paper, which is based on recent empirical research at the University of Leeds, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Bristol, presents two difficulties which arise when condensed matter physicists interact with molecular biologists: (1) the former use models which appear to be too coarse-grained, approximate and/or idealized to serve a useful scientific purpose to the latter; and (2) the latter have a rather narrower view of what counts as an experiment, particularly when it comes to computer simulations, than the former. It argues that these findings are related; that computer simulations are considered to be undeserving of experimental status, by molecular biologists, precisely because of the idealizations and approximations that they involve. The complexity of biological systems is a key factor. The paper concludes by critically examining whether the new research programme of ‘systems biology’ offers a genuine alternative to the modelling strategies used by physicists. It argues that it does not.
Keywords Models  Simulations  Complexity  Systems biology  Condensed matter physics  Molecular biology
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Reprint years 2011
DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2010.11.021
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References found in this work BETA
Simulations, Models, and Theories: Complex Physical Systems and Their Representations.Eric Winsberg - 2001 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2001 (3):S442-.
The Century Beyond the Gene.E. Keller - 2013 - Avant: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies 4 (1):217-234.
Cartwright and the Lying Laws of Physics.Ronald Laymon - 1989 - Journal of Philosophy 86 (7):353-372.

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Citations of this work BETA
Aimless Science.Darrell P. Rowbottom - 2014 - Synthese 191 (6):1211-1221.
Calculating Life? Duelling Discourses in Interdisciplinary Systems Biology.Jane Calvert & Joan H. Fujimura - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 42 (2):155-163.
Kuhn Vs. Popper on Criticism and Dogmatism in Science, Part II: How to Strike the Balance.Darrell P. Rowbottom - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (2):161-168.
When Physics and Biology Meet: The Nanoscale Case.Otávio Bueno - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 42 (2):180-189.
When Physics and Biology Meet: The Nanoscale Case.Otávio Bueno - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (2):180-189.

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