Technological biology? Things and kinds in synthetic biology

Biology and Philosophy 27 (1):29-48 (2012)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Social scientific and humanistic research on synthetic biology has focused quite narrowly on questions of epistemology and ELSI. I suggest that to understand this discipline in its full scope, researchers must turn to the objects of the field—synthetic biological artifacts—and study them as the objects in the making of a science yet to be made. I consider one fundamentally important question: how should we understand the material products of synthetic biology? Practitioners in the field, employing a consistent technological optic in the study and construction of biological systems, routinely employ the mantra ‘biology is technology’. I explore this categorization. By employing an established definition of technological artifects drawn from the philosophy of technology, I explore the appropriateness of attributing to synthetic biological artifacts the four criteria of materiality, intentional design, functionality, and normativity. I then explore a variety of accounts of natural kinds. I demonstrate that synthetic biological artifacts fit each kind imperfectly, and display a concomitant ontological ‘messiness’. I argue that this classificatory ambivalence is a product of the field’s own nascence, and posit that further work on kinds might help synthetic biology evaluate its existing commitments and practices

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 84,049

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Synthetic Biology: A Challenge to Mechanical Explanations in Biology?Michel Morange - 2012 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4):543-553.
Synthetic biology and the ethics of knowledge.T. Douglas & J. Savulescu - 2010 - Journal of Medical Ethics 36 (11):687-693.
Editors' Introduction to Special Issue.Ute Deichmann, Michel Morange & Anthony S. Travis - 2012 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4):470-472.
The Conception of Life in Synthetic Biology.Anna Deplazes-Zemp - 2012 - Science and Engineering Ethics 18 (4):757-774.
Synthetic Genomics and the Construction of a Synthetic Bacterial Cell.John I. Glass - 2012 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4):473-489.
Steps in the Analysis of Synthetic Biology.Gregory E. Kaebnick - 2011 - Hastings Center Report 41 (4):2-2.

Analytics

Added to PP
2011-07-20

Downloads
70 (#191,380)

6 months
1 (#510,366)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

Synthetic biology and genetic causation.Gry Oftedal & Veli-Pekka Parkkinen - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):208-216.
Synthetic biology between technoscience and thing knowledge.Axel Gelfert - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):141-149.

View all 8 citations / Add more citations