Authors
Jacob Stegenga
Cambridge University
Abstract
The chemical characterization of the substance responsible for the phenomenon of “transformation” of pneumococci was presented in the now famous 1944 paper by Avery, MacLeod, and McCarty. Reception of this work was mixed. Although interpreting their results as evidence that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the molecule responsible for genetic changes was, at the time, controversial, this paper has been retrospectively celebrated as providing such evidence. The mixed and changing assessment of the evidence presented in the paper was due to the work’s interpretive flexibility – the evidence was interpreted in various ways, and such interpretations were justified given the neophytic state of molecular biology and methodological limitations of Avery’s transformation studies. I argue that the changing context in which the evidence presented by Avery’s group was interpreted partly explains the vicissitudes of the assessments of the evidence. Two less compelling explanations of the reception are a myth-making account and an appeal to the wartime historical context of its publication.
Keywords evidence  evidential context  gene  transforming substance  Avery
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References found in this work BETA

Robustness, Discordance, and Relevance.Jacob Stegenga - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (5):650-661.
Varieties of Exploratory Experimentation in Nanotoxicology.Kevin Elliott - 2007 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 29 (3):313 - 336.
The Death of Molecular Biology?Michel Morange - 2008 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 30 (1):31 - 42.

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Citations of this work BETA

Robustness and Independent Evidence.Jacob Stegenga & Tarun Menon - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (3):414-435.
Evidence in Biology and the Conditions of Success.Jacob Stegenga - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (6):981-1004.

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