Chemical kinds (e.g. gold) are generally treated as having timelessly fixed identities. Biological kinds (e.g. goldfinches) are generally treated as evolved and/or evolving entities. So what kind of kind is a biochemical kind? This paper defends the thesis that biochemical molecules are clustered chemical kinds, some of which–namely, evolutionarily conserved units–are also biological kinds.On this thesis, a number of difficulties that have recently occupied philosophers concerned with proteins and kinds are shown to be resolved or dissolved.
Chemical kinds are generally treated as having timelessly fixed identities. Biological kinds are generally treated as evolved and/or evolving entities. So what kind of kind is a biochemical kind? This article defends the thesis that biochemical molecules are clustered chemical kinds, some of which—namely, evolutionarily conserved units—are also biological kinds. On this thesis, a number of difficulties that have recently occupied philosophers concerned with proteins and kinds are shown to be either resolved or dissolved. 1 Introduction2 Conflicting Intuitions about Kinds (...) of Proteins3 Against Permissive Pluralism4 Against Nominalism, Toward a Duality of Kinds5 Biological Kinds, Chemical Kinds, and Their Relations6 Implications for Biological Individuals7 Implications for Monism and Scientific Practice. (shrink)
Personalized genomics companies (PG; also called ‘direct-to-consumer genetics’) are businesses marketing genetic testing to consumers over the Internet. While much has been written about these new businesses, little attention has been given to their roles in science communication. This paper provides an analysis of the gene concept presented to customers and the relation between the information given and the science behind PG. Two quite different gene concepts are present in company rhetoric, but only one features in the science. To explain (...) this, we must appreciate the delicate tension between PG, academic science, public expectation, and market forces. (shrink)
Research on patients with damage to ventromedial frontal cortices suggests a key role for emotions in practical decision making. This field of investigation is often associated with Antonio Damasio’s Somatic Marker Hypothesis—a putative account of the mechanism through which autonomic tags guide decision making in typical individuals. Here we discuss two questionable assumptions—or ‘myths’—surrounding the direction and interpretation of this research. First, it is often assumed that there is a single somatic marker hypothesis. As others have noted, however, Damasio’s ‘hypothesis’ (...) admits of multiple interpretations (Dunn et al. ; Colombetti ). Our analysis builds upon this point by characterizing decision making as a multi-stage process and identifying the various potential roles for somatic markers. The second myth is that the available evidence suggests a role for somatic markers in the core stages of decision making, that is, during the generation, deliberation, or evaluation of candidate options. On the contrary, we suggest that somatic markers most likely have a peripheral role, in the recognition of decision points, or in the motivation of action. This conclusion is based on an examination of the past twenty-five years of research conducted by Damasio and colleagues, focusing in particular on some early experiments that have been largely neglected by the critical literature. 1 Introduction2 What is the Somatic Marker Model?3 Multiple Somatic Marker Hypotheses3.1 Are somatic markers necessary for practical decision making?3.2 Speed, accuracy, or both?3.3 At which of the five stages of decision making are somatic markers engaged?4 Anecdotal Evidence Suggests a Peripheral Role for Somatic Markers4.1 Chronic indecisiveness4.2 Extreme impulsiveness4.3 Enhanced decision making in the lab4.4 Lack of motivation. 5 Early Experiments Suggest that VMF Damage Leaves Core Processes Intact5.1 The evocative images study5.2 Five problem solving tasks6 Recent Experiments Fail to Discriminate among Alternate Versions of SMH7 Conclusion. (shrink)
Several recent criticisms of the somatic marker hypothesis (SMH) identify multiple ambiguities in the way it has been formulated by its chief proponents. Here we provide evidence that this hypothesis has also been interpreted in various different ways by the scientific community. Our diagnosis of this problem is that SMH lacks an adequate computational-level account of practical decision making. Such an account is necessary for drawing meaningful links between neurological- and psychological-level data. The paper concludes by providing a simple, five-step (...) model of practical decision making. Recasting SMH in terms of this model generates more precise and empirically tractable computational-level hypotheses about the various ways that somatic markers might influence practical decisions. (shrink)