Evolutionary systems biology aims to integrate methods from systems biology and evolutionary biology to go beyond the current limitations in both fields. This article clarifies some conceptual difficulties of this integration project, and shows how they can be overcome. The main challenge we consider involves the integration of evolutionary biology with developmental dynamics, illustrated with two examples. First, we examine historical tensions between efforts to define general evolutionary principles and articulation of detailed mechanistic explanations of specific traits. Next, these tensions (...) are further clarified by considering a recent case from another field focused on developmental dynamics: stem cell biology. In the stem cell case, incompatible explanatory aims block integration. Experimental approaches aim at mechanistic explanation while dynamical system models offer explanation in terms of general principles. We then discuss an ESB case in which integration succeeds: search for general attractors using a dynamical systems framework synergizes with the experimental search for detailed mechanisms. Contrasts between the positive and negative cases suggest general lessons for achieving an integrated understanding of developmental and evolutionary dynamics. The key integrative move is to acknowledge two complementary aims, both relevant to explanation: identifying the space of possible dynamic states and trajectories, and mechanistic understanding of causal interactions underlying a specific phenomenon of interest. These two aims can support one another in a joint project characterizing dynamic aspects of evolving lineages. This more inclusive project can lead to insights that cannot be reached by either approach in isolation. (shrink)
We address the question of whether and to what extent explanatory and modelling strategies in systems biology are mechanistic. After showing how dynamic mathematical models are actually required for mechanistic explanations of complex systems, we caution readers against expecting all systems biology to be about mechanistic explanations. Instead, the aim may be to generate topological explanations that are not standardly mechanistic, or to arrive at design principles that explain system organization and behaviour in general, but not specific mechanisms. These abstraction (...) strategies serve various aims, including prediction and control, that are central to understanding the epistemic diversity of systems biology. (shrink)
Design thinking in general, and optimality modeling in particular, have traditionally been associated with adaptationism—a research agenda that gives pride of place to natural selection in shaping biological characters. Our goal is to evaluate the role of design thinking in non-evolutionary analyses. Specifically, we focus on research into abstract design principles that underpin the functional organization of extant organisms. Drawing on case studies from engineering-inspired approaches in biology we show how optimality analysis, and other design-related methods, play a specific methodological (...) role that is tangential to the study of adaptation. To account for the role of these reasoning strategies in contemporary biology, we therefore suggest a reevaluation of the connection between design thinking and adaptationism. (shrink)
In recent years, the philosophical focus of the modeling literature has shifted from descriptions of general properties of models to an interest in different model functions. It has been argued that the diversity of models and their correspondingly different epistemic goals are important for developing intelligible scientific theories . However, more knowledge is needed on how a combination of different epistemic means can generate and stabilize new entities in science. This paper will draw on Rheinberger’s practice-oriented account of knowledge production. (...) The conceptual repertoire of Rheinberger’s historical epistemology offers important insights for an analysis of the modelling practice. I illustrate this with a case study on network modeling in systems biology where engineering approaches are applied to the study of biological systems. I shall argue that the use of multiple representational means is an essential part of the dynamic of knowledge generation. It is because of—rather than in spite of—the diversity of constraints of different models that the interlocking use of different epistemic means creates a potential for knowledge production. (shrink)
Despite numerous and increasing attempts to define what life is, there is no consensus on necessary and sufficient conditions for life. Accordingly, some scholars have questioned the value of definitions of life and encouraged scientists and philosophers alike to discard the project. As an alternative to this pessimistic conclusion, we argue that critically rethinking the nature and uses of definitions can provide new insights into the epistemic roles of definitions of life for different research practices. This paper examines the possible (...) contributions of definitions of life in scientific domains where such definitions are used most (e.g., Synthetic Biology, Origins of Life, Alife, and Astrobiology). Rather than as classificatory tools for demarcation of natural kinds, we highlight the pragmatic utility of what we call operational definitions that serve as theoretical and epistemic tools in scientific practice. In particular, we examine contexts where definitions integrate criteria for life into theoretical models that involve or enable observable operations. We show how these definitions of life play important roles in influencing research agendas and evaluating results, and we argue that to discard the project of defining life is neither sufficiently motivated, nor possible without dismissing important theoretical and practical research. (shrink)
Although the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct emphasizes the importance of education in ethics, very little is known about how and when the Code and the topic of ethics can be presented to enhance the effectiveness of ethics-oriented education. The purpose of this research was to provide preliminary evidence about the ethical development of students prior to, and immediately following, such courses. We found that: (1) accounting students, after taking an auditing course which emphasized the AICPA Code, reasoned at higher (...) levels than students who had not taken the course; (2) there were no differences in moral reasoning levels when accounting and non-accounting majors were compared prior to an auditing course; and (3) there was a significant relationship between the Seniors' levels of ethical development and the choice of an ethical versus unethical action. It was concluded that an auditing course emphasizing the 'spirit' of the Code can have a positive impact on the ethical behaviour of some of the future members of the accounting profession. (shrink)
Concerns with the use of engineering approaches in biology have recently been raised. I examine two related challenges to biological research that I call the synchronic and diachronic underdetermination problem. The former refers to challenges associated with the inference of design principles underlying system capacities when the synchronic relations between lower-level processes and higher-level systems capacities are degenerate. The diachronic underdetermination problem regards the problem of reverse engineering a system where the non-linear relations between system capacities and lower-level mechanisms are (...) changing over time. Braun and Marom argue that recent insights to biological complexity leave the aim of reverse engineering hopeless - in principle as well as in practice. While I support their call for systemic approaches to capture the dynamic nature of living systems, I take issue with the conflation of reverse engineering with naïve reductionism. I clarify how the notion of design principles can be more broadly conceived and argue that reverse engineering is compatible with a dynamic view of organisms. It may even help to facilitate an integrated account that bridges the gap between mechanistic and systems approaches. (shrink)
Next SectionReproductive medical tourism is by some accounts a multibillion dollar industry globally. The seeking by clients in high income nations of surrogate mothers in low income nations, particularly India, presents a set of largely unexamined ethical challenges. In this paper, eight such challenges are elucidated to spur discussion and eventual policy development towards protecting the rights and health of vulnerable women of the Global South.
The research presented in this paper used a case study approach to concentrate on the critical thinking preparation and skill sets of professors who, in turn, were expected to develop those same skills in their students. The authors interviewed community college instructors from both academic and work force disciplines. In general, the results of the study supported the researchers’ hypothesis that the ability to teach critical thinking was not necessarily intrinsic to a teaching professional. The authors of this study would (...) like to suggest the following as a means of strengthening critical thinking expertise in faculty:1. Analyze current levels of critical thinking skills among faculty.2. Plan opportunities to bolster personal critical thinking knowledge within faculty ranks and develop a common critical thinking language among faculty.3. Assist faculty where necessary to develop new instructional models to strengthen critical thinking within their classrooms and critical thinking assessment instruments. (shrink)
Due to the variation, contingency and complexity of living systems, biology is often taken to be a science without fundamental theories, laws or general principles. I revisit this question in light of the quest for design principles in systems biology and show that different views can be reconciled if we distinguish between different types of generality. The philosophical literature has primarily focused on generality of specific models or explanations, or on the heuristic role of abstraction. This paper takes a different (...) approach in emphasizing a theory-constituting role of general principles. Design principles signify general dependencyrelations between structures and functions, given a set of formally defined constraints. I contend that design principles increase our understanding of living systems by relating specific models to general types. The categorization of types is based on a delineation of the scope of biological possibilities, which serves to identify and define the generic features of classes of systems. To characterize the basis for general principles through generic abstraction and reasoning about possibility spaces, I coin the term constraint-based generality. I show that constraintbased generality is distinct from other types of generality in biology, and argue that general principles play a unifying role that does not entail theory reduction. (shrink)
This is the first book to take a comprehensive look at white collar criminal offenses from the perspective of moral and legal theory. Focussing on the way in which key white collar crimes such as fraud, perjury, false statements, obstruction of justice, bribery, extortion, blackmail, insider trading, tax evasion, and regulatory and intellectual property offenses are shaped and informed by a range of familiar, but nevertheless powerful, moral norms.
With the emergence of systems biology the notion of organizing principles is being highlighted as a key research aim. Researchers attempt to ‘reverse engineer’ the functional organization of biological systems using methodologies from mathematics, engineering and computer science while taking advantage of data produced by new experimental techniques. While systems biology is a relatively new approach, the quest for general principles of biological organization dates back to systems theoretic approaches in early and mid-20th century. The aim of this paper is (...) to draw on this historical background in order to increase the understanding of the motivation behind the systems theoretic approach and to clarify different epistemic aims within systems biology. We pinpoint key aspects of earlier approaches that also underlie the current practice. These are i) the focus on relational and system-level properties, ii) the inherent critique of reductionism and fragmentation of knowledge resulting from overspecialization, and iii) the insight that the ideal of formulating abstract organizing principles is complementary to, rather than conflicting with, the aim of formulating detailed explanations of biological mechanisms. We argue that looking back not only helps us understand the current practice but also points to possible future directions for systems biology. (shrink)
Due to the variation, contingency and complexity of living systems, biology is often taken to be a science without fundamental theories, laws or general principles. I revisit this question in light of the quest for design principles in systems biology and show that different views can be reconciled if we distinguish between different types of generality. The philosophical literature has primarily focused on generality of specific models or explanations, or on the heuristic role of abstraction. This paper takes a different (...) approach in emphasizing a theory-constituting role of general principles. Design principles signify general dependency-relations between structures and functions, given a set of formally defined constraints. I contend that design principles increase our understanding of living systems by relating specific models to general types. The categorization of types is based on a delineation of the scope of biological possibilities, which serves to identify and define the generic features of classes of systems. To characterize the basis for general principles through generic abstraction and reasoning about possibility spaces, I coin the term constraint-based generality. I show that constraint-based generality is distinct from other types of generality in biology, and argue that general principles play a unifying role that does not entail theory reduction. (shrink)
Ethical issues are pivotal to the practice of psychiatry. Anyone involved in psychiatric practice and mental healthcare has to be aware of the range of ethical issues relevant to their profession. An increased professional commitment to accountability, in parallel with a growing "consumer" movement has paved the way for a creative engagement with the ethical movement. The bestselling 'Psychiatric Ethics' has carved out a niche for itself as the major comprehensive text and core reference in the field, covering a range (...) of complex ethical dilemmas which face clinicians and researchers in their everyday practice. This new edition takes a fresh look at recent trends and developments at the interface between ethics and psychiatric practice. Coming ten years after the third edition, the editors have observed several emerging aspects of psychiatric practice requiring coverage, as a result, 5 new chapters have been added, including cutting edge topics - such as neuroethics. All other chapters have been fully revised and updated. The book will continue to be essential reading for psychiatrists, psychologists, other mental health professionals, and bioethicists, as well as of interest to policy makers, managers and lawyers. (shrink)
Systems biologists often distance themselves from reductionist approaches and formulate their aim as understanding living systems “as a whole.” Yet, it is often unclear what kind of reductionism they have in mind, and in what sense their methodologies would oﬀer a superior approach. To address these questions, we distinguish between two types of reductionism which we call “modular reductionism” and “bottom-up reductionism.” Much knowledge in molecular biology has been gained by decomposing living systems into functional modules or through detailed studies (...) of molecular processes. We ask whether systems biology provides novel ways to recompose these findings in the context of the system as a whole via computational simulations. As an example of computational integration of modules, we analyze the first whole-cell model of the bacterium M. genitalium. Secondly, we examine the attempt to recompose processes across diﬀerent spatial scales via multi-scale cardiac models. Although these models rely on a number of idealizations and simplifying assumptions as well, we argue that they provide insight into the limitations of reductionist approaches. Whole-cell models can be used to discover properties arising at the interfaces of dynamically coupled processes within a biological system, thereby making more apparent what is lost through decomposition. Similarly, multi-scale modeling highlights the relevance of macroscale parameters and models and challenges the view that living systems can be understood “bottom-up.” Specifically, we point out that system-level properties constrain lower-scale processes. Thus, large-scale modeling reveals how living systems at the same time are more and less than the sum of the parts. (shrink)
In response to recent recommendations for the teaching of principled moral reasoning in business school curricula, this paper assesses the viability of such an approach. The results indicate that, while business students' level of moral reasoning in this sample are like most 18- to 21-year-olds, they may be incapable of grasping the concepts embodied in principled moral reasoning. Implications of these findings are discussed.
This collection of original essays, by some of the best known contemporary criminal law theorists, tackles a range of issues about the criminal law's 'special part' - the part of the criminal law that defines specific offences. One of its aims is to show the importance, for theory as well as for practice, of focusing on the special part as well as on the general part which usually receives much more theoretical attention. Some of the issues covered concern the proper (...) scope of the criminal law, for example how far should it include offences of possession, or endangerment? If it should punish only wrongful conduct, how can it justly include so-called 'mala prohibita', which are often said to involve conduct that is not wrongful prior to its legal prohibition? Other issues concern the ways in which crimes should be classified. Can we make plausible sense, for instance, of the orthodox distinction between crimes of basic and general intent? Should domestic violence be defined as a distinct offence, distinguished from other kinds of personal violence? Also examined are the ways in which specific offences should be defined, to what extent those definitions should identify distinctive types of wrongs, and the light that such definitional questions throw on the grounds and structures of criminal liability. Such issues are discussed in relation not only to such crimes as murder, rape, theft and other property offences, but also in relation to offences such as bribery, endangerment and possession that have not traditionally been subjects for in depth theoretical analysis. (shrink)
Adaptationism has for decades been the topic of sophisticated debates in philosophy of biology but methodological adaptationism has not received as much attention as the empirical and explanatory issues. In addition, adaptationism has mainly been discussed in the context of evolutionary biology and not in fields such as zoophysiology and systems biology where this heuristic is also used in design analyses of physiological traits and molecular structures. This paper draws on case studies from these fields to discuss the productive and (...) problematic aspects of this heuristic in different research practices, in functional as well as evolutionary studies on different levels of biological organization. Gould and Lewontin’s Spandrels-paper famously criticized adaptationist methodology for implying the risk of generating ‘blind spots’ with respect to non-selective effects on evolution. Some have claimed that this bias can be accommodated through the testing of evolutionary hypotheses. Although this is an important aspect of overcoming naïve adaptationism, I argue that the issue of methodological biases is broader than the question of testability. I demonstrate the productivity of adaptationist heuristics but also discuss the deeper problematic aspects associated with the methodological imperialism that is part of the strong adaptationist position. (shrink)
The increasing application of network models to interpret biological systems raises a number of important methodological and epistemological questions. What novel insights can network analysis provide in biology? Are network approaches an extension of or in conflict with mechanistic research strategies? When and how can network and mechanistic approaches interact in productive ways? In this paper we address these questions by focusing on how biological networks are represented and analyzed in a diverse class of case studies. Our examples span from (...) the investigation of organizational properties of biological networks using tools from graph theory to the application of dynamical systems theory to understand the behavior of complex biological systems. We show how network approaches support and extend traditional mechanistic strategies but also offer novel strategies for dealing with biological complexity. (shrink)
In February 1975, a group of leading scientists, physicians, and policymakers convened at Asilomar, California, to consider the safety of proceeding with recombinant DNA research. The excitement generated by the promise of this new technology was counterbalanced by concerns regarding dangers that might arise from it, including the potential for accidental release of genetically modified organisms into the environment. Guidelines developed at the conference to direct future research endeavors had several consequences. They permitted research to resume, bringing to an end (...) the voluntary moratorium that the National Academy of Sciences had instituted several months earlier. They also served to illustrate that the scientific community was capable of self-governance, thereby securing public trust and persuading Congress not to institute legislative restrictions. Finally, they underscored the importance of weighing unforeseen risks inherent in some research against potential benefits that may arise from these same endeavors. (shrink)
Life scientists increasingly rely upon abstraction-based modeling and reasoning strategies for understanding biological phenomena. We introduce the notion of constraint-based reasoning as a fruitful tool for conceptualizing some of these developments. One important role of mathematical abstractions is to impose formal constraints on a search space for possible hypotheses and thereby guide the search for plausible causal models. Formal constraints are, however, not only tools for biological explanations but can be explanatory by virtue of clarifying general dependency-relations and patterning between (...) functions and structures. We describe such situations as constraint-based explanations and argue that these differ from mechanistic strategies in important respects. While mechanistic explanations emphasize change-relating causal features, constraint-based explanations emphasize formal dependencies and generic organizational features that are relatively independent of lower-level changes in causal details. Our distinction between mechanistic and constraint-based explanations is pragmatically motivated by the wish to understand scientific practice. We contend that delineating the affordances and assumptions of different explanatory questions and strategies helps to clarify tensions between diverging scientific practices and the innovative potentials in their combination. Moreover, we show how constraint-based explanation integrates several features shared by otherwise different philosophical accounts of abstract explanatory strategies in biology. (shrink)
The concept of cheating is ubiquitous in ourmoral lives: It occurs in contexts as varied asbusiness, sports, taxpaying, education,marriage, politics, and the practice of law. Yet despite its seeming importance, it is aconcept that has been almost completely ignoredby moral theorists, usually regarded either asa morally neutral synonym for non-cooperativebehavior, or as a generalized, unreflectiveterm of moral disapprobation. This articleoffers a ``normative reconstruction'''' of theconcept of cheating by showing both whatvarious cases of cheating have in common, andhow cheating is related (...) to, and differs from,other morally wrongful acts, such as stealing,promise-breaking, deceiving, disobedience, anddisloyalty. A paradigmatic account of cheating is developed that entails two elements: First, the cheater must violate a prescriptive (rather thandescriptive), mandatory (rather than optional),regulative (rather than practice-defining), andconduct-governing (as opposed todecision-governing) rule. Second, the rulemust be fair and enforced even-handedly, andmust be violated with an intent to obtain anadvantage over some party with whom therule-breaker is in a cooperative, rule-governedrelationship. Along the way is a discussion ofpuzzling cases of ``judicial cheating,''''``strategic cheating,'''' cheating because``everyone else is doing it,'''' ``cheatingoneself,'''' ``altruistic cheating,'''' and ``ulteriormotive cheating.'''' The article then applies thecheating paradigm in the context of whitecollar criminal law, arguing that the conceptof cheating provides a better framework forexplaining the ``moral wrongfulness'''' thatunderlies and helps to define offenses such astax evasion and insider trading. (shrink)
This paper explores the relation between scientific knowledge and common sense intuitions as a complement to Hoyningen-Huene’s account of systematicity. On one hand, Hoyningen-Huene embraces continuity between these in his characterization of scientific knowledge as an extension of everyday knowledge, distinguished by an increase in systematicity. On the other, he argues that scientific knowledge often comes to deviate from common sense as science develops. Specifically, he argues that a departure from common sense is a price we may have to pay (...) for increased systematicity. I argue that to clarify the relation between common sense and scientific reasoning, more attention to the cognitive aspects of learning and doing science is needed. As a step in this direction, I explore the potential for cross-fertilization between the discussions about conceptual change in science education and philosophy of science. Particularly, I examine debates on whether common sense intuitions facilitate or impede scientific reasoning. While contending that these debates can balance some of the assumptions made by Hoyningen-Huene, I suggest that a more contextualized version of systematicity theory could supplement cognitive analysis by clarifying important organizational aspects of science. (shrink)
This symposium contribution offers a reconsideration of a range of “vice crime” legislation from late nineteenth and early twentieth century American law, criminalizing matters such as prostitution, the use of opiates, illegal gambling, and polygamy. According to the standard account, the original justification for these offenses was purely moralistic and paternalistic ; and it was only later, in the late twentieth century, that those who supported such legislative initiatives sought to justify them in terms of their ability to prevent harms. (...) This piece argues that the rationale for these vice crimes laws was much more complicated than has traditionally been thought, encompassing not just moralistic justifications but also a wide range of harm-based rationales—similar to those that underlie modern, technocratic, “preventive justice” legislation involving matters such as anti-social behavior orders, sex offender registration, stop-and-frisk policing, and the fight against terrorism. (shrink)
BackgroundThe public and healthcare workers have a high expectation of animal research which they perceive as necessary to predict the safety and efficacy of drugs before testing in clinical trials. However, the expectation is not always realised and there is evidence that the research often fails to stand up to scientific scrutiny and its 'predictive value' is either weak or absent.DiscussionProblems with the use of animals as models of humans arise from a variety of biases and systemic failures including: 1) (...) bias and poor practice in research methodology and data analysis ; 2) lack of transparency in scientific assessment and regulation of the research; 3) long-term denial of weaknesses in cross-species translation; 4) profit-driven motives overriding patient interests; 5) lack of accountability of expenditure on animal research; 6) reductionist-materialism in science which tends to dictate scientific inquiry and control the direction of funding in biomedical research.SummaryBias in animal research needs to be addressed before medical research and healthcare decision-making can be more evidence-based. Research funding may be misdirected on studying 'disease mechanisms' in animals that cannot be replicated outside tightly controlled laboratory conditions, and without sufficient critical evaluation animal research may divert attention away from avenues of research that hold promise for human health. The potential for harm to patients and trial volunteers from reliance on biased animal data1 requires measures to improve its conduct, regulation and analysis. This article draws attention to a few of the many forms of bias in animal research that have come to light in the last decade and offers a strategy incorporating ten recommendations stated at the end of each section on bias. The proposals need development through open debate and subsequent rigorous implementation so that reviewers may determine the value of animal research to human health. The 10Rs + are protected by a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License and therefore may be 'shared, remixed or built on, even commercially, so long as attributed by giving appropriate credit with a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.’. (shrink)
The purpose of this workshop is to share our current work-in-progress and solicit feedback and ideas from our colleagues as we begin to design a research study based on a paper we presented at the 2005 Academy of Management conference, “The Ethical Implications of Power in Organizations.” Our paper examines the nexus of power and ethics in organizations, and how they are treated in the management, sociology, and psychology literature. Our discussion assumes a wide range of uses and abuses of (...) power, including but not limited to sexual harassment, anti-labor practices, excessive executive compensation, manipulation of stock prices, discrimination, environmental degradation, etc. In addition we surface and discuss the assumptions, norms, paradoxes, and practices of power in organizations in relation to business ethics. We have clustered these into two levels: organizational and individual, while realizing the interaction effects. (shrink)
We describe the educational character and leadership development processes used by the United States Air Force Academy that other educational institutions may find useful. Our processes include an integrated educational curriculum designed to complement and integrate the experiential learning that results in achieving specific organizational outcomes, co-curricular activities in cadet living, and a specific focus on the ethical development of leaders’ respect for human dignity and cultural competency as well as the mechanisms to assess and refine our processes.