PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Symposium: Integrating Explanatory Strategies Across the Life Sciences

Friday, 4 November 2016
09:00 - 11:45

Chastain E (6th Floor)

Chair: Peter Distelzweig, University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)

The analysis of explanatory practices in the biological sciences has recently focused on the discovery and articulation of mechanisms (Craver and Darden 2013, Darden 2006, Craver 2007, Bechtel and Abrahamsen 2005, etc.). However, some research programs in biology are difficult to characterize fully or sometimes even partially as a search for mechanisms. In particular, network analyses in systems biology, formal explorations of adaptive landscapes, and genotype-phenotype mapping in developmental biology, involve formal analysis of general structural, “topographic,” or dynamic features of the biological world, rather than a search for mechanisms. The present symposium will focus on varieties of non-mechanistic explanation in biology, as well as on the relationship between these types of explanation and mechanistic explanations. Articulating the richness of non-mechanistic – structural, mathematical, historical, etc. – explanatory models or strategies will enrich our understanding of explanation in biology. Each talk will touch on wider implications of these explanatory strategies for issues related to the pragmatics of integrating diverse research programs.

Cancer Systems Biology: a New Approach to Biological Explanation?
Anya Plutynski, Washington University in St. Louis,
Marta Bertolaso, Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma,
Neutral spaces and topological explanations in evolutionary biology: lessons from some landscapes and mappings
Philippe Huneman, CNRS,
Strategies of Explanatory Abstraction in Molecular Systems Biology
Nicholaos Jones, University of Alabama in Huntsville,


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