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

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The Imitation Game: What does “Recognition” in Mechanisms of Molecular Recognition mean?

Molecular recognition characterizes fundamental mechanisms of specific interactions between two or more molecules in biological systems. These mechanisms fulfill central functions such as the recognition of ligands by protein receptors and are modeled in terms of complementary structure-function relations. Despite growing data of protein structures, determining predictive regularities for recognition processes remain an unfulfilled promise. I analyze how recognition mechanisms have been modeled over the past 100 years and how the causal descriptions in these models changed. Moving away from specificity of fit, I show that we currently are experiencing a paradigmatic shift in understanding the nature of selectivity as the driving force in molecular interaction.

Author Information:

Ann-Sophie Barwich    
Center for Science and Society, Departments of Philosophy and the Biological Sciences
Columbia University


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