Molecular pathways and the contextual explanation of molecular functions

Molecular pathways and the contextual explanation of molecular functions Much of the recent philosophical debate on causation and causal explanation in the biological and biomedical sciences has focused on the notion of mechanism. Mechanisms, their nature and epistemic roles have been tackled by a range of so-called neo-mechanistic theories, and widely discussed. Without denying the merits of this approach, our paper aims to show how lately it has failed to give proper credit to processes, which are central to the field, especially of contemporary molecular biology. Processes can be summed up in the notion of ‘pathway’, which is far from being just equivalent to that of ‘mechanism’ and has a profound epistemological and explanatory relevance. It is argued that an adequate consideration of pathways impels some rethinking of scientific explanation in molecular biology, namely its functional and contextual features. A number of examples are given to suggest that the focus of philosophical attention in this disciplinary field should shift from the notion of mechanism to the notion of pathway. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biology & Philosophy Springer Journals

Molecular pathways and the contextual explanation of molecular functions

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © 2018 by Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature
Subject
Philosophy; Philosophy of Biology; Evolutionary Biology
ISSN
0169-3867
eISSN
1572-8404
D.O.I.
10.1007/s10539-018-9634-2
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Much of the recent philosophical debate on causation and causal explanation in the biological and biomedical sciences has focused on the notion of mechanism. Mechanisms, their nature and epistemic roles have been tackled by a range of so-called neo-mechanistic theories, and widely discussed. Without denying the merits of this approach, our paper aims to show how lately it has failed to give proper credit to processes, which are central to the field, especially of contemporary molecular biology. Processes can be summed up in the notion of ‘pathway’, which is far from being just equivalent to that of ‘mechanism’ and has a profound epistemological and explanatory relevance. It is argued that an adequate consideration of pathways impels some rethinking of scientific explanation in molecular biology, namely its functional and contextual features. A number of examples are given to suggest that the focus of philosophical attention in this disciplinary field should shift from the notion of mechanism to the notion of pathway.

Journal

Biology & PhilosophySpringer Journals

Published: Jun 2, 2018

References

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