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  1. added 2019-01-25
    A Weakened Mechanism is Still a Mechanism: On the Causal Role of Absences in Mechanistic Explanation.Alexander Mebius - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45 (1):43-48.
    Much contemporary debate on the nature of mechanisms centers on the issue of modulating negative causes. One type of negative causability, which I refer to as “causation by absence,” appears difficult to incorporate into modern accounts of mechanistic explanation. This paper argues that a recent attempt to resolve this problem, proposed by Benjamin Barros, requires improvement as it overlooks the fact that not all absences qualify as sources of mechanism failure. I suggest that there are a number of additional types (...)
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  2. added 2018-10-19
    Causal Specificity, Biological Possibility and Non-Parity About Genetic Causes.Marcel Weber - manuscript
    Several authors have used the notion of causal specificity in order to defend non-parity about genetic causes (Waters 2007, Woodward 2010, Weber 2017, forthcoming). Non-parity in this context is the idea that DNA and some other biomolecules that are often described as information-bearers by biologists play a unique role in life processes, an idea that has been challenged by Developmental Systems Theory (e.g., Oyama 2000). Indeed, it has proven to be quite difficult to state clearly what the alleged special role (...)
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  3. added 2018-10-19
    The Central Dogma as a Thesis of Causal Specificity.Marcel Weber - 2006 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 28 (4):595-610.
    I present a reconstruction of F.H.C. Crick's two 1957 hypotheses "Sequence Hypothesis" and "Central Dogma" in terms of a contemporary philosophical theory of causation. Analyzing in particular the experimental evidence that Crick cited, I argue that these hypotheses can be understood as claims about the actual difference-making cause in protein synthesis. As these hypotheses are only true if restricted to certain nucleic acids in certain organisms, I then examine the concept of causal specificity and its potential to counter claims about (...)
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  4. added 2018-09-17
    Hierarchy Theory of Evolution and the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis: Some Epistemic Bridges, Some Conceptual Rifts.Alejandro Fábregas-Tejeda & Francisco Vergara-Silva - 2018 - Evolutionary Biology 45 (2):127-139.
    Contemporary evolutionary biology comprises a plural landscape of multiple co-existent conceptual frameworks and strenuous voices that disagree on the nature and scope of evolutionary theory. Since the mid-eighties, some of these conceptual frameworks have denounced the ontologies of the Modern Synthesis and of the updated Standard Theory of Evolution as unfinished or even flawed. In this paper, we analyze and compare two of those conceptual frameworks, namely Niles Eldredge’s Hierarchy Theory of Evolution (with its extended ontology of evolutionary entities) and (...)
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  5. added 2018-02-16
    Los límites del reduccionismo molecular.Armando Aranda-Anzaldo - 1994 - Ciencia y Desarrollo 20 (116):18-25.
    Existen inconsistencias fundamentales entre el paradigma de la biología molecular y el paradigma de la física contemporánea y, por lo tanto, el marco conceptual vigente en la biología molecular resulta insuficiente para abordar las cuestiones del origen y desarrollo de la forma y organización biológicas.
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  6. added 2017-11-13
    In Defense of Methodological Mechanism: The Case of Apoptosis.Stavros Ioannidis & Stathis Psillos - 2017 - Axiomathes 27 (6):601-619.
    This paper advances the thesis of methodological mechanism, the claim that to be committed to mechanism is to adopt a certain methodological postulate, i.e. to look for causal pathways for the phenomena of interest. We argue that methodological mechanism incorporates a minimal account of understanding mechanisms, according to which a mechanism just is a causal pathway described in the language of theory. In order to argue for this position we discuss a central example of a biological mechanism, the mechanism of (...)
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  7. added 2017-02-21
    The Components and Boundaries of Mechanisms.Marie I. Kaiser - 2017 - In S. Glennan & P. Illari (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy. New York, USA: Routledge.
    Mechanisms are said to consist of two kinds of components, entities and activities. In the first half of this chapter, I examine what entities and activities are, how they relate to well-known ontological categories, such as processes or dispositions, and how entities and activities relate to each other (e.g., can one be reduced to the other or are they mutually dependent?). The second part of this chapter analyzes different criteria for individuating the components of mechanisms and discusses how real the (...)
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  8. added 2017-02-15
    On the Limits of Causal Modeling: Spatially-Structurally Complex Biological Phenomena.Marie I. Kaiser - 2016 - Philosophy of Science 83 (5):921-933.
    This paper examines the adequacy of causal graph theory as a tool for modeling biological phenomena and formalizing biological explanations. I point out that the causal graph approach reaches it limits when it comes to modeling biological phenomena that involve complex spatial and structural relations. Using a case study from molecular biology, DNA-binding and -recognition of proteins, I argue that causal graph models fail to adequately represent and explain causal phenomena in this field. The inadequacy of these models is due (...)
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  9. added 2017-01-16
    The Proximate–Ultimate Distinction and Evolutionary Developmental Biology: Causal Irrelevance Versus Explanatory Abstraction.Massimo Pigliucci & Raphael Scholl - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (5):653-670.
    Mayr’s proximate–ultimate distinction has received renewed interest in recent years. Here we discuss its role in arguments about the relevance of developmental to evolutionary biology. We show that two recent critiques of the proximate–ultimate distinction fail to explain why developmental processes in particular should be of interest to evolutionary biologists. We trace these failures to a common problem: both critiques take the proximate–ultimate distinction to neglect specific causal interactions in nature. We argue that this is implausible, and that the distinction (...)
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  10. added 2016-12-08
    Biological Information, Causality and Specificity - an Intimate Relationship.Karola Stotz & Paul E. Griffiths - 2017 - In Sara Imari Walker, Paul Davies & George Ellis (eds.), From Matter to Life: Information and Causality. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 366-390.
    In this chapter we examine the relationship between biological information, the key biological concept of specificity, and recent philosophical work on causation. We begin by showing how talk of information in the molecular biosciences grew out of efforts to understand the sources of biological specificity. We then introduce the idea of ‘causal specificity’ from recent work on causation in philosophy, and our own, information theoretic measure of causal specificity. Biological specificity, we argue, is simple the causal specificity of certain biological (...)
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  11. added 2016-12-08
    The Metaphysics of Constitutive Mechanistic Phenomena.Marie I. Kaiser & Beate Krickel - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axv058.
    The central aim of this article is to specify the ontological nature of constitutive mechanistic phenomena. After identifying three criteria of adequacy that any plausible approach to constitutive mechanistic phenomena must satisfy, we present four different suggestions, found in the mechanistic literature, of what mechanistic phenomena might be. We argue that none of these suggestions meets the criteria of adequacy. According to our analysis, constitutive mechanistic phenomena are best understood as what we will call ‘object-involving occurrents’. Furthermore, on the basis (...)
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  12. added 2016-12-05
    Signals That Make a Difference.Brett Calcott, Paul E. Griffiths & Arnaud Pocheville - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axx022.
    Recent work by Brian Skyrms offers a very general way to think about how information flows and evolves in biological networks — from the way monkeys in a troop communicate, to the way cells in a body coordinate their actions. A central feature of his account is a way to formally measure the quantity of information contained in the signals in these networks. In this paper, we argue there is a tension between how Skyrms talks of signalling networks and his (...)
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  13. added 2016-10-07
    Big Data, Epistemology and Causality: Knowledge in and Knowledge Out in EXPOsOMICS.Stefano Canali - 2016 - Big Data and Society 3 (2).
    Recently, it has been argued that the use of Big Data transforms the sciences, making data-driven research possible and studying causality redundant. In this paper, I focus on the claim on causal knowledge by examining the Big Data project EXPOsOMICS, whose research is funded by the European Commission and considered capable of improving our understanding of the relation between exposure and disease. While EXPOsOMICS may seem the perfect exemplification of the data-driven view, I show how causal knowledge is necessary for (...)
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  14. added 2016-10-06
    Origin of Life: A Consequence of Cosmic Energy, Redox Homeostasis and Quantum Phenomenon.Contzen Pereira & J. Shashi Kiran Reddy - unknown
    Origin of life on earth transpired once and from then on, it emerges as an endless eternal process. Matter and energy are constants of the cosmos and the hypothesis is that the origin of life is a moment when these constants intertwined or interacted. Energy from the cosmos interacted with inorganic matter to support matter with retention of this riveted energy, as energy to be circulated within the primitive channelized structures to conserve energy by the materialization of the proton homeostasis (...)
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  15. added 2016-08-30
    Which Kind of Causal Specificity Matters Biologically?Marcel Weber - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (3):574-585.
    Griffiths et al. (2015) have proposed a quantitative measure of causal specificity and used it to assess various attempts to single out genetic causes as being causally more specific than other cellular mechanisms, for example, alternative splicing. Focusing in particular on developmental processes, they have identified a number of important challenges for this project. In this discussion note, I would like to show how these challenges can be met.
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  16. added 2016-08-30
    On the Incompatibility of Biological Dynamical Mechanisms and Causal Graphs.Marcel Weber - 2016 - Philosophy of Science 83 (5):959-971.
    I examine to what extent accounts of mechanisms based on formal interventionist theories of causality can adequately represent biological mechanisms with complex dynamics. Using a differential equation model for a circadian clock mechanism as an example, I first show that there exists an iterative solution that can be interpreted as a structural causal model. Thus, in principle it is possible to integrate causal difference-making information with dynamical information. However, the differential equation model itself lacks the right modularity properties for a (...)
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  17. added 2016-07-21
    Philosophy of Experimental Biology.Jacob Stegenga - 2009 - Erkenntnis 71 (3):431-436.
    Philosophers have committed sins while studying science, it is said – philosophy of science focused on physics to the detriment of biology, reconstructed idealizations of scientific episodes rather than attending to historical details, and focused on theories and concepts to the detriment of experiments. Recent generations of philosophers of science have tried to atone for these sins, and by the 1980s the exculpation was in full swing. Marcel Weber’s Philosophy of Experimental Biology is a zenith mea culpa for philosophy of (...)
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  18. added 2016-05-23
    A Framework for Philosophical Biology.Sepehr Ehsani - manuscript
    Advances in biology, at least over the past two centuries, have mostly relied on theories that were subsequently revised, expanded or eventually refuted using experimental and other means. The field of theoretical biology used to primarily provide a basis, similar to theoretical physics in the physical sciences, to rationally examine the frameworks within which biological experiments were carried out and to shed light on overlooked gaps in understanding. Today, however, theoretical biology has generally become synonymous with computational and mathematical biology. (...)
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  19. added 2015-12-01
    Reduction in the Biomedical Sciences.Holly Andersen - 2016 - In Miriam Solomon, Jeremy Simon & Harold Kincaid (eds.), Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Medicine. Routledge.
    This chapter discusses several kinds of reduction that are often found in the biomedical sciences, in contrast to reduction in fields such as physics. This includes reduction as a methodological assumption for how to investigate phenomena like complex diseases, and reduction as a conceptual tool for relating distinct models of the same phenomenon. The case of Parkinson’s disease illustrates a wide variety of ways in which reductionism is an important tool in medicine.
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  20. added 2015-11-13
    Genetic Traits and Causal Explanation.Robert Northcott - 2012 - In Kathryn Plaisance & Thomas Reydon (eds.), Philosophy of Behavioral Biology. Springer. pp. 65-82.
    I use a contrastive theory of causal explanation to analyze the notion of a genetic trait. The resulting definition is relational, an implication of which is that no trait is genetic always and everywhere. Rather, every trait may be either genetic or non-genetic, depending on explanatory context. I also outline some other advantages of connecting the debate to the wider causation literature, including how that yields us an account of the distinction between genetic traits and genetic dispositions.
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  21. added 2015-11-13
    Is Actual Difference Making Actually Different?Robert Northcott - 2009 - Journal of Philosophy 106 (11):629-633.
    This paper responds to Kenneth Waters’s account of actual difference making. Among other things, I argue that although Waters is right that researchers may sometimes be justified in focusing on genes rather than other causes of phenotypic traits, he is wrong that the apparatus of actual difference makers overcomes the traditional causal parity thesis.
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  22. added 2015-11-13
    Can ANOVA Measure Causal Strength?Robert Northcott - 2008 - Quarterly Review of Biology 83 (1):47-55.
    The statistical technique of analysis of variance is often used by biologists as a measure of causal factors’ relative strength or importance. I argue that it is a tool ill suited to this purpose, on several grounds. I suggest a superior alternative, and outline some implications. I finish with a diagnosis of the source of error – an unwitting inheritance of bad philosophy that now requires the remedy of better philosophy.
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  23. added 2015-10-29
    Causal Control: A Rationale for Causal Selection.Lauren N. Ross - manuscript
    Causal selection has to do with the distinction we make between background conditions and “the” true cause or causes of some outcome of interest. A longstanding consensus in philosophy views causal selection as lacking any objective rationale and as guided, instead, by arbitrary, pragmatic, and non-scientific considerations. I argue against this position in the context of causal selection for disease traits. In this domain, causes are selected on the basis of the type of causal control they exhibit over a disease (...)
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  24. added 2015-04-10
    From Aristotle’s Teleology to Darwin’s Genealogy: The Stamp of Inutility, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015 (Pdf: Contents, Introduction).Marco Solinas - 2015 - Palgrave-Macmillan.
    Starting with Aristotle and moving on to Darwin, Marco Solinas outlines the basic steps from the birth, establishment and later rebirth of the traditional view of living beings, and its overturning by evolutionary revolution. The classic framework devised by Aristotle was still dominant in the 17th Century world of Galileo, Harvey and Ray, and remained hegemonic until the time of Lamarck and Cuvier in the 19th Century. Darwin's breakthrough thus takes on the dimensions of an abandonment of the traditional finalistic (...)
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  25. added 2015-03-20
    The Epistemology of Causal Selection: Insights From Systems Biology.Beckett Sterner - forthcoming - In C. Kenneth Waters (ed.), Causal Reasoning in Biology. University of Minnesota Press.
    Among the many causes of an event, how do we distinguish the important ones? Are there ways to distinguish among causes on principled grounds that integrate both practical aims and objective knowledge? Psychologist Tania Lombrozo has suggested that causal explanations “identify factors that are ‘exportable’ in the sense that they are likely to subserve future prediction and intervention” (Lombrozo 2010, 327). Hence portable causes are more important precisely because they provide objective information to prediction and intervention as practical aims. However, (...)
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  26. added 2014-06-10
    The Dispositional Genome: Primus Inter Pares.Christopher J. Austin - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (2):227-246.
    According to the proponents of Developmental Systems Theory and the Causal Parity Thesis, the privileging of the genome as “first among equals” with respect to the development of phenotypic traits is more a reflection of our own heuristic prejudice than of ontology - the underlying causal structures responsible for that specified development no more single out the genome as primary than they do other broadly “environmental” factors. Parting with the methodology of the popular responses to the Thesis, this paper offers (...)
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  27. added 2014-06-10
    On the Classification of Diseases.Benjamin Smart - 2014 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 35 (4):251-269.
    Identifying the necessary and sufficient conditions for individuating and classifying diseases is a matter of great importance in the fields of law, ethics, epidemiology, and of course, medicine. In this paper, I first propose a means of achieving this goal, ensuring that no two distinct disease-types could correctly be ascribed to the same disease-token. I then posit a metaphysical ontology of diseases—that is, I give an account of what a disease is. This is essential to providing the most effective means (...)
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  28. added 2014-05-04
    Explaining Causal Selection with Explanatory Causal Economy: Biology and Beyond.L. R. Franklin-Hall - 2015 - In P.-A. Braillard & C. Malaterre (eds.), Explanation in Biology: An Enquiry into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences. Springer. pp. 413-438.
    Among the factors necessary for the occurrence of some event, which of these are selectively highlighted in its explanation and labeled as causes — and which are explanatorily omitted, or relegated to the status of background conditions? Following J. S. Mill, most have thought that only a pragmatic answer to this question was possible. In this paper I suggest we understand this ‘causal selection problem’ in causal-explanatory terms, and propose that explanatory trade-offs between abstraction and stability can provide a principled (...)
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  29. added 2014-03-19
    Causal Efficacy and the Analysis of Variance.Robert Northcott - 2006 - Biology and Philosophy 21 (2):253-276.
    The causal impacts of genes and environment on any one biological trait are inextricably entangled, and consequently it is widely accepted that it makes no sense in singleton cases to privilege either factor for particular credit. On the other hand, at a population level it may well be the case that one of the factors is responsible for more variation than the other. Standard methodological practice in biology uses the statistical technique of analysis of variance to measure this latter kind (...)
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  30. added 2013-11-27
    The Role of Causal Processes in the Neutral and Nearly Neutral Theories.Michael R. Dietrich & Roberta L. Millstein - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (5):548-559.
    The neutral and nearly neutral theories of molecular evolution are sometimes characterized as theories about drift alone, where drift is described solely as an outcome, rather than a process. We argue, however, that both selection and drift, as causal processes, are integral parts of both theories. However, the nearly neutral theory explicitly recognizes alleles and/or molecular substitutions that, while engaging in weakly selected causal processes, exhibit outcomes thought to be characteristic of random drift. A narrow focus on outcomes obscures the (...)
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  31. added 2013-11-12
    Evidence in Biology and the Conditions of Success.Jacob Stegenga - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (6):981-1004.
    I describe two traditions of philosophical accounts of evidence: one characterizes the notion in terms of signs of success, the other characterizes the notion in terms of conditions of success. The best examples of the former rely on the probability calculus, and have the virtues of generality and theoretical simplicity. The best examples of the latter describe the features of evidence which scientists appeal to in practice, which include general features of methods, such as quality and relevance, and general features (...)
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  32. added 2013-11-11
    Time Arrows and Determinism in Biology.Bartolomé Sabater - 2009 - Biological Theory 4 (2):174-182.
    I propose that, in addition to the commonly recognized increase of entropy, two more time arrows influence living beings. The increase of damage reactions, which produce aging and genetic variation, and the decrease of the rate of entropy production involved in natural selection are neglected arrows of time. Although based on the statistical theory of the arrow of time, they are distinguishable from the general arrow of the increase of entropy. Physiology under healthy conditions only obeys the increase of entropy (...)
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  33. added 2013-08-09
    Causal Selection Versus Causal Parity in Biology: Relevant Counterfactuals and Biologically Normal Interventions.Marcel Weber - forthcoming - In C. Kenneth Waters & James Woodward (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Causal Reasoning in Biology. Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science. Vol. XXI. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
    Causal selection is the task of picking out, from a field of known causally relevant factors, some factors as elements of an explanation. The Causal Parity Thesis in the philosophy of biology challenges the usual ways of making such selections among different causes operating in a developing organism. The main target of this thesis is usually gene centrism, the doctrine that genes play some special role in ontogeny, which is often described in terms of information-bearing or programming. This paper is (...)
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  34. added 2013-02-21
    Causal Graphs and Biological Mechanisms.Alexander Gebharter & Marie I. Kaiser - 2014 - In Marie I. Kaiser, Oliver Scholz, Daniel Plenge & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Explanation in the special sciences: The case of biology and history. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 55-86.
    Modeling mechanisms is central to the biological sciences – for purposes of explanation, prediction, extrapolation, and manipulation. A closer look at the philosophical literature reveals that mechanisms are predominantly modeled in a purely qualitative way. That is, mechanistic models are conceived of as representing how certain entities and activities are spatially and temporally organized so that they bring about the behavior of the mechanism in question. Although this adequately characterizes how mechanisms are represented in biology textbooks, contemporary biological research practice (...)
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  35. added 2012-10-23
    A Bio-Logical Theory of Animal Learning.David Guez - 2009 - Biological Theory 4 (2):148-158.
    This article provides the foundation for a new predictive theory of animal learning that is based upon a simple logical model. The knowledge of experimental subjects at a given time is described using logical equations. These logical equations are then used to predict a subject’s response when presented with a known or a previously unknown situation. This new theory suc- cessfully anticipates phenomena that existing theories predict, as well as phenomena that they cannot. It provides a theoretical account for phenomena (...)
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  36. added 2012-10-09
    Causation in Medicine.Brendan Clarke - 2012 - In Wenceslao J. Gonzalez (ed.), Conceptual Revolutions: from Cognitive Science to Medicine. Netbiblo.
    In this paper, I offer one example of conceptual change. Specifically, I contend that the discovery that viruses could cause cancer represents an excellent example of branch jumping, one of Thagard’s nine forms of conceptual change. Prior to about 1960, cancer was generally regarded as a degenerative, chronic, non-infectious disease. Cancer causation was therefore usually held to be a gradual process of accumulating cellular damage, caused by relatively non-specific component causes, acting over long periods of time. Viral infections, on the (...)
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  37. added 2012-10-09
    Causality in Medicine with Particular Reference to the Viral Causation of Cancers.Brendan Clarke - 2011 - Dissertation, University College London
    In this thesis, I give a metascientific account of causality in medicine. I begin with two historical cases of causal discovery. These are the discovery of the causation of Burkitt’s lymphoma by the Epstein-Barr virus, and of the various viral causes suggested for cervical cancer. These historical cases then support a philosophical discussion of causality in medicine. This begins with an introduction to the Russo- Williamson thesis (RWT), and discussion of a range of counter-arguments against it. Despite these, I argue (...)
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  38. added 2012-07-19
    When to Expect Violations of Causal Faithfulness and Why It Matters.Holly Andersen - 2013 - Philosophy of Science (5):672-683.
    I present three reasons why philosophers of science should be more concerned about violations of causal faithfulness (CF). In complex evolved systems, mechanisms for maintaining various equilibrium states are highly likely to violate CF. Even when such systems do not precisely violate CF, they may nevertheless generate precisely the same problems for inferring causal structure from probabilistic relationships in data as do genuine CF-violations. Thus, potential CF-violations are particularly germane to experimental science when we rely on probabilistic information to uncover (...)
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  39. added 2012-03-08
    Object Spaces: An Organizing Strategy for Biological Theorizing.Beckett Sterner - 2009 - Biological Theory 4 (3):280-286.
    A classic analytic approach to biological phenomena seeks to refine definitions until classes are sufficiently homogenous to support prediction and explanation, but this approach founders on cases where a single process produces objects with similar forms but heterogeneous behaviors. I introduce object spaces as a tool to tackle this challenging diversity of biological objects in terms of causal processes with well-defined formal properties. Object spaces have three primary components: (1) a combinatorial biological process such as protein synthesis that generates objects (...)
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