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  1. Circles of Care for Safety: A Care Ethics Approach to Safe-by-Design.Lieke Baas, Suzanne Metselaar & Pim Klaassen - 2022 - NanoEthics 16 (2):167-179.
    Safe-by-Design is an approach to engineering that aims to integrate the value of safety in the design and development of new technologies. It does so by integrating knowledge of potential dangers in the design process and developing methods to design undesirable effects out of the innovation. Recent discussions have highlighted several challenges in conceptualizing safety and integrating the value into the design process. Therefore, some have argued to design for the responsibility for safety, instead of for safety itself. However, this (...)
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  • The Evolution of Human Birth and Transhumanist Proposals of Enhancement.Eduardo R. Cruz - 2015 - Zygon 50 (4):830-853.
    Some transhumanists argue that we must engage with theories and facts about our evolutionary past in order to promote future enhancements of the human body. At the same time, they call our attention to the flawed character of evolution and argue that there is a mismatch between adaptation to ancestral environments and contemporary life. One important trait of our evolutionary past which should not be ignored, and yet may hinder the continued perfection of humankind, is the peculiarly human way of (...)
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  • Metabolism Instead of Machine: Towards an Ontology of Hybrids.Julia Rijssenbeek, Vincent Blok & Zoë Robaey - 2022 - Philosophy and Technology 35 (3):1-23.
    The emerging field of synthetic biology aims to engineer novel biological entities. The envisioned future bio-based economy builds largely on “cell factories”: organisms that have been metabolically engineered to sustainably produce substances for human ends. In this paper, we argue that synthetic biology’s goal of creating efficient production vessels for industrial applications implies a set of ontological assumptions according to which living organisms are machines. Traditionally, a machine is understood as a technological, isolated and controllable production unit consisting of parts. (...)
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  • Design Methodologies and the Limits of the Engineering-Dominated Conception of Synthetic Biology.Tero Ijäs - 2019 - Acta Biotheoretica 67 (1):1-18.
    Synthetic biology is described as a new field of biotechnology that models itself on engineering sciences. However, this view of synthetic biology as an engineering field has received criticism, and both biologists and philosophers have argued for a more nuanced and heterogeneous understanding of the field. This paper elaborates the heterogeneity of synthetic biology by clarifying the role of design and the variability of design methodologies in synthetic biology. I focus on two prominent design methodologies: rational design and directed evolution. (...)
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  • The Diversity of Engineering in Synthetic Biology.Massimiliano Simons - 2020 - NanoEthics 14 (1):71-91.
    A recurrent theme in the characterization of synthetic biology is the role of engineering. This theme is widespread in the accounts of scholars studying this field and the biologists working in it, in those of the biologists themselves, as well as in policy documents. The aim of this article is to open this black-box of engineering that is supposed to influence and change contemporary life sciences. Too often, both synthetic biologists and their critics assume a very narrow understanding of what (...)
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  • Science and Common Sense: Perspectives From Philosophy and Science Education.Sara Green - 2019 - Synthese 196 (3):795-818.
    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 (...)
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  • Synthetic Biology, Metaphors and Responsibility.Carmen McLeod & Brigitte Nerlich - 2017 - Life Sciences, Society and Policy 13 (1):1-13.
    Metaphors are not just decorative rhetorical devices that make speech pretty. They are fundamental tools for thinking about the world and acting on the world. The language we use to make a better world matters; words matter; metaphors matter. Words have consequences - ethical, social and legal ones, as well as political and economic ones. They need to be used ‘responsibly’. They also need to be studied carefully – this is what we want to do through this editorial and the (...)
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  • Engineering and Biology: Counsel for a Continued Relationship.Brett Calcott, Arnon Levy, Mark L. Siegal, Orkun S. Soyer & Andreas Wagner - 2015 - Biological Theory 10 (1):50-59.
    Biologists frequently draw on ideas and terminology from engineering. Evolutionary systems biology—with its circuits, switches, and signal processing—is no exception. In parallel with the frequent links drawn between biology and engineering, there is ongoing criticism against this cross-fertilization, using the argument that over-simplistic metaphors from engineering are likely to mislead us as engineering is fundamentally different from biology. In this article, we clarify and reconfigure the link between biology and engineering, presenting it in a more favorable light. We do so (...)
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  • Living Machines: Metaphors We Live By.Nora S. Vaage - 2020 - NanoEthics 14 (1):57-70.
    Within biology and in society, living creatures have long been described using metaphors of machinery and computation: ‘bioengineering’, ‘genes as code’ or ‘biological chassis’. This paper builds on Lakoff and Johnson’s argument that such language mechanisms shape how we understand the world. I argue that the living machines metaphor builds upon a certain perception of life entailing an idea of radical human control of the living world, looking back at the historical preconditions for this metaphor. I discuss how design is (...)
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  • The end of science? On human cognitive limitations and how to overcome them.Maarten Boudry, Michael Vlerick & Taner Edis - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (1):1-16.
    What, if any, are the limits of human understanding? Epistemic pessimists, sobered by our humble evolutionary origins, have argued that some parts of the universe will forever remain beyond our ken. But what exactly does it mean to say that humans are ‘cognitively closed’ to some parts of the world, or that some problems will forever remain ‘mysteries’? In this paper we develop a richer conceptual toolbox for thinking about different forms and varieties of cognitive limitation, which are often conflated (...)
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  • Engineering and Evolvability.Brett Calcott - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):293-313.
    Comparing engineering to evolution typically involves adaptationist thinking, where well-designed artifacts are likened to well-adapted organisms, and the process of evolution is likened to the process of design. A quite different comparison is made when biologists focus on evolvability instead of adaptationism. Here, the idea is that complex integrated systems, whether evolved or engineered, share universal principles that affect the way they change over time. This shift from adaptationism to evolvability is a significant move for, as I argue, we can (...)
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  • A Roomful of Robovacs: How to Think About Genetic Programs.Brett Calcott - 2020 - In Sune Hannibal Holm & Maria Serban (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on the Engineering Approach in Biology: Living Machines?
    The notion of a genetic program has been widely criticized by both biologists and philosophers. But the debate has revolved around a narrow conception of what programs are and how they work, and many criticisms are linked to this same conception. To remedy this, I outline a modern and more apt idea of a program that possesses many of the features critics thought missing from programs. Moving away from over-simplistic conceptions of programs opens the way to a more fruitful interplay (...)
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  • Do We Need a ‘Theory’ of Development?: Alessandro Minelli and Thomas Pradeu : Towards a Theory of Development. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014, 304 Pp, $125 , ISBN 978-0-19-967142-7.Ingo Brigandt - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (4):603-617.
    Edited by Alessandro Minelli and Thomas Pradeu, Towards a Theory of Development gathers essays by biologists and philosophers, which display a diversity of theoretical perspectives. The discussions not only cover the state of art, but broaden our vision of what development includes and provide pointers for future research. Interestingly, all contributors agree that explanations should not just be gene-centered, and virtually none use design and other engineering metaphors to articulate principles of cellular and organismal organization. I comment in particular on (...)
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