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  1. Constraint‐Based Reasoning for Search and Explanation: Strategies for Understanding Variation and Patterns in Biology.Sara Green & Nicholaos Jones - 2016 - Dialectica 70 (3):343-374.
    Life scientists increasingly rely upon abstraction-based modeling and reasoning strategies for understanding biological phenomena. We introduce the notion of constraint-based reasoning as a fruitful tool for conceptualizing some of these developments. One important role of mathematical abstractions is to impose formal constraints on a search space for possible hypotheses and thereby guide the search for plausible causal models. Formal constraints are, however, not only tools for biological explanations but can be explanatory by virtue of clarifying general dependency-relations and patterning between (...)
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  • Network Analyses in Systems Biology: New Strategies for Dealing with Biological Complexity.Sara Green, Maria Şerban, Raphael Scholl, Nicholaos Jones, Ingo Brigandt & William Bechtel - 2018 - Synthese 195 (4):1751-1777.
    The increasing application of network models to interpret biological systems raises a number of important methodological and epistemological questions. What novel insights can network analysis provide in biology? Are network approaches an extension of or in conflict with mechanistic research strategies? When and how can network and mechanistic approaches interact in productive ways? In this paper we address these questions by focusing on how biological networks are represented and analyzed in a diverse class of case studies. Our examples span from (...)
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  • Revisiting Generality in the Life Sciences: Systems Biology and the Quest for General Principles.Sara Green - unknown
    Due to the variation, contingency and complexity of living systems, biology is often taken to be a science without fundamental theories, laws or general principles. I revisit this question in light of the quest for design principles in systems biology and show that different views can be reconciled if we distinguish between different types of generality. The philosophical literature has primarily focused on generality of specific models or explanations, or on the heuristic role of abstraction. This paper takes a different (...)
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  • Can Biological Complexity Be Reverse Engineered?Sara Green - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 53:73-83.
    Concerns with the use of engineering approaches in biology have recently been raised. I examine two related challenges to biological research that I call the synchronic and diachronic underdetermination problem. The former refers to challenges associated with the inference of design principles underlying system capacities when the synchronic relations between lower-level processes and higher-level systems capacities are degenerate. The diachronic underdetermination problem regards the problem of reverse engineering a system where the non-linear relations between system capacities and lower-level mechanisms are (...)
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  • Using Computational Models to Discover and Understand Mechanisms.William Bechtel - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 56:113-121.
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  • Mechanism Discovery and Design Explanation: Where Role Function Meets Biological Advantage Function.Dingmar van Eck & Julie Mennes - 2018 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (3):413-434.
    In the recent literature on explanation in biology, increasing attention is being paid to the connection between design explanation and mechanistic explanation, viz. the role of design principles and heuristics for mechanism discovery and mechanistic explanation. In this paper we extend the connection between design explanation and mechanism discovery by prizing apart two different types of design explanation and by elaborating novel heuristics that one specific type offers for mechanism discovery across species. We illustrate our claims in terms of two (...)
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  • Stem Cells and Systems Models: Clashing Views of Explanation.Melinda Fagan - 2016 - Synthese 193 (3):873-907.
    This paper examines a case of failed interdisciplinary collaboration, between experimental stem cell research and theoretical systems biology. Recently, two groups of theoretical biologists have proposed dynamical systems models as a basis for understanding stem cells and their distinctive capacities. Experimental stem cell biologists, whose work focuses on manipulation of concrete cells, tissues and organisms, have largely ignored these proposals. I argue that ‘failure to communicate’ in this case is rooted in divergent views of explanation: the theoretically-inclined modelers are committed (...)
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  • Revisiting Generality in Biology: Systems Biology and the Quest for Design Principles.Sara Green - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (5):629-652.
    Due to the variation, contingency and complexity of living systems, biology is often taken to be a science without fundamental theories, laws or general principles. I revisit this question in light of the quest for design principles in systems biology and show that different views can be reconciled if we distinguish between different types of generality. The philosophical literature has primarily focused on generality of specific models or explanations, or on the heuristic role of abstraction. This paper takes a different (...)
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