Analytic philosophy for biomedical research: the imperative of applying yesterday's timeless messages to today's impasses

In P. Glauner & P. Plugmann (eds.), Innovative Technologies for Market Leadership - Investing in the Future. Springer (forthcoming)
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The mantra that "the best way to predict the future is to invent it" (attributed to the computer scientist Alan Kay) exemplifies some of the expectations from the technical and innovative sides of biomedical research at present. However, for technical advancements to make real impacts both on patient health and genuine scientific understanding, quite a number of lingering challenges facing the entire spectrum from protein biology all the way to randomized controlled trials should start to be overcome. The proposal in this chapter is that philosophy is essential in this process. By reviewing select examples from the history of science and philosophy, disciplines which were indistinguishable until the mid-nineteenth century, I argue that progress toward the many impasses in biomedicine can be achieved by emphasizing theoretical work (in the true sense of the word 'theory') as a vital foundation for experimental biology. Furthermore, a philosophical biology program that could provide a framework for theoretical investigations is outlined.
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