Multiple Realization in Systems Biology

Philosophy of Science 87 (4):663–684 (2020)
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Polger and Shapiro (2016) claim that unlike human-made artifacts cases of multiple realization in naturally occurring systems are uncommon. Drawing on cases from systems biology, I argue that multiple realization in naturally occurring systems is not as uncommon as Polger and Shapiro initially thought. The relevant cases, which I draw from systems biology, involve generalizable design principles called network motifs which recur in different organisms and species and perform specific functions. I show that network motifs with entirely different underlying causal structures can perform the same function of interest. The article also considers the scope problem of multiple realization.
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Archival date: 2019-12-11
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