PhilSci Archive

Systems Biology and the Integration of Mechanistic Explanation and Mathematical Explanation

Brigandt, Ingo (2013) Systems Biology and the Integration of Mechanistic Explanation and Mathematical Explanation. [Preprint]

[img]
Preview
PDF
Systems_biology_and_the_integration_of_mechanistic_and_mathematical_explanation.pdf

Download (1MB)

Abstract

The paper discusses how systems biology is working toward complex accounts that integrate explanation in terms of mechanisms and explanation by mathematical models—which some philosophers have viewed as rival models of explanation. Systems biology is an integrative approach, and it strongly relies on mathematical modeling. Philosophical accounts of mechanisms capture integrative in the sense of multilevel and multifield explanations, yet accounts of mechanistic explanation (as the analysis of a whole in terms of its structural parts and their qualitative interactions) have failed to address how a mathematical model could contribute to such explanations. I discuss how mathematical equations can be explanatorily relevant. Several cases from systems biology are discussed to illustrate the interplay between mechanistic research and mathematical modeling, and I point to questions about qualitative phenomena (rather than the explanation of quantitative details), where quantitative models are still indispensable to the explanation. Systems biology shows that a broader philosophical conception of mechanisms is needed, which takes into account functional-dynamical aspects, interaction in complex networks with feedback loops, system-wide functional properties such as distributed functionality and robustness, and a mechanism’s ability to respond to perturbations (beyond its actual operation). I offer general conclusions for philosophical accounts of explanation.


Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Brigandt, Ingobrigandt@ualberta.ca
Additional Information: Preprint of an article forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44(4)
Keywords: Systems biology, integration, mechanistic explanation, mathematical models, mechanisms
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Depositing User: Ingo Brigandt
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2013 16:04
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2013 16:04
Item ID: 10077
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.06.002
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.06.002
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Date: 2013
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/10077

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Altmetric.com

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item