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Cancer Modeling: the Advantages and Limitations of Multiple Perspectives

Plutynski, A (2018) Cancer Modeling: the Advantages and Limitations of Multiple Perspectives. Understanding Perspectivism: Scientific Challenges and Methodological Prospects.

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Abstract

Cancer is a paradigmatic case of a complex causal process; causes of cancer operate at a variety of temporal and spatial scales, and the respects in which these causes act and interact are diverse. There are, for instance, temporal order effects, organizational effects, structural effects (due to size and shape, for instance, of a solid tumor), and dynamic relationships between causes operating at different temporal and spatial scales. Because of this complexity, models of cancer initiation and progression often involve deliberate choices to focus on one time scale, one causal pathway, or one aspect of cancer’s dynamics. As in most of biology, modeling cancer involves simplification and idealization. At the same time, theoretical perspectives inform the construction of these models. Such perspectives might involve viewing cancer ‘as’ a genetic disease, metabolic disease, stem cell disease, an infectious disease, or a disease of tissue disorganization. This paper will argue that purportedly competing theoretical views of cancer are not at odds, but can (and should) be viewed as mutually informative. Models are most often developed in the service of asking very specific questions, and this requires limiting our view of the phenomena to a specific temporal or spatial scale, a particular cause, or a particular outcome, dynamic, or pattern. Thus, while some models may seem at odds, often they are simply concerned with different questions, or, they are complementary and mutually informative. I hope to bring this case to bear on debates among philosophers of science over perspectivism and realism, as well pluralism about the aims and scope of scientific theory.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Plutynski, Aaplutyns@wustl.edu
Keywords: cancer, modeling, theory, models, somatic mutation theory
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
Specific Sciences > Medicine
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Theory Change
Depositing User: A Plutynski
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2018 01:44
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2018 01:44
Item ID: 15353
Journal or Publication Title: Understanding Perspectivism: Scientific Challenges and Methodological Prospects
Publisher: Routledge
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
Specific Sciences > Medicine
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Theory Change
Date: 2018
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15353

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