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Dreaming of a Universal Biology: Synthetic Biology and the Origins of Life

Simons, Massimiliano (2021) Dreaming of a Universal Biology: Synthetic Biology and the Origins of Life. HYLE--International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry, 91. pp. 91-116. ISSN 1433-5158

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Abstract

Synthetic biology aims to synthesize novel biological systems or re- design existing ones. The field has raised numerous philosophical questions, but most especially what is novel to this field. In this article I argue for a novel take, since the dominant ways to understand synthetic biology’s specificity each face problems. Inspired by the examination of the work of a number of chemists, I argue that synthetic biology differentiates itself by a new regime of articulation, i.e. a new way of articulating the questions and phenomena it wants to address. Instead of describing actual existing biological systems, the field aims to describe biological possibilities. In the second part I corroborate this hypothesis through a comparison between early research in the field of the origins of life and contemporary synthetic biologists, who are not so much interested in the historical origin of life on Earth, but rather in a universal bi- ology of the possible origins of any life whatsoever.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Simons, MassimilianoMassimiliano.simons@gmail.com0000-0001-8751-9152
Keywords: synthetic biology, universal biology, origins of life, biological possibilities
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Dr. Massimiliano Simons
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2021 13:44
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2021 13:44
Item ID: 19451
Journal or Publication Title: HYLE--International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry
Official URL: http://www.hyle.org/journal/issues/27-1/simons.htm
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Date: 2021
Page Range: pp. 91-116
Volume: 91
ISSN: 1433-5158
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19451

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