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The Reduction of Classical Experimental Embryology to Molecular Developmental Biology: A Tale of Three Sciences

Weber, Marcel (2022) The Reduction of Classical Experimental Embryology to Molecular Developmental Biology: A Tale of Three Sciences. [Preprint]

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Abstract

I attempt to characterize the relationship of classical experimental embryology (CEE) and molecular developmental biology and compare it to the much-discussed case of classical genetics. These sciences are treated here as discovery practices rather than as definitive forms of knowledge. I first show that CEE had some causal knowledge and hence was able to answer specific why?-questions. A paradigm was provided by the case of eye induction, perhaps CEE’s greatest success. The case of the famous Spemann-Mangold organizer is more difficult. I argue that before the advent of molecular biology, knowledge of its causal role in development was very limited. As a result, there was no functional definition of the concept of organizer. I argue that, like the classical gene concept, it is best viewed as an operational concept. This means that an account of reduction such as Kim’s functional reduction, which is still a mainstay in scientific metaphysics, cannot work in these cases. Nonetheless, again like in the classical gene case, the operational concepts of CEE played an important heuristic role in the discovery of molecules involved in morphogenesis and cell differentiation. This was made possible by what I call inter-level investigative practices. These are practices that combine experimental manipulations targeting two (or more) different levels. I conclude that the two sciences are more closely related via their experimental practices than by any inter-level explanatory relations.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Weber, Marcelmarcel.weber@unige.ch
Keywords: Reduction, classical experimental embryology, molecular developmental biology, organizer, Spemann-Mangold experiment, embryonic induction, gene concepts, operationalism, interlevel investigative practices, bone morphogenetic proteins, molecular cloning
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Operationalism/Instrumentalism
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Depositing User: Prof. Marcel Weber
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2022 14:09
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 14:09
Item ID: 21529
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Operationalism/Instrumentalism
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Date: 9 December 2022
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/21529

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