Chapter

Mechanism schemas and the relationship between biological theories

Tudor M. Baetu

in Causality in the Sciences

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199574131
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728921 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574131.003.0019
Mechanism schemas and the relationship between biological theories

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Current accounts of the relationship between classical genetics and molecular biology favour the ‘explanatory extension’ thesis, according to which molecular biology elucidates aspects of inheritance unexplained by classical genetics. The chapter identifies however an unresolved tension between the ‘explanatory extension’ account and examples of ‘explanatory interference’ (cases when the accommodation of data from molecular biology results in a more precise genotyping and more adequate classical explanations). This chapter provides a new way of analysing the relationship between classical genetics and molecular biology capable of resolving this tension. The proposed solution makes use of the properties of mechanism schemas and sketches, which can be completed by elucidating some or all of their remaining ‘black boxes’ and instantiated via the filling‐in of phenomenon–specific details. This result has implications for the reductionism–antireductionism debate since it shows that molecular elucidations have a positive impact on classical explanations without entailing the reduction of classical genetics to molecular biology.

Keywords: explanation; genetics; mechanism; mechanism schema; philosophy of biology; reductionism

Chapter.  6628 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Logic

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