875,006 research outputs found

    Potentiality in Biology

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    We take the potentialities that are studied in the biological sciences (e.g., totipotency) to be an important subtype of biological dispositions. The goal of this paper is twofold: first, we want to provide a detailed understanding of what biological dispositions are. We claim that two features are essential for dispositions in biology: the importance of the manifestation process and the diversity of conditions that need to be satisfied for the disposition to be manifest. Second, we demonstrate that the concept of a disposition (or potentiality) is a very useful tool for the analysis of the explanatory practice in the biological sciences. On the one hand it allows an in-depth analysis of the nature and diversity of the conditions under which biological systems display specific behaviors. On the other hand the concept of a disposition may serve a unificatory role in the philosophy of the natural sciences since it captures not only the explanatory practice of biology, but of all natural sciences. Towards the end we will briefly come back to the notion of a potentiality in biology

    Improving the availability of biopesticides : an interdisciplinary research project

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    There is a need for new, biologically-based crop protection products to serve as alternatives to or to complement synthetic chemical pesticides. An interdisciplinary research team from the natural and social sciences considered whether regulatory barriers were preventing more biopesticides reaching the market. The research coincided with a realisation by policy makers that more needed to be done to facilitate biopesticide registration, exemplified by the UK's Biopesticides Scheme. However, important differences remain between the UK and other countries such as the USA. Changes in regulatory arrangements need careful handling. The scientific work undertaken in the project provided a better understanding of the population biology of microbial control agents. Interdisciplinary work permitted a contribution to the policy debate

    a variational approach to niche construction

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    In evolutionary biology, niche construction is sometimes described as a genuine evolutionary process whereby organisms, through their activities and regulatory mechanisms, modify their environment such as to steer their own evolutionary trajectory, and that of other species. There is ongoing debate, however, on the extent to which niche construction ought to be considered a bona fide evolutionary force, on a par with natural selection. Recent formulations of the variational free-energy principle as applied to the life sciences describe the properties of living systems, and their selection in evolution, in terms of variational inference. We argue that niche construction can be described using a variational approach. We propose new arguments to support the niche construction perspective, and to extend the variational approach to niche construction to current perspectives in various scientific fields


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    Philosophically, natural sciences as a building of knowledge can study ontology (what you want to know), epistemology (how to acquire knowledge), and axiology (what is the value of knowledge). Natural Science as a building of science has properties that are closely related to natural objects. The problems that occur with natural objects are holistic. This holistic problem requires problem-solving from various disciplines, especially in the natural sciences. Based on the scope of the research above, this article aims to investigate integrated natural science learning in a philosophical review (ontology, epistemology, axiology). The qualitative method is applied in this study. Studies conducted to solve problems based on a critical and in-depth analysis of pertinent library materials are known as library research. Overviews of ontology, epistemology, and axiology state that integrated natural science learning, students are expected to be able to relate to other disciplines such as physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, biology, technology, environment, and health and safety. This type of instruction uses natural science to present natural phenomena and events holistically and to develop students' problem-solving skills. The recommendation given is that teachers should tend to the interdisciplinary study of the natural sciences

    Aristotle and the search of a rational framework for biology

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    Chance and necessity are mainstays of explanation in current biology, dominated by the neo-Darwinian outlook, a blend of the theory of evolution by natural selection with the basic tenets of population genetics. In such a framework the form of living organisms is somehow a side effect of highly contingent, historical accidents. Thus, at a difference of other sciences, biology apparently lacks theoretical principles that in a law-like fashion may explain the emergence and persistence of the characteristic forms of living organisms that paradoxically, given the current importance attributed to chance, can be grouped into organized structural typologies. Nevertheless, the present essay shows that since its origins in Aristotelian natural history, biology aimed at achieving rational, non-accidental, explanations for the wide variety of living forms endowed with characteristic behaviors that constitute the landscape of biological species

    Mathematics Is Physics

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    In this essay, I argue that mathematics is a natural science---just like physics, chemistry, or biology---and that this can explain the alleged "unreasonable" effectiveness of mathematics in the physical sciences. The main challenge for this view is to explain how mathematical theories can become increasingly abstract and develop their own internal structure, whilst still maintaining an appropriate empirical tether that can explain their later use in physics. In order to address this, I offer a theory of mathematical theory-building based on the idea that human knowledge has the structure of a scale-free network and that abstract mathematical theories arise from a repeated process of replacing strong analogies with new hubs in this network. This allows mathematics to be seen as the study of regularities, within regularities, within ..., within regularities of the natural world. Since mathematical theories are derived from the natural world, albeit at a much higher level of abstraction than most other scientific theories, it should come as no surprise that they so often show up in physics. This version of the essay contains an addendum responding to Slyvia Wenmackers' essay and comments that were made on the FQXi website.Comment: 15 pages, LaTeX. Second prize winner in 2015 FQXi Essay Contest (see http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2364

    Understanding, explanation, and intelligibility. Review of H. de Regt: Understanding Scientific Understanding [book review]

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    Science aims at understanding phenomena. One natural candidate for illuminating scientific understanding is explanation. Certainly, an explanation could contribute to someone’s understanding. But it is controversial whether explanations must produce understanding, whether understanding always involves some explanation, and whether there can be understanding without explanation. In Understanding Scientific Understanding, Henk de Regt sheds light on the relation between explanation and understanding by offering a unique account of scientific understanding, with an eye on how understanding is achieved. This account—which draws on two decades of his research—is presented in a form that is pleasant to read, accessible to a variety of readers, embedded in the longstanding philosophical debate about scientific explanations, and buttressed with numerous examples and three in-depth case studies from the history of physics. Although de Regt every so often points to examples from other sciences, such as biology, his account is tailored to physics. At best, he convinces his readers that it generalizes to other natural sciences. But whether it can accommodate social sciences or economics is not evident, as de Regt himself admits (see 11 and 261)

    The fidelity of dynamic signaling by noisy biomolecular networks

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    This is the final version of the article. Available from Public Library of Science via the DOI in this record.Cells live in changing, dynamic environments. To understand cellular decision-making, we must therefore understand how fluctuating inputs are processed by noisy biomolecular networks. Here we present a general methodology for analyzing the fidelity with which different statistics of a fluctuating input are represented, or encoded, in the output of a signaling system over time. We identify two orthogonal sources of error that corrupt perfect representation of the signal: dynamical error, which occurs when the network responds on average to other features of the input trajectory as well as to the signal of interest, and mechanistic error, which occurs because biochemical reactions comprising the signaling mechanism are stochastic. Trade-offs between these two errors can determine the system's fidelity. By developing mathematical approaches to derive dynamics conditional on input trajectories we can show, for example, that increased biochemical noise (mechanistic error) can improve fidelity and that both negative and positive feedback degrade fidelity, for standard models of genetic autoregulation. For a group of cells, the fidelity of the collective output exceeds that of an individual cell and negative feedback then typically becomes beneficial. We can also predict the dynamic signal for which a given system has highest fidelity and, conversely, how to modify the network design to maximize fidelity for a given dynamic signal. Our approach is general, has applications to both systems and synthetic biology, and will help underpin studies of cellular behavior in natural, dynamic environments.We acknowledge support from a Medical Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Council funded Fellowship in Biomedical Informatics (CGB) and a Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance chair in Systems Biology (PSS). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript
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