Models in biology

Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2009)
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Abstract

In recent years, there has much attention given by philosophers to the ubiquitous role of models and modeling in the biological sciences. Philosophical debates has focused on several areas of discussion. First, what are models in the biological sciences? The term ‘model’ is applied to mathematical structures, graphical displays, computer simulations, and even concrete organisms. Is there an account which unifies these disparate structures? Second, scientists routinely distinguish between theories and models; however, this distinction is more difficult to draw in the biological sciences since biologists often only have a variety of models and rarely have something like a fundamental theory. What then is a theory in biology? Third, how are models related to empirical or “target” systems?

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Jay Odenbaugh
Lewis & Clark College

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