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Oliver Lean
University of Bristol
  1. Binding Specificity and Causal Selection in Drug Design.Oliver M. Lean - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (1):70-90.
    Binding specificity is a centrally important concept in molecular biology, yet it has received little philosophical attention. Here I aim to remedy this by analyzing binding specificity as a causal property. I focus on the concept’s role in drug design, where it is highly prized and hence directly studied. From a causal perspective, understanding why binding specificity is a valuable property of drugs contributes to an understanding of causal selection—of how and why scientists distinguish between causes, not just causes from (...)
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  2. Digital Literature Analysis for Empirical Philosophy of Science.Oliver M. Lean, Luca Rivelli & Charles H. Pence - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    Empirical philosophers of science aim to base their philosophical theories on observations of scientific practice. But since there is far too much science to observe it all, how can we form and test hypotheses about science that are sufficiently rigorous and broad in scope, while avoiding the pitfalls of bias and subjectivity in our methods? Part of the answer, we claim, lies in the computational tools of the digital humanities, which allow us to analyze large volumes of scientific literature. Here (...)
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    Getting the most out of Shannon information.Oliver M. Lean - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):395-413.
    Shannon information is commonly assumed to be the wrong way in which to conceive of information in most biological contexts. Since the theory deals only in correlations between systems, the argument goes, it can apply to any and all causal interactions that affect a biological outcome. Since informational language is generally confined to only certain kinds of biological process, such as gene expression and hormone signalling, Shannon information is thought to be unable to account for this restriction. It is often (...)
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    Are bio-ontologies metaphysical theories?Oliver M. Lean - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):11587-11608.
    Bio-ontologies are digital frameworks for handling biological and biomedical data. They consist of theoretical entities and relations with explicitly defined logical structures and precise definitions, whose purpose is to provide a shared language for representing information to be distributed and integrated across diverse scientific contexts. It is tempting to view bio-ontologies as clear and formal expressions of a scientific community’s ontological commitments about their domain of inquiry, and to view their integration as tantamount to the metaphysical unification of science that (...)
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  5. Chemical arbitrariness and the causal role of molecular adapters.Oliver M. Lean - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 78:101180.
    Jacques Monod (1971) argued that certain molecular processes rely critically on the property of chemical arbitrariness, which he claimed allows those processes to “transcend the laws of chemistry”. It seems natural, as some philosophers have done, to interpret this in modal terms: a biological relationship is chemically arbitrary if it is possible, within the constraints of chemical “law”, for that relationship to have been otherwise than it is. But while modality is certainly important for understanding chemical arbitrariness, understanding its biological (...)
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