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, 43 (1), 69-80

Scientific Perspectivism: A Philosopher of Science's Response to the Challenge of Big Data Biology

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Scientific Perspectivism: A Philosopher of Science's Response to the Challenge of Big Data Biology

Werner Callebaut. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci.

Abstract

Big data biology-bioinformatics, computational biology, systems biology (including 'omics'), and synthetic biology-raises a number of issues for the philosophy of science. This article deals with several such: Is data-intensive biology a new kind of science, presumably post-reductionistic? To what extent is big data biology data-driven? Can data 'speak for themselves?' I discuss these issues by way of a reflection on Carl Woese's worry that "a society that permits biology to become an engineering discipline, that allows that science to slip into the role of changing the living world without trying to understand it, is a danger to itself." And I argue that scientific perspectivism, a philosophical stance represented prominently by Giere, Van Fraassen, and Wimsatt, according to which science cannot as a matter of principle transcend our human perspective, provides the best resources currently at our disposal to tackle many of the philosophical issues implied in the modeling of complex, multilevel/multiscale phenomena.

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