1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Egenis · Events

Distributed and Local Explanations in Systems Biology

Seminar   08.01.2008






Jonathan Davies, Egenis PhD Student

Organised by



GF7, Byrne House

Time: 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Event details

If we were to ask the question, “what is the cause of organism X having the form that it does?” or, “why does organism X give rise (through e.g. sexual reproduction) to an organism that is similar to itself?” we have two broad types of explanation: the localised and the distributed. Local explanations answer “why” (or “how”) questions with the identification of an object (localised in space) or event (localised in time) responsible for the phenomenon to be explained. Distributed explanations answer “why” (or “how”) questions with the identification of global properties (distributed in space) or processes (distributed in time) responsible for the phenomenon to be explained. I will hope to show that the two categories that I am employing (i.e. distributed and localised explanations) cannot simply be subsumed under, e.g. the debates around reduction/emergence, atomism/holism, or epigenesis/preformationism, but picks out two rival conceptions of biological mechanisms (and indeed mechanistic explanations in general) that have cut across the dichotomies mentioned above. I will attempt to locate a (probably quite arbitrary) selection of approaches to problems of biological form within my framework and I hope ultimately to argue that a more adequate understanding of biological phenomena will be aided by the acknowledgement of these rival approaches and the acceptance of the need to integrate them. I will further argue that the iterative procedure of combining systems theoretic and pragmatic systems biology, described by (but not it seems carried out by) Leroy Hood and others, (i.e. top-down and bottom-up systems approaches to biology) offers a possible way of carrying out this integration.

Further details