Growing Explanations

Growing Explanations

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For much of the twentieth century scientists sought to explain objects and processes by reducing them to their componentsa€”nuclei into protons and neutrons, proteins into amino acids, and so ona€”but over the past forty years there has been a marked turn toward explaining phenomena by building them up rather than breaking them down. This collection reflects on the history and significance of this turn toward a€œgrowing explanationsa€ from the bottom up. The essays show how this strategya€”based on a widespread appreciation for complexity even in apparently simple processes and on the capacity of computers to simulate such complexitya€”has played out in a broad array of sciences. They describe how scientists are reordering knowledge to emphasize growth, change, and contingency and, in so doing, are revealing even phenomena long considered elementarya€”like particles and genesa€”as emergent properties of dynamic processes. Written by leading historians and philosophers of science, these essays examine the range of subjects, people, and goals involved in changing the character of scientific analysis over the last several decades. They highlight the alternatives that fields as diverse as string theory, fuzzy logic, artificial life, and immunology bring to the forms of explanation that have traditionally defined scientific modernity. A number of the essays deal with the mathematical and physical sciences, addressing concerns with hybridity and the materials of the everyday world. Other essays focus on the life sciences, where questions such as a€œWhat is life?a€ and a€œWhat is an organism?a€ are undergoing radical re-evaluation. Together these essays mark the contours of an ongoing revolution in scientific explanation. Contributors. David Aubin, Amy Dahan Dalmedico, Richard Doyle, Claus Emmeche, Peter Galison, Stefan Helmreich, Ann Johnson, Evelyn Fox Keller, Ilana LApwy, Claude Rosental, Alfred TauberOver the past forty years, the hierarchy of the natural sciences has been inverted, putting biology rather than physics at the top, and ... In place of the drive to reduce phenomena from higher-order organization to lower-lying elements as the highest goal of ... Because the essays deal with quite diverse subjects, readers looking for a point of entry suitable to their own ... a mere starting point, a catalogue compiled by mechanical means from which the real problems and answers will arise.

Title:Growing Explanations
Author:M. Norton Wise
Publisher:Duke University Press - 2004-11-03


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