1st Edition

Philosophical Perspectives on the Engineering Approach in Biology Living Machines?

Edited By Sune Holm, Maria Serban Copyright 2020
    216 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    216 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Philosophical Perspectives on the Engineering Approach in Biology provides a philosophical examination of what has been called the most powerful metaphor in biology: The machine metaphor. The chapters collected in this volume discuss the idea that living systems can be understood through the lens of engineering methods and machine metaphors from both historical, theoretical, and practical perspectives.

    In their contributions the authors examine questions about scientific explanation and methodology, the interrelationship between science and engineering, and the impact that the use of engineering metaphors in science may have for bioethics and science communication, such as the worry that its wide application reinforces public misconceptions of the nature of new biotechnology and biological life. The book also contains an introduction that describes the rise of the machine analogy and the many ways in which it plays a central role in fundamental debates about e.g. design, adaptation, and reductionism in the philosophy of biology. 

    The book will be useful as a core reading for professionals as well as graduate and undergraduate students in courses of philosophy of science and for life scientists taking courses in philosophy of science and bioethics.

    Sune Holm, Louisa Holt & Maria Serban

    Part 1. Theoretical Issues

    1. Restless Machines
    Jessica Riskin

    2. On Being the Right Size, Revisited: The Problem with Engineering Metaphors in Molecular Biology 

    Daniel J. Nicholson

    3. A Roomful of Robovacs: How to Think About Genetic Programs 
    Brett Calcott   

    4. Living Machines: The Extent and Limits of the Machine Metaphor 

    William Bechtel

    Part 2. Methodological Issues

    5. Beyond Machine-Like Mechanisms 

    Arnon Levy & William Bechtel 

    6. Magnetized Memories: Analogies and Templates in Model Transfer 

    Tarja Knuuttila & Andrea Loettgers

    7. Biological Robustness: Design, Organization and Mechanism 

    Maria Serban & Sara Green

    Part 3. Societal Issues

    8. The Machine Analogy in Bioethics 

    Andreas Christiansen 

    9. The Machine Metaphor in Science and Science Communication 

    Sune Holm



    Sune Holm is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the Department of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Copenhagen. His research mainly focuses on topics in ethics and philosophy of science relating to biology, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence.

    Maria Serban is a lecturer in philosophy at University of East Anglia. She is a philosopher of science focusing on modelling practices in the life sciences.