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Function and organization: comparing the mechanisms of protein synthesis and natural selection

Illari, PM; Williamson, J; (2010) Function and organization: comparing the mechanisms of protein synthesis and natural selection. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences , 41 (3) 279 - 291. 10.1016/j.shpsc.2010.07.001. Green open access

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Abstract

In this paper, we compare the mechanisms of protein synthesis and natural selection. We identify three core elements of mechanistic explanation: functional individuation, hierarchical nestedness or decomposition, and organization. These are now well understood elements of mechanistic explanation in fields such as protein synthesis, and widely accepted in the mechanisms literature. But Skipper and Millstein have argued (2005) that natural selection is neither decomposable nor organized. This would mean that much of the current mechanisms literature does not apply to the mechanism of natural selection. We take each element of mechanistic explanation in turn. Having appreciated the importance of functional individuation, we show how decomposition and organization should be better understood in these terms. We thereby show that mechanistic explanation by protein synthesis and natural selection are more closely analogous than they appear--both possess all three of these core elements of a mechanism widely recognized in the mechanisms literature.

Type: Article
Title: Function and organization: comparing the mechanisms of protein synthesis and natural selection
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2010.07.001
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2010.07.001
Language: English
Additional information: © 2010. This manuscript version is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). This licence allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work for personal and non-commercial use providing author and publisher attribution is clearly stated. Further details about CC BY licences are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0.
Keywords: Biology, Protein Biosynthesis, Selection, Genetic
UCL classification: UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Science and Technology Studies
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1370011
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