Growing Explanations

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2004-12-01
  • Publisher: Duke Univ Pr
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While for much of the twentieth century scientists sought to explain objects and processes by reducing them to their component parts-nuclei into protons and neutrons, proteins into amino acids, and so on-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 "growing explanations" from the bottom up. The essays show how this strategy-based on a widespread appreciation for complexity even in apparently simple processes and on the capacity of computers to simulate such complexity-has played out in a broad array of sciences. They describe how scientists are re-ordering knowledge to emphasize growth, change, and contingency and, in so doing, are revealing even phenomena long considered elementary-like particles and genes-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 offer to the ideals 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 "What is life?" and "What is an organism?" are undergoing radical re-evaluation. Together these essays mark the broad contours of an ongoing revolution in scientific explanation.Contributors:David Aubin; Amy Dahan Dalmedico; Richard Doyle; Claude Emmeche; Peter Galison; Stefan Helmreich; Ann Johnson; Evelyn Fox Keller; Ilana Lwy; Claude Rosental; Alfred Tauber

Table of Contents

Introduction: dynamics all the way up
M. Norton Wise
PART I Mathematics, physics, and engineering
Elementary particles?
1 Mirror symmetry: persons, values, and objects
Peter Galison
Nonlinear dynamics and chaos
2 Chaos, disorder, and mixing: a new fin-de-sicle image of science?
Amy Dahan Dalmedico
3 Forms of explanation in the catastrophe theory of Ren Thom: topology, morphogenesis, and structuralism
David Aubin
Coping with complexity in technology
4 From Boeing to Berkeley: civil engineers, the cold war, and the origins of finite element analysis
Ann Johnson
5 Fuzzyfying the world: social practices of showing the properties of fuzzy logic
Claude Rosental
PART II The organism, the self, and (artificial) life
6 Marrying the premodern to the postmodern: computers and organisms after World War II
Evelyn Fox Keller
7 Immunology and the enigma of selfhood
Alfred I. Tauber
8 Immunology and AIDS: growing explanations and developing instruments
Ilana Lwy
Artificial Lift
9 Artificial life support: some nodes in the Alife ribotype
Richard Doyle
10 The word for world is computer: simulating second natures in artificial life
Stefan Helmreich
11 Constructing and explaining emergence in artificial life: on paradigms, ontodefinitions, and general knowledge in biology
Claus Emmeche
Afterword 327(6)
Contributors 333(4)
Index 337

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