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The Model Worm: A Controlled Reduction.

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Title: The Model Worm: A Controlled Reduction.
Author: Arciszewski, Michal
Department: Department of Philosophy
Program: Philosophy
Advisor: Wayne, Andrew
Abstract: This thesis will argue that reduction is best viewed as a hypothesis about scientific unification: that the relation of reduction between theories at distinct levels is best understood as a relation of unification wherein empirically discovered differences can be explained at a single theoretical level. This unification occurs when a single base-level theory retains and explains a diverse range of upper-level phenomena from multiple upper-level theories, while at the same time dispensing with the upper-level theories themselves. This hypothesis, when applied to the relationships between biology and chemistry, is called molecular reduction. This is a novel understanding of intertheoretic relations, and it is shown to differ from both Nagelean reductions and explanatory pluralism. Molecular reductions occur when a biological theory and a molecular theory represent identical things. Representation will be seen to occur through idealised models that only represent specific limited properties of the target system: an idealised model only represents the explicit parameters (the structure) of the target system. In order to demonstrate an intertheoretic identity between two theories it will be necessary to avoid the misrepresentation one theory’s target phenomena by another theory. Representation will be modeled in terms of a bijective functional relationship between the two. In this way, an intertheoretic identity requires that the functional relationship be both surjective and injective, and so the theories to be isomorphic with respect to how they model the target phenomena. When this obtains, there is significant methodological interaction between the theories. This interaction is at the heart of a molecular reduction. Molecular reductions have been designed to show that this kind of intertheoretic identity can be observed when two models, a biological one and a molecular one, both represent the causal structure of an experimental phenomenon. The case study examined here consists of models of the induction of dauer arrest. Here, the target phenomenon is the causal structure of developmental bifurcations, and this target phenomenon is also represented by a molecular model. Both the biological and molecular models are representing the same set of phenomena: a causal structure in experimental conditions. Despite the fact that this identity holds in biologically limited conditions and does not result in a general biological explanation, this case study gives some evidence in favour of a more general unification, and hence molecular reduction, of biology. The unification is through molecular chemistry, which consists of general molecular properties of many disparate biological systems that can also be modeled as governed by molecular laws. This identity unifies biology by having the single molecular model represent more biologically disparate target phenomena. This kind of intertheoretic identity supports the hypothesis of scientific unification, that the causal structure of diverse experimental phenomena from biology can be represented by a molecular models.
Date: 2013
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada

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