Please circulate this announcement in your lab

May 16th 2019, 17h00-18h30
Bordeaux Pellegrin Hospital, Rheumatology Service, 12th floor

Fridolin Gross (University of Kassel, Germany)

"Occam's Razor in Molecular and Systems Biology"

A PhilInBioMed seminar

Open to all
Occam’s Razor in Molecular and Systems Biology

Biologists have been debating for some time about what — if anything — is 
conceptually novel about systems biology when compared to the ‘classical’ 
approach of molecular biology. In these debates scientists make use of 
concepts, such as holism, reductionism, or emergence, that have a long 
tradition in philosophy. Thus, philosophers might productively contribute to 
the discussion by taking into account this tradition and by adopting an 
impartial perspective with respect to the two competing positions. In my talk I 
focus on one particular way in which the difference between molecular and 
systems biology has been spelled out. Some systems biologists have argued that 
molecular biology is misguided because it relies on an unjustified application 
of the principle of Occam’s razor. Roughly speaking, Occam’s razor refers to 
the idea that among competing explanations the simplest should be preferred. 
However, a look at the history of philosophy shows that this principle ha
 s been understood and defended in very different ways. I analyze which version 
of the principle is relevant in the present context and ask whether the 
allegation stands up to scrutiny when looking at instances of actual research 
in molecular biology. I defend molecular biology by arguing that its use of 
Occam’s razor is largely innocuous and by showing that systems biology heavily 
relies on considerations of simplicity as well.
 Fridolin Gross is a postdoctoral researcher who works on computational models 
of the cell cycle at IFOM, Milan, and teaches philosophy at the University of 
Kassel. During the month of May Fridolin Gross will be in Bordeaux as a 
visiting scholar in the group of Thomas Pradeu. Those interested in exchanging 
with him during his stay him can send an email to

Best regards,

Wiebke Bretting

Dr. Wiebke Bretting
Project Manager ERC IDEM
ImmunoConcEpT, UMR5164
Université de Bordeaux
146 rue Léo Saignat
33076 Bordeaux

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