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Diagrams as Locality Aids for Explanation and Model Construction in Cell Biology

Jones, Nicholaos and Wolkenhauer, Olaf (2012) Diagrams as Locality Aids for Explanation and Model Construction in Cell Biology. [Preprint]

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    Using as case studies two early diagrams that represent mechanisms of the cell division cycle, we aim to extend prior philosophical analyses of the roles of diagrams in scientific reasoning, and specifically their role in biological reasoning. The diagrams we discuss are, in practice, integral and indispensible elements of reasoning from experimental data about the cell division cycle to mathematical models of the cycle's molecular mechanisms. In accordance with prior analyses, the diagrams provide functional explanations of the cell cycle and facilitate the construction of mathematical models of the cell cycle. But, extending beyond those analyses, we show how diagrams facilitate the construction of mathematical models, and we argue that the diagrams permit nomological explanations of the cell cycle. We further argue that what makes diagrams integral and indispensible for explanation and model construction is their nature as locality aids: they group together information that is to be used together in a way that sentential representations do not.

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    Item Type: Preprint
    Keywords: cell biology, diagram, explanation, locality aid, model construction
    Subjects: General Issues > Explanation
    General Issues > Models and Idealization
    Depositing User: Nicholaos Jones
    Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2012 11:53
    Last Modified: 17 Feb 2012 11:53
    Item ID: 9018
    Journal or Publication Title: Biology and Philosophy

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