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Causal explanation beyond the gene: manipulation and causality in epigenetics

Baedke, Jan (2012) Causal explanation beyond the gene: manipulation and causality in epigenetics. THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, 27 (2). pp. 153-174. ISSN 2171-679X

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This paper deals with the interrelationship between causal explanation and methodology in a relatively
young discipline in biology: epigenetics. Based on cases from molecular and ecological epigenetics, I show
that James Woodward’s interventionist account of causation captures essential features about how epigeneticists
using highly diverse methods, i.e. laboratory experiments and purely observational studies, think
about causal explanation. I argue that interventionism thus qualifies as a useful unifying explanatory approach
when it comes to cross-methodological research efforts. It can act as a guiding rationale (i) to link
causal models in molecular biology with statistical models derived from observational data analysis and (ii)
to identify test-criteria for reciprocal transparent studies in different fields of research, which is a shared issue across the sciences.

Este artículo trata de la relación entre explicaciones causales y metodología en una disciplina biológica relativamente
joven, la epigenética. Basándome en casos de la epigenética molecular y ecológica, muestro que
la concepción intervencionista de la causalidad desarrollada por James Woodward capta algunos rasgos
esenciales del modo en que los epigenetistas conciben la explicación causal usando métodos sumamente diversos:
e.g., experimentos de laboratorio o estudios observacionales. Defiendo que el intervencionismo es
útil como aproximación unificadora a la explicación cuando se trata de empresas investigadoras transdisciplinares.
Puede servir como guía para (i) conectar los modelos causales en biología molecular con los modelos
estadísticos derivados del análisis de datos observacionales y (ii) para identificar criterios de prueba
para estudios recíprocos en diferentes ámbitos de investigación, un problema de interés común en diferentes

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Additional Information: ISSN: 0495-4548 (print)
Keywords: causation; explanation; intervention; epigenetics; methodology; observational studies; causalidad; explicación; intervención; epigenética; metodología; estudios observacionales
Depositing User: Users 15304 not found.
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2014 22:56
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2014 22:56
Item ID: 10228
Journal or Publication Title: THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science
Publisher: Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del País Vasco
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1387/theoria.4073
Date: May 2012
Page Range: pp. 153-174
Volume: 27
Number: 2
ISSN: 2171-679X

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