Article ID: CBB001252357

The Structure of Idealization in Biological Theories: The Case of the Wright-Fisher Model (2012)


In this paper we present a new framework of idealization in biology. We characterize idealizations as a network of counterfactual and hypothetical conditionals that can exhibit different degrees of contingency. We use this idea to say that, in departing more or less from the actual world, idealizations can serve numerous epistemic, methodological or heuristic purposes within scientific research. We defend that, in part, this structure explains why idealizations, despite being deformations of reality, are so successful in scientific practice. For illustrative purposes, we provide an example from population genetics, the Wright-Fisher Model.


Description Uses an example from population genetics, the Wright-Fisher Model, to investigate counterfactual and hypothetical conditionals.

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Authors & Contributors
Maienschein, Jane A.
Creath, Richard
Ruse, Michael
Hodge, Jon
Hull, David L.
Richards, Robert John
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Biology and Philosophy
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Journal Electronique d'Histoire des Probabilités et de la Statistique
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Revista Brasileira de Historia
Cambridge University Press
University of Pennsylvania
Princeton University Press
The University of Utah Press
Columbia University Press
Population genetics
Philosophy of biology
Natural selection
Developmental biology
Wright, Sewall
Darwin, Charles Robert
Mill, John Stuart
Fisher, Ronald Aylmer
Mayr, Ernst
Dobzhansky, Theodosius
20th century
21st century
20th century, late
19th century
20th century, early

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