Causal explanation beyond the gene: manipulation and causality in epigenetics

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THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, ISSN: 0495-4548, Vol: 27, Issue: 2, Page: 153-174

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Baedke, Jan
UPV/EHU Press; Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco
Arts and Humanities
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article description
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.