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Janella Baxter
conference paper description
Model organisms, the use of green fluorescent proteins, and orthogonal transfer RNA (tRNA) are examples of artificial causes being used in biology. Recent work characterizing the research interests of biologists in terms of a common set of values has ruled out artificial causes as biologically interesting. For instance, Kenneth Waters argues that biologists are primarily interested in causes that actually obtain. Similarly, Marcel Weber argues that biologists are primarily concerned with biologically normal interventions. Both views express a widely received attitude about the interests and goals of biologists as being primarily concerned with the contingent facts of our world. While I agree with this general attitude about the contingent nature of biology, I argue that neither view fully accounts for the diversity that distinguishes the discipline. Along with actual and biologically normal causes, biologists are also interested in artificial causes for technological and observational purposes. I maintain that research interest in artificial causes provides some pragmatic reasons for thinking that research programs in cellular biology aren’t driven by a common core set of values.

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