Strategies of Explanatory Abstraction in Molecular Systems Biology

Publication Year:
Usage 114
Downloads 114
Repository URL:
Jones, Nicholaos
conference paper description
I consider three explanatory strategies from recent systems biology that are driven by mathematics as much as mechanistic detail. Analysis of differential equations drives the first strategy; topological analysis of network motifs drives the second; mathematical theorems from control engineering drive the third. I also distinguish three abstraction types: aggregations, which simplify by condensing information; generalizations, which simplify by generalizing information; and structurations, which simplify by contextualizing information. Using a common explanandum as reference point—namely, the robust perfect adaptation of chemotaxis in Escherichia coli—I argue that each strategy invokes a different combination of abstraction types and that each targets its abstractions to different mechanistic details.