Philosophical Perspectives on the Engineering Approach in Biology provides a philosophical examination of what has been called the most powerful metaphor in biology: The machine metaphor. The chapters collected in this volume discuss the idea that living systems can be understood through the lens of engineering methods and machine metaphors from both historical, theoretical, and practical perspectives.

In their contributions the authors examine questions about scientific explanation and methodology, the interrelationship between science and engineering, and the impact that the use of engineering metaphors in science may have for bioethics and science communication, such as the worry that its wide application reinforces public misconceptions of the nature of new biotechnology and biological life. The book also contains an introduction that describes the rise of the machine analogy and the many ways in which it plays a central role in fundamental debates about e.g. design, adaptation, and reductionism in the philosophy of biology. 

The book will be useful as a core reading for professionals as well as graduate and undergraduate students in courses of philosophy of science and for life scientists taking courses in philosophy of science and bioethics.

chapter |20 pages


ByLouisa Holt, Sune Holm, Maria Serban

part 1|76 pages

Theoretical issues

chapter 1|17 pages

Restless machines

ByJessica Riskin

chapter 2|29 pages

On being the right size, revisited

The problem with engineering metaphors in molecular biology
ByDaniel J. Nicholson

chapter 3|10 pages

A roomful of robovacs

How to think about genetic programs
ByBrett Calcott

chapter 4|18 pages

Living machines

The extent and limits of the machine metaphor
ByWilliam Bechtel

part 2|68 pages

Methodological issues

chapter 5|24 pages

Beyond machine-like mechanisms

ByArnon Levy, William Bechtel

chapter 6|18 pages

Magnetized memories

Analogies and templates in model transfer
ByTarja Knuuttila, Andrea Loettgers

chapter 7|24 pages

Biological robustness

Design, organization, and mechanisms
ByMaria Serban, Sara Green

part 3|35 pages

Societal issues

chapter 8|19 pages

The machine analogy in bioethics

ByAndreas T. Christiansen

chapter 9|14 pages

The machine metaphor in science and science communication

BySune Holm