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


part 1|76 pages

Theoretical issues

chapter 1|17 pages

Restless machines

chapter 2|29 pages

On being the right size, revisited

The problem with engineering metaphors in molecular biology

chapter 3|10 pages

A roomful of robovacs

How to think about genetic programs

chapter 4|18 pages

Living machines

The extent and limits of the machine metaphor

part 2|68 pages

Methodological issues

chapter 6|18 pages

Magnetized memories

Analogies and templates in model transfer

chapter 7|24 pages

Biological robustness

Design, organization, and mechanisms

part 3|35 pages

Societal issues