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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Causation and Reduction in Systems Biology

Alternative title: Kausalitet og Reduksjon i Systembiologi

Awarded: NOK 3.4 mill.

Project Number:


Project Period:

2014 - 2019


The project has taken issue with causation and explanation in life sciences from the viewpoint of contemporary philosophy of biology and philosophy of science. Project foci have included the nature and epistemology of causation and the notion of levels in research on complex biological systems. Our main goal has been to further the philosophical understanding of these topics in light of developments in systems biology. The complexity of biological systems challenges existing theories of causation. We have contributed a new theory of causation that incorporate how local many causal claims in biology are. We assess, revise and develop the interventionist idea of causation with the aim of benefiting philosophical understanding and scientific conceptual development. We have contributed a unified conceptual analysis of causation that includes a range of different, precise causal concepts that allow for assessing causal priority in terms of different kinds of causal relevance. We have also contributed accounts of the concepts of specificity and modularity in research on complex living systems. The project has involved national and international collaboration with philosophers and systems biologists and has employed an interdisciplinary approach to tackle philosophical-biological problems.

-The project has influenced the current philosophical debate on causation through novel contributions published in high-impact journals. -The project has impacted the life sciences. We have had extensive exchange with systems biologist and, as a consequence of working with this project, the project leader has also had the opportunity to engage in several new collaborations with life science researchers. Both project researchers were central in establishing the Centre for Philosophy and Sciences at the University of Oslo. The main goal of this centre is to facilitate collaborations between humanities and the sciences. -The project leader secured a permanent position at the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo, during the course of the project. -The project has increased the competence on the philosophy of causation in Norway as well as increasing the competence regarding interdisciplinarity and cross-over research.

The project Causation and Reduction in Systems Biology (CRedS) aims to be a ground-breaking philosophy of science project where philosophers will, in close contact with natural scientists, contribute to the formation of theoretical foundations for the new and expanding biological discipline of Systems Biology. The project will be based at the University of Oslo, and will have a wide network facilitating both national, Nordic and international collaboration. The project has a strong profile regarding qua lity of research, collaboration between young and experienced researchers, interdisciplinarity, international collaboration, and equal opportunities. The research will contribute to philosophy of systems biology and to philosophy of science, more specific ally to the the research on causation and reduction in the life sciences. The specific research theme will be causation and levels in complex biological systems. The main goal is to develop novel accounts of causation and reduction in the light of systems biology research with a special attention to the concept of modularity. Treating biological parts and networks as modules and as separable causes of organism behavior can be problematic, and we investigate this problem with the aim to develop and improve accounts of causation and reduction. We apply to fund PI salary and one researcher position in addition to some meetings and travel.

Publications from Cristin

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Funding scheme:

FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam