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Neuroscientists investigate the mechanisms of spatial memory. Molecular biologists study the mechanisms of protein synthesis and the myriad mechanisms of gene regulation. Ecologists study nutrient cycling mechanisms and their devastating imbalances in estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay.
In fact, much of biology and its history involves biologists constructing, evaluating, and revising their understanding of mechanisms. With In Search of Mechanisms, Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden offer both a descriptive and an instructional account of how biologists discover mechanisms. Drawing on examples from across the life sciences and through the centuries, Craver and Darden compile an impressive toolbox of strategies that biologists have used and will use again to reveal the mechanisms that produce, underlie, or maintain the phenomena characteristic of living things.
In Search of Mechanisms discusses the questions that figure in the search for mechanisms, characterizing the experimental, observational, and conceptual considerations used to answer them, all the while providing examples from the history of biology to highlight the kinds of evidence and reasoning strategies employed to assess mechanisms.
At a deeper level, Craver and Darden pose a systematic view of what biology is, of how biology makes progress, of how biological discoveries are and might be made, and of why knowledge of biological mechanisms is important for the future of the human species.
List of Illustrations
Chapter 1 Introduction: Discovering Mechanisms
Chapter 2 Biological Mechanisms
Chapter 3 Representing Biological Mechanisms
Chapter 4 Characterizing the Phenomenon
Chapter 5 Strategies for Mechanism Schema Construction
Chapter 6 Virtues and Vices of Mechanism Schemas
Chapter 7 Constraints on Mechanism Schemas
Chapter 8 Experiments and the Search for Mechanisms
Chapter 9 Strategies for Revising Mechanism Schemas
Chapter 10 Interfield and Interlevel Integration
Chapter 11 The Pragmatic Value of Knowing How Something Works
Chapter 12 Conclusion
Carl F. Craver is associate professor in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program at Washington University in St. Louis. Lindley Darden is professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland in College Park. She lives in Greenbelt, MD.
“Pioneers in the new philosophy of science, Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden have produced the first systematic yet highly accessible analysis of what mechanisms are and how they figure in explanations, especially in the biological sciences. Loaded with clear examples, the authors provide a richly illustrated account of how scientists discover and investigate mechanisms and revise their accounts of them over time. The authors show in a compelling manner how research on mechanisms is often the focus of research integrating multiple fields of biology. Anyone from a beginning undergraduate to a professional biologist or philosopher will find his or her understanding of biology enriched by this book.”
- William Bechtel, University of California, San Diego
“Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden eloquently describe the discovery of mechanisms and reasoning about them and show how mechanisms provide an integrative way of understanding the unity of biology. This book ranges across many areas of biology and is highly readable, with rich examples and a minimum of philosophical jargon. It substantially advances the philosophy and history of science and can seriously help biologists to understand their own work.”
- Paul Thagard, University of Waterloo