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Paradigm lost? Scrutinizing the veracity of systems biology’s paradigm shift

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Abstract
While Kuhn elaborated his Structure of Scientific Revolutions mainly in reference to the history of physics, the concept 'paradigm shift' is also applied to current developments in the biological sciences. In casu, systems biology is promoted as representing a paradigm shift in the study of living organisms. After introducing systems biology’s practical ins and outs, we analyse how its identity is construed by claims stressing what is 'at the heart' of systems biology and what it purports to 'revolutionize'. These claims indicate that systems biology’s envisaged paradigm shift is about 'going beyond' molecular biology. The veracity of this paradigm shift rests on the perception of molecular biology as being atomistic and gene-centred. As this perception appears to be highly questionable, we conclude that systems biology forms an evolution within the range of normal science, rather than a truly Kuhnian paradigm shift. That today Kuhn’s legacy is handled loosely, and that an inappropriate use of the term 'paradigm shift' may indicate an 'accent shift' in the historiography of a scientific discipline, is hereby demonstrated. This leads to question whether the very concept of paradigm is outmoded to capture the dynamics in current biological sciences, in other words, is Kuhn’s paradigm 'lost'?
Keywords
systems biology, molecular biology, omic biology, atomism, paradigm shift, reductionism

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Chicago
Van Speybroeck, Linda, and Danny De Waele. 2010. “Paradigm Lost? Scrutinizing the Veracity of Systems Biology’s Paradigm Shift.” In On Kuhn’s Philosophy and Its Legacy, ed. Juan Manuel Torres, 8:221–249. Centro de Filosofia das Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa. Lisboa, Portugal: Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa.
APA
Van Speybroeck, L., & De Waele, D. (2010). Paradigm lost? Scrutinizing the veracity of systems biology’s paradigm shift. In J. M. Torres (Ed.), On Kuhn’s Philosophy and its Legacy (Centro de Filosofia das Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa., Vol. 8, pp. 221–249). Lisboa, Portugal: Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa.
Vancouver
1.
Van Speybroeck L, De Waele D. Paradigm lost? Scrutinizing the veracity of systems biology’s paradigm shift. In: Torres JM, editor. On Kuhn’s Philosophy and its Legacy. Centro de Filosofia das Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa. Lisboa, Portugal: Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa; 2010. p. 221–49.
MLA
Van Speybroeck, Linda, and Danny De Waele. “Paradigm Lost? Scrutinizing the Veracity of Systems Biology’s Paradigm Shift.” On Kuhn’s Philosophy and Its Legacy. Centro de Filosofia das Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa. Ed. Juan Manuel Torres. Vol. 8. Lisboa, Portugal: Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, 2010. 221–249. Print.
@incollection{780554,
  abstract     = {While Kuhn elaborated his Structure of Scientific Revolutions mainly in reference to the history of physics, the concept 'paradigm shift' is also applied to current developments in the biological sciences. In casu, systems biology is promoted as representing a paradigm shift in the study of living organisms. After introducing systems biology{\textquoteright}s practical ins and outs, we analyse how its identity is construed by claims stressing what is 'at the heart' of systems biology and what it purports to 'revolutionize'. These claims indicate that systems biology{\textquoteright}s envisaged paradigm shift is about 'going beyond' molecular biology. The veracity of this paradigm shift rests on the perception of molecular biology as being atomistic and gene-centred. As this perception appears to be highly questionable, we conclude that systems biology forms an evolution within the range of normal science, rather than a truly Kuhnian paradigm shift. That today Kuhn{\textquoteright}s legacy is handled loosely, and that an inappropriate use of the term 'paradigm shift' may indicate an 'accent shift' in the historiography of a scientific discipline, is hereby demonstrated. This leads to question whether the very concept of paradigm is outmoded to capture the dynamics in current biological sciences, in other words, is Kuhn{\textquoteright}s paradigm 'lost'?},
  author       = {Van Speybroeck, Linda and De Waele, Danny},
  booktitle    = {On Kuhn's Philosophy and its Legacy},
  editor       = {Torres, Juan Manuel},
  isbn         = {9789898247124},
  keyword      = {systems biology,molecular biology,omic biology,atomism,paradigm shift,reductionism},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {221--249},
  publisher    = {Faculdade de Ci{\^e}ncias da Universidade de Lisboa},
  series       = {Cadernos de Filosofia des Ci{\^e}ncias},
  title        = {Paradigm lost? Scrutinizing the veracity of systems biology{\textquoteright}s paradigm shift},
  volume       = {8},
  year         = {2010},
}