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On the structure and epistemic value of function ascriptions in biology and engineering sciences

Erik Weber (UGent) , Dingmar van Eck (UGent) and Julie Mennes (UGent)
(2019) FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE. 24(3). p.559-581
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Abstract
In this paper we chart epistemological similarities between shared function talk in biology and the engineering sciences, focusing on the notions of biological advantage function and technical advantage function. We start by showing that biological advantage function ascriptions are common in biology and that technical advantage function ascriptions are common in engineering science. We then proceed to show that these ascriptions have a very similar structure and that their epistemic value also is similar: both biological advantage function and technical advantage function ascriptions provide the means to answer what-would-happen-if questions. We develop and illustrate our claims with four case studies: two from biology, and two from engineering design research. Our results offer new insights into a relatively neglected (but very important) issue in both philosophy of biology and technology, viz. assessing the explanatory and predictive utility of function ascriptions.
Keywords
EXPLANATION, DESIGN, Biological advantage ascription, Counterfactual dependence, Technical advantage ascription, What-would-happen-if-question

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MLA
Weber, Erik, et al. “On the Structure and Epistemic Value of Function Ascriptions in Biology and Engineering Sciences.” FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE, vol. 24, no. 3, 2019, pp. 559–81.
APA
Weber, E., van Eck, D., & Mennes, J. (2019). On the structure and epistemic value of function ascriptions in biology and engineering sciences. FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE, 24(3), 559–581.
Chicago author-date
Weber, Erik, Dingmar van Eck, and Julie Mennes. 2019. “On the Structure and Epistemic Value of Function Ascriptions in Biology and Engineering Sciences.” FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE 24 (3): 559–81.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Weber, Erik, Dingmar van Eck, and Julie Mennes. 2019. “On the Structure and Epistemic Value of Function Ascriptions in Biology and Engineering Sciences.” FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE 24 (3): 559–581.
Vancouver
1.
Weber E, van Eck D, Mennes J. On the structure and epistemic value of function ascriptions in biology and engineering sciences. FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE. 2019;24(3):559–81.
IEEE
[1]
E. Weber, D. van Eck, and J. Mennes, “On the structure and epistemic value of function ascriptions in biology and engineering sciences,” FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 559–581, 2019.
@article{8605060,
  abstract     = {In this paper we chart epistemological similarities between shared function talk in biology and the engineering sciences, focusing on the notions of biological advantage function and technical advantage function. We start by showing that biological advantage function ascriptions are common in biology and that technical advantage function ascriptions are common in engineering science. We then proceed to show that these ascriptions have a very similar structure and that their epistemic value also is similar: both biological advantage function and technical advantage function ascriptions provide the means to answer what-would-happen-if questions. We develop and illustrate our claims with four case studies: two from biology, and two from engineering design research. Our results offer new insights into a relatively neglected (but very important) issue in both philosophy of biology and technology, viz. assessing the explanatory and predictive utility of function ascriptions.},
  author       = {Weber, Erik and van Eck, Dingmar and Mennes, Julie},
  issn         = {1233-1821},
  journal      = {FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCE},
  keywords     = {EXPLANATION,DESIGN,Biological advantage ascription,Counterfactual dependence,Technical advantage ascription,What-would-happen-if-question},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {559--581},
  title        = {On the structure and epistemic value of function ascriptions in biology and engineering sciences},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10699-019-09584-w},
  volume       = {24},
  year         = {2019},
}

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