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Specialeeksamen: Jakob Dam Mønsted

Process reductionism: Reverse-Engineering a Process Ontology for Biology

18.06.2019 | Kristian Hvidtfelt Nielsen

Dato fre 28 jun
Tid 14:00 15:00
Sted Aud. D4 (1531-219)

Abstract

In my thesis I develop a form of ontological type reductionism that is resistant to arguments of multiple realizability and is able to account for, and thereby incorporate, emergence as a part of the reductive schema. As process reductionism entails a process ontology, I develop a simple form of process ontology for biology for the purpose of showing the feasibility of process reductionism and what it can do; a process ontology “light”. In order to motivate the adoption of a process ontology for biology, I conduct an empirical questionnaire study aimed at researchers of molecular biology. The study aims to ascertain the intuitions of respondents towards (1) the application of descriptive terms to biologically relevant entities and processes, (2) their preference of descriptive terms to describe their own research and (3) their attitude towards reductionism. The empirical data shows that molecular biologists generally consider the domain of biology to be dynamic and processual and that reductionism can be difficult to achieve without accounting for both the organization and the context of biological molecules and processes. Thereby, it is demonstrated that the adoption of a process ontology for biology is not only motivated by the work that process reductionism can do, i.e. provide a basis for reductionism and explaining emergence in biological phenomena, but also serve as a framework for biologists to more accurately describe the domain that they are studying. Combined with my theoretical work in the thesis I show that a process ontology for biology together with process reductionism can both address the issues presented by respondents in the questionnaire study as well as the historical arguments against or in conflict with reductionism, namely multiple realizability and emergence.

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