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Toward a Logic of the Organism: A Process Philosophical Consideration

Koutroufinis, Spyridon A.

FG Theoretische Philosophie

Mathematical models applied in contemporary theoretical and systems biology are based on some implicit ontological assumptions about the nature of organisms. This article aims to show that real organisms reveal a logic of internal causality transcending the tacit logic of biological modeling. Systems biology has focused on models consisting of static systems of differential equations operating with fixed control parameters that are measured or fitted to experimental data. However, the structure of real organisms is a highly dynamic process, the internal causality of which can only be captured by continuously changing systems of equations. In addition, in real physiological settings kinetic parameters can vary by orders of magnitude, i.e., organisms vary the value of internal quantities that in models are represented by fixed control parameters. Both the plasticity of organisms and the state dependence of kinetic parameters adds indeterminacy to the picture and asks for a new statistical perspective. This requirement could be met by the arising Biological Statistical Mechanics project, which promises to do more justice to the nature of real organisms than contemporary modeling. This article concludes that Biological Statistical Mechanics allows for a wider range of organismic ontologies than does the tacitly followed ontology of contemporary theoretical and systems biology, which are implicitly and explicitly based on systems theory.