Causal Concepts Guiding Model Specification in Systems Biology

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In this paper I analyze the process by which modelers in systems biology arrive at an adequate representation of the biological structures thought to underlie data gathered from high-throughput experiments. Contrary to views that causal claims and explanations are rare in systems biology, I argue that in many studies of gene regulatory networks modelers aim at a representation of causal structure. In addressing modeling challenges, they draw on assumptions informed by theory and pragmatic considerations in a manner that is guided by an interventionist conception of causal structure. While doubts have been raised about the applicability of this notion of causality to complex biological systems, it is here seen to be an adequate guide to inquiry.

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