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Theorising and Representational Practices in Genetics

Abstract : In this paper, I wish to challenge theory-biased approaches to scientific knowledge, by arguing for a study of theorizing, as a cognitive activity, rather than of theo- ries, as abstract structures independent from the agents’ understanding of them. Such a study implies taking into account scientists’ reasoning processes, and their repre- sentational practices. Here, I analyze the representational practices of geneticists in the 1910s, as a means of shed- ding light on the content of classical genetics. Most philosophical accounts of classical genetics fail to distinguish between the purely genetic, or Mendelian level, and the cytological one. I distinguish between them by characterizing them in terms of their respective associated representational practices. I then present how the two levels were articulated within Morgan’s theory of crossing-over, and I describe the representational technique of linkage mapping, which embodies the ‘‘merging’’ of the Mendelian and cytological levels. I propose an analysis of the map- ping scheme, as a means of enlightening the conceptual articulation of Mendelian and cytological hypotheses within classical genetics. Finally, I present the respective views of three opponents to Morgan in the 1910s, who had a different understanding of the articulation of cytology and Mendelism, and entertained different views concerning the role and proper interpretation of maps. I propose to consider these diverging perspectives as instantiating what I call different ‘‘versions’’ of classical genetics.
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https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01122311
Contributor : Marion Vorms <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 3:51:20 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 22, 2020 - 3:41:16 AM

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Marion Vorms. Theorising and Representational Practices in Genetics. Biological Theory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press (MIT Press), 2013, 7 (4), pp.311-324. ⟨10.1007/s13752-012-0055-1⟩. ⟨halshs-01122311⟩

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