Alleva, Karina; José Díez & Lucía Federico, Models, theory structure and mechanisms in biochemistry: The case of allosterism.

Karina Alleva, José Díez, Lucia Federico, Models, theory structure and mechanisms in biochemistry: The case of allosterism, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Volume 63, 2017, Pages 1-14, ISSN 1369-8486,


From the perspective of the new mechanistic philosophy, it has been argued that explanatory causal mechanisms in some special sciences such as biochemistry and neurobiology cannot be captured by any useful notion of theory, or at least by any standard notion. The goal of this paper is to show that a model-theoretic notion of theory, and in particular the structuralist notion of a theory-net already applied to other unified explanatory theories, adequately suits the MWC allosteric mechanism explanatory set-up. We also argue, contra some mechanistic claims questioning the use of laws in biological explanations, that the theory reconstructed in this way essentially contains non-accidental regularities that qualify as laws, and that taking into account these lawful components, it is possible to explicate the unified character of the theory. Finally, we argue that, contrary to what some mechanists also claim, functional explanations that do not fully specify the mechanistic structure are not defective or incomplete in any relevant sense, and that functional components are perfectly explanatory. The conclusion is that, as some authors have emphasized in other fields (Walmsley 2008), particular elements of traditional approaches do not contradict but rather complement the new mechanist philosophy, and taken together they may offer a more complete understanding of special sciences and the variety of explanations they provide.

Keywords: Allosterism; Monod; Mechanisms; Theory-nets; Structuralism; Explanation