Models and Analogues in Biology

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A REVIEW OF THE SYMPOSIUM: MODELS AND ANALOGUES IN BIOLOGY

By J. E. HARRIS Department of Zoology, University of Bristol

It will be abundantly clear to anyone who reads this symposium, as it was to all who took part in it, that its subject is the scientific method in biology. Not only is this illustrated by the definitions of 'model' and analogue which have been essayed by several contributors as well as by the wide scope of the topics reviewed; it is still further emphasized by the presence of two papers by R. Brown and R. C. Rainey which could equally have been presented at any ordinary meeting of the Society without the use of the terms model or analogue at all. This is as it should be. We are in fact discussing the way in which theoretical and practical research in biological science is done--not on the organism itself but on a mental substitute for it.

It would be difficult and largely pointless to try to present a detailed summary of the symposium; the present essay is intended more as a sort of personal commentary by the writer, whose limited knowledge in many of the fields will be all too obvious. The responsibility for errors in this account is his alone; the credit for any merit it may have belongs not only to those whose papers appear in the present volume but equally to the unnamed contributors to an always stimulating discussion.

It would doubtless be convenient to begin with a definition of the terms model and analogue. But a relatively small amount of time was spent on semantic distinctions at the meeting; it was as if the subject under discussion was so clearly understood that what we chose to call it was immaterial. Williams has rightly emphasized the impossibility of teaching the scientific method, but in a group of practising scientists, the naming of a widely used tool is naturally less important than the manner of using it.

Edwards and Kacser have each provided in their introductions a generally acceptable statement of the position; Williams has attempted a more rigorous formulation of it. We are of course concerned not with simple geometrical reproductions of static systems but with dynamic, functioning features of the living organism and with their representation. In any such application of biological science, it is suggested that the initial stage is the formulation of a schema--the word is used here to denote a limited representation of the system. This representation is intended to fulfil the rigorous conditions laid down by Williams in his definition of a 'model'--that all propositions true of it must be true of the original. This shadowy schema must in practice be clothed with substance by expressing it in some language--verbal, mathe

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Models and Analogues in Biology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Quantum Physics and Biology† 1
  • Models in Genetics 6
  • Kinetic Models of Development And Heredity 13
  • Tissues in Culture and in the Body 28
  • References 40
  • Models of Muscle 41
  • References 66
  • Mechanical Models in Zoology 69
  • Conclusions 82
  • Physical Models in Biology 83
  • Estimation of Values Of Parameters of a Model to Conform With Observations 102
  • Summary 120
  • Applications of Theoretical Models to the Study of Flight- Behaviour in Locusts and Birds 122
  • References 138
  • Electrical Analogues in Biology 140
  • Computers and the Nervous System 152
  • References 168
  • Models in Cybernetics 169
  • References 190
  • Modelling of Large-Scale Nervous Activity 192
  • Conclusions 197
  • Energy Models of Motivation 199
  • Summary 212
  • The Use of Models in the Teaching Of Embryology 214
  • School Biology as An Educational Model 230
  • Conclusion 241
  • The Problem of Communication In Biological Teaching 243
  • Acknowledge Ments 248
  • A Review of the Symposium: Models and Analogues in Biology 250
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