New PDF release: A practical philosophy for the life sciences

By Wim J. van der Steen

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Sample text

Either statement provides information on competition. However, the nature of the information is very different in the two cases. In biology, the first statement would express a decision to use the word 'competition' in a particular way. It provides information on the meaning of a concept. In contrast to this, the second statement purports to deal with facts concerning competition. Notice that the seemingly innocuous word 'is' has different meanings in the two statements. It can express a logical connection or an empirical connection.

The second statement is empirical. To find out if it is true we will have to do research. The example illustrates that it is not always wrong to use ambiguous words. It would be foolish to avoid the verb 'to be' because it is ambiguous. The point is rather that the intended meaning should be clear in the context. Example 3. Biologists have occasionally quarreled about the thesis that species cannot inter-breed. To understand the dispute one will have to know about the concept of species. The concept is tricky.

Criticize the following definitions. a. 'Mammal' =df 'animal without feathers'. b. 'Cells' =df 'units which organisms are composed of. c. 'Reproduction' = df 'production of descendants through the fusion of a male and a female cell'. 2. Consider the following definitions. a. 'Physiological process' =df 'chemical or physical process within an organism'. b. 'Organism' =df 'system characterized by physiological processes', Would you allow the concepts so defined to play a role in one theory? 3. The toxicity of chemical compounds is often determined by a cruel test in which the LD50 is determined.

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