Crítica, Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía, Volume 28, number 82, abril 1996
La evolución de técnicas y fenómenos: hacia una explicación de la "confección" del mundo
[Techniques and Phenomena Evolution: Towards an Explanation of World "Tailoring" ]
Sergio F. Martínez
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Edna Suárez

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México


Abstract: In recent articles some authors (e.g. Pickering 1989, Hacking 1992) have pointed out a process of gradual adjustment or tailoring between phenomena, models and experimental techniques. However, the whole idea of tailoring or adjusting has been dealt with as a mere metaphore. In this paper we present an evolutionary model of phenomena and techniques which explains this gradual adjustment or tailoring as an adaptative causal process, i.e. not as a mere metaphor.

Our aim is accomplished in three steps. First, we arrive at the general conditions that changes in a population of entities with reproductive capabilities have to satisfy in order to be modelled as an evolutionary process, in a causal-explanatory sense. We show that a characterization of the class of experimental techniques (a class associated with an experimental tradition) meet these conditions, and we examine in detail how the nucleic acid hybridization techniques used in molecular biology can be modelled in the way we propose.

A second step is to show that the sort of variability that metters in evolutionary models of techniques and phenomena is aggregative variability, i.e. the sort of variability that can be selected. This is an important point, since most evolutionary models of technical and scientific change in the literature fail to satisfy this requirement. A common objection to evolutionary models of scientific change is that fitness, the central notion of evolutionary models in population biology, has no counterpart in these models. We show that our model can provide a natural concept of fitness, a concept that has a similar role to play in our model as in biological models.

Finally, as a third step, we conclude with an explanation of how the world can be said to be tailored. It is the result of an evolutionary process which incorporates inextricably related conceptual and material resources. In this sense, the world consists of phenomena that are made by us, but which are not mere inventions of our mind.
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