Skip to main content
Models in biology and physics : what's the difference?
Foundations of Science
  • Darrell Patrick ROWBOTTOM, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Document Type
Journal article
Publication Date
  • Evelyn Fox Keller,
  • Analogy,
  • Structural similarity,
  • Modelling,
  • Structuralism

In Making Sense of Life, Keller emphasizes several differences between biology and physics. Her analysis focuses on significant ways in which modelling practices in some areas of biology, especially developmental biology, differ from those of the physical sciences. She suggests that natural models and modelling by homology play a central role in the former but not the latter. In this paper, I focus instead on those practices that are importantly similar, from the point of view of epistemology and cognitive science. I argue that concrete and abstract models are significant in both disciplines, that there are shared selection criteria for models in physics and biology, e.g. familiarity, and that modelling often occurs in a similar fashion.

Publisher Statement

Copyright © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Additional Information
The same paper is presented at the Symposium on "Making Sense of Science : Historical and Philosophical Themes in the Work of Evelyn Fox Keller", Leeds, United Kingdom, 3-4 May 2007.
Full-text Version
Publisher’s Version
Citation Information
Rowbottom, D. P. (2009). Models in biology and physics: What's the difference? Foundations of Science, 14(4), 281-294. doi: 10.1007/s10699-009-9160-4