Filling in the mechanistic details: two-variable experiments as tests for constitutive relevance
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This paper provides an account of the experimental conditions required for establishing whether correlating or causally relevant factors are constitutive components of a mechanism connecting input (start) and output (finish) conditions. I argue that two-variable experiments, where both the initial conditions and a component postulated by the mechanism are simultaneously manipulated on an independent basis, are usually required in order to differentiate between correlating or causally relevant factors and constitutively relevant ones. Based on a typical research project molecular biology, a flowchart model detailing typical stages in the formulation and testing of hypotheses about mechanistic components is also developed.
KeywordsMolecular biology Experimentation Mechanistic explanation Causal relevance
I would like to thank Lindley Darden, as well as the editor and two anonymous reviewers for very useful comments on earlier drafts.
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