Biological Theory

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 333–339 | Cite as

Knowing As Making, Making As Knowing: The Many Lives of Synthetic Biology

  • Evelyn Fox Keller


The ways in which the various activities of synthetic biology connect to those of conventional biology display both a multiplicity and variety that reflect the multiplicity and variety of meanings for which the term synthetic biology has been invoked, today as in the past. Central to this variety, as well as to the connection itself, is the complex relationship between knowing (understanding, representing) and making (constructing, intervening) that has prevailed in the life sciences. That relationship is the focus of this article. More specifically, my aim is to explore the different assumptions about how knowing is related to making that have prevailed, implicitly or explicitly in the various activities—now or in the past—subsumed under the name synthetic biology.


efficiency engineering material models practical cause synthetic biology technoscience theoretical models understanding 


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Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program in Science, Technology, and SocietyMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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