On Connections between Properties in Biology – How We Learn about Order in Organisms

Manfred Drack


Our knowledge in biology and especially about order and organisation in organisms is based on observational and experimental evidence. This evidence is used to derive connections among properties (parameters, traits, functions, etc.) – a central goal of science. Certain such connections are discussed here. Often in biology, (1) correlations are pointed out, whereby properties that appear or change simultaneously are connected. Infrequently, the connection has a (2) causal basis; examples can be found in physiology. (3) Ad hoc connections, which are based on plausible narrations about adaptations, can be found in evolutionary biology. The (4) morphological connections are again of a different sort because they are based on hermeneutics. (5) Connections that are based on parallel or analogous appearances are exemplified by computer simulations. They are contrasted by (6) connections through building, where also the mechanisms that produce a phenomenon or function are similar to those in the natural system. All the connections are used to derive explanations and predictions. Due to the different basis of the connections, the derived explanations and predictions differ with regard to their degree of certainty. Hence it is useful to consider the differences of the connections. Clear distinctions between the types of connections (and their basis) can help to reduce the risk of misunderstandings.

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Systema: connecting matter, life, culture and technology (ISSN: 2305-6991) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal. All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.