If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support

Model, Theory, and Evidence in the Discovery of the DNA Structure

Samuel Schindler
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Vol. 59, No. 4 (Dec., 2008), pp. 619-658
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40072305
Page Count: 40
  • Download PDF
  • Cite this Item

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support
Model, Theory, and Evidence in the Discovery of the DNA Structure
Preview not available

Abstract

In this paper, I discuss the discovery of the DNA structure by Francis Crick and James Watson, which has provoked a large historical literature but has yet not found entry into philosophical debates. I want to redress this imbalance. In contrast to the available historical literature, a strong emphasis will be placed upon analysing the roles played by theory, model, and evidence and the relationship between them. In particular, I am going to discuss not only Crick and Watson's well-known model and Franklin's x-ray diffraction pictures (the evidence) but also the less well known theory of helical diffraction, which was absolutely crucial to Crick and Watson's discovery. The insights into this groundbreaking historical episode will have consequences for the 'new' received view of scientific models and their function and relationship to theory and world. The received view, dominated by works by Cartwright and Morgan and Morrison ([1999]), rather than trying to put forth a 'theory of models', is interested in questions to do with (i) the function of models in scientific practice and (ii) the construction of models. In regard to (i), the received view locates the model (as an idealized, simplified version of the real system under investigation) between theory and the world and sees the model as allowing the application of the former to the latter. As to (ii) Cartwright has argued for a phenomenologically driven view and Morgan and Morrison ([1999]) for the 'autonomy' of models in the construction process: models are determined neither by theory nor by the world. The present case study of the discovery of the DNA structure strongly challenges both (i) and (ii). In contrast to claim (i) of the received view, it was not Crick and Watson's model but rather the helical diffraction theory which served a mediating purpose between the model and the x-ray diffraction pictures. In particular, Cartwright's take on (ii) is refuted by a comparison of Franklin's bottom-up approach with Crick and Watson's top-down approach in constructing the model. The former led to difficulties, which only a strong confidence in the structure incorporated in the model could circumvent

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
[619]
    [619]
  • Thumbnail: Page 
620
    620
  • Thumbnail: Page 
621
    621
  • Thumbnail: Page 
622
    622
  • Thumbnail: Page 
623
    623
  • Thumbnail: Page 
624
    624
  • Thumbnail: Page 
625
    625
  • Thumbnail: Page 
626
    626
  • Thumbnail: Page 
627
    627
  • Thumbnail: Page 
628
    628
  • Thumbnail: Page 
629
    629
  • Thumbnail: Page 
630
    630
  • Thumbnail: Page 
631
    631
  • Thumbnail: Page 
632
    632
  • Thumbnail: Page 
633
    633
  • Thumbnail: Page 
634
    634
  • Thumbnail: Page 
635
    635
  • Thumbnail: Page 
636
    636
  • Thumbnail: Page 
637
    637
  • Thumbnail: Page 
638
    638
  • Thumbnail: Page 
639
    639
  • Thumbnail: Page 
640
    640
  • Thumbnail: Page 
641
    641
  • Thumbnail: Page 
642
    642
  • Thumbnail: Page 
643
    643
  • Thumbnail: Page 
644
    644
  • Thumbnail: Page 
645
    645
  • Thumbnail: Page 
646
    646
  • Thumbnail: Page 
647
    647
  • Thumbnail: Page 
648
    648
  • Thumbnail: Page 
649
    649
  • Thumbnail: Page 
650
    650
  • Thumbnail: Page 
651
    651
  • Thumbnail: Page 
652
    652
  • Thumbnail: Page 
653
    653
  • Thumbnail: Page 
654
    654
  • Thumbnail: Page 
655
    655
  • Thumbnail: Page 
656
    656
  • Thumbnail: Page 
657
    657
  • Thumbnail: Page 
658
    658