Models in biology and physics : what's the difference?

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-294
Number of pages14
JournalFoundations of Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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.


  • Analogy
  • Evelyn Fox Keller
  • Modelling
  • Structural similarity
  • Structuralism


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