Joint talk with Karim Bschir (ETH Zurich)
Abstract: This paper tells the story of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), one of the most exciting objects of investigation in contemporary biochemistry and molecular biology. By looking at how GPCRs turned from a hypothetical entity into a real one, we demonstrate that the realism question requires a philosophical perspective in which scientific objects are analysed as active elements within a specific research context. We claim that the activity of a scientific object is constituted by its capacity to act as a touchstone for the reality of other things. The selection of criteria, whereby an object is assigned varying degrees of reality throughout a scientific discourse, cannot be made independently of the question of how this object becomes a standard by which the reality of ‘neighbouring elements’ (other entities, mechanisms, processes) are evaluated. We conclude that the reality of a scientific object is a relational property acquired in a historical context of successive methods.
Upcoming Talk at the EPSA 2015 (European Philosophy of Science Association), 23-27 September at the Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)