Causal explanation beyond the gene: manipulation and causality in epigenetics



Published 20-05-2012
Jan Baedke


This paper deals with the interrelationship between causal explanation and methodology in a relatively young discipline in biology: epigenetics. Based on cases from molecular and ecological epigenetics, I show that James Woodward's interventionist account of causation captures essential features about how epigeneticists using highly diverse methods, i.e. laboratory experiments and purely observational studies, think about causal explanation. I argue that interventionism thus qualifies as a useful unifying explanatory approach when it comes to cross-methodological research efforts: It can act as a guiding rationale (i) to link causal models in molecular biology with statistical models derived from observational data analysis and (ii) to identify test-criteria for reciprocal transparent studies in different fields of research, which is a shared issue across the sciences.

How to Cite

Baedke, J. (2012). Causal explanation beyond the gene: manipulation and causality in epigenetics. THEORIA, 27(2), 153–174.
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causation, explanation, intervention, epigenetics, methodology, observational studies