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Information channels and biomarkers of disease

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Current research in molecular epidemiology uses biomarkers to model the different disease phases from environmental exposure, to early clinical changes, to development of disease. The hope is to get a better understanding of the causal impact of a number of pollutants and chemicals on several diseases, including cancer and allergies. In a recent paper Russo and Williamson (2012) address the question of what evidential elements enter the conceptualisation and modelling stages of this type of biomarkers research. Recent research in causality has examined Ned Hall’s distinction between two concepts of causality: production and dependence (Hall, 2004). In another recent paper, Illari (2011b) examined the relatively under-explored production approach to causality, arguing that at least one job of an account of causal production is to illuminate our inferential practices concerning causal linking. Illari argued that an informational account solves existing problems with traditional accounts.

This paper follows up this previous work by investigating the nature of the causal links established in biomarkers research, examining the methodologically innovative current FP7 project EXPOsOMICS . We argue that traditional accounts of productive causality are unable to provide a sensible account of the nature of the causal link in biomarkers research, while an informational account is very promising.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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