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Peer Reviewed

1

DOI

10.13008/2151-2957.1299

Abstract

“Function” is a vitally important concept in the scientific community. Scientists use it to describe and address a wide variety of research problems. In publications, however, scientists within and across disciplines interpret function differently. For example, intense controversy surrounds what percentage of the human genome should be deemed "functional” rather than “junk DNA.” In this essay, we analyze the use of function in the research of de novo gene birth, a budding scientific field that studies how novel genes can emerge in non-genic sequences. Our research team, composed of a rhetorical scholar, philosopher, structural biologist and systems biologist, crafts a taxonomy of how “function” is variously constituted in de novo gene birth publications, including as expressions, capacities, interactions, physiological implications and evolutionary implications. We argue function is shaped by the diverse onto-epistemological perspectives of scientists and is both a recalcitrant and resilient concept of scientific practice. Informed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s writings on a scientific mode of thinking, functions are time-space scales of objects under investigation that make possible references to scientific measurements.

Keywords

Function, Evolution, Gene, Resilience, Recalcitrance, Scientific Practice, Rhetoric of Science

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