Lindley Darden
Lindley Darden
University of Maryland
Peabody Hall, Room 115
Scott & Heather Kleiner Lecture Series

Biologists and medical researchers often search for mechanisms. The "new mechanistic philosophy of science" provides resources about the nature of biomedical mechanisms that aid the discovery of mechanisms. A new diagrammatic representation of abstract disease mechanism schemas provides a framework to guide the researcher in hypothesizing genetic disease mechanisms. It provides resources to show both what is known and, most significantly, what is not known at a given time, and suggests ways that steps in gene to phenotype mechanisms may fail. The resulting hypothesis aids in the prioritization of future experiments, probing of gene-drug and gene-environment interactions, identification of possible new drug targets, and potentially guides personalized drug choice. This work is being done as a collaboration by a philosopher of biology and computational biologists doing medical research.


Lindley Darden is a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research at the University of Maryland where she is a philosopher of science and a historian of biology. She views the development of scientific knowledge as progressing through iterative cycles of construction, evaluation, and revision of hypotheses. More specifically, she investigates the conceptual aspects of discovery of biological mechanisms from the nineteenth through the twenty-first century, such as evolutionary and genetic mechanisms. She also explores the implications of such discoveries for science education, medicine, and environmental policy. Her current area of research is on computational methods for aiding the discovery of molecular biological and disease mechanisms.

Background reading:

  • Machamer, P., L. Darden, C.F. Craver (2000), "Thinking About Mechanisms," Philosophy of Science 67: 1-25.
  • Craver, Carl F. and Lindley Darden (2013), In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries across the Life Sciences. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Darden, Lindley,  Lipika R. Pal, Kunal Kundu, and John Moult (2018), "The Product Guides the Process: Discovering Disease Mechanisms," in Emiliano Ippoliti and David Danks (eds.), Building Theories. Springer, pp. 101-117. Preprint:
  • Darden, Lindley, Kunal Kundu, Lipika R. Pal, and John Moult (forthcoming), "Harnessing Formal Concepts of Biological Mechanism to Analyze Human Disease," PLOS Computational Biology. Preprint: bioRxiv, The Preprint Server for Biology: