Abstract: Most mathematical modeling in biology relies either implicitly or explicitly on the epistemology of physics. The underlying conception is that the historicity of biological objects would not matter to understand a situation here and now, or, at least, historicity would not impact the method of modeling. We analyze that it is not the case with concrete examples. Historicity forces a conceptual reconfiguration where equations no longer play a central role. We argue that all observations depend on objects defined by their historical origin instead of their relations as in physics. Therefore, we propose that biological variations and historicity come first, and regularities are constraints with limited validity in biology. Their proper theoretical and empirical use requires specific rationales. – Montévil, M. Historicity at the heart of biology. Theory Biosci. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12064-020-00320-8 (paywall)
From the paper:
Name baring types are single specimens that define names in systematics. Names are extended theoretically to all the descent of a common ancestor. In this manner, if the classification requires a revision, the definition of names remains stable. It follows that names correspond to specific material objects in biology. By contrast, the speed of light in the vacuum is an invariant of relativistic theories. The International System of Units uses this invariant to define lengths. There is no need to specify which photon we are talking about; all photons will go at the same speed. In the vacuum physics is based on generic material objects, and not on specific material objects. This comparison shows the deep methodological and epistemological divide between biology and physics and how this divide shapes actual practices.
Modeling biology on physics is useful if the biologist wants to pretend to an august Darwinian certainty that is not really available and perhaps not even possible.