The Cybernard Project
Claude Bernard (1813 - 1878) was one of the most eminent 19th century physiologists. He was a pioneer in many respects. He introduced the concept of internal environment (the Milieu intérieur) (cf. Grmek 1997), which corresponds to today's principle of homeostasis. He investigated and enlightened many physiological mechanisms, e.g. the glycogenic liver function [cf. (Prochiantz 1990)], effects of carbon monoxide, [cf. (Bernard 1864) and (Grmek7 1973)], effects of curare [cf. (Bernard 1857) and (Bernard 1864)], etc. But, Claude Bernard was not only a great physiologist; he was also a theoretician who generalized his experimental method in his famous book, Experimental Medicine (Bernard 1927), which is nowadays a classic that all young students in medicine are supposed to have read.
However, there is debate in the epistemology community about the importance of the book. Some think that Claude Bernard revolutionized the physiology while others consider that he is only a great physician who successfully tried to vulgarize his scientific works. In a way, the structure of the book makes this debate possible since the first part exposes abstract principles on which relies a general experimental method, while the second exemplifies the application of the method on discoveries that are mainly derived from Claude Bernard's own work. Therefore, it could be possible to interpret the experimental method as an introduction to the description of Claude Bernard's personal scientific contribution. On the other hand, some philosophers think that the "Experimental Medicine" (Bernard 1927) played the same role for the 19th and 20th century physiology that the Descartes "Discourse on Method" for the 17th century physical sciences. In modern terms, it originated a "change of paradigm" in experimental medicine. Even if the knowledge of physiological mechanisms is far more detailed today than it was at the Claude Bernard's time and if the statistical techniques make the analysis of experimental data more rigorous, the principles on which relies the methodology of clinical experimentations are based on the same theoretical foundations. It is the argument of those who promote the "Experimental Medicine" as a key contribution for the modern medicine.
The Cybernard project aims at contributing to this debate by the achievement of a computer model and by a computer assisted diachronic analysis of Claude Bernard's texts. More precisely, the goal of the Cybernard project is twofold. The first is to clarify and to generalize the experimental method by formalizing it with artificial intelligence techniques and by simulating it on computers. It will then be possible to understand in what respect this method is general and can be applied to contemporaneous clinical medicine. Once this first goal will be achieved, we shall attempt synchronous reconstructions of some of the Claude Bernard's scientific discoveries, i.e. reconstructions of the discoveries that he has described at the end of his life, in his large audience papers. The second goal is then to confront the original Claude Bernard's scientific texts – i.e. his personal notes, scientific papers, etc. – to the reconstruction of his own work he made when he wrote the Experimental Medicine (Bernard 1927). Our aim is to understand the effective status of the method described in the Experimental Medicine: does it correspond to the actual method that Claude Bernard used or to an ideal reconstruction of what it should have been This confrontation can be called a diachronic reconstruction, since it is to compare the own Claude Bernard's latest reconstruction of his work to its effective ideas as they were expressed in his papers and published articles at the time of discovery. Three teams participate to the Cybernard project, which is highly interdisciplinary: an artificial intelligence group headed by Jean-Gabriel Ganascia, the ACASA team, belonging to the LIP6 computer science laboratory, the epistemology department of the Ecole Normale Supèrieure directed by Claude Debru and the linguistic team of the ITEM laboratory that is specialized in genetic criticism.
- Grmek, M.: Le legs de Claude Bernard. Fayard (1997)
- Prochiantz, A.: Claude Bernard: la révolution physiologique. Presses Universitaires de France, Paris (1990)
Bernard, C.: Etudes physiologiques sur quelques poisons américains. Revue des deux mondes 53 (1864) 164–190
Grmek, M.: Raisonnement exp´erimental et recherches toxicologiques chez Claude Bernard. Droz, Genève (1973)
Bernard, C.: Leçon sur les effets des substances toxiques et médicamenteuses. Cours de médecine du collège de France. J.-B. Baillière et Fils, Paris (1857)
Bernard, C.: An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine. Macmillan & Co., Ltd. (1927) First English translation by Henry Copley Greene.
Habib B. and Ganascia J.-G.: The Reasoning Process underlying Claude Bernard’s Scientific Discoveries. In the proceedings of the IJCAI-09 Workshop on Abductive & Inductive Knowledge Development (AIAI09) of the 21st International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI 2009). Pasadena, California, USA, (2009) fichier pdf.
Ganascia J.-G., A Reconstruction of Some of Claude Bernard’s Scientific Steps; AAAI fall symposium on Scientific Discovery, 6-8 November 2008, fichier pdf
Habib B., Ganascia J.-G., Using AI to Reconstruct Claude Bernard's Empirical Investigations, International Conference on Artificial Intelligence - ICAI'08, (July 2008), in the proceedings fichier pdf.
Ganascia J.-G., In silico' Experiments : Towards a Computerized Epistemology, in Newsletter on Philosophy and Computers, Piotr Boltuc (ed), American Philosophical Association Newsletters, 07 (2), 11-15, Spr. 2008, ISSN 1067-9464 paper
Ganascia, J.-G., Habib, B., An Attempt to Rebuild C. Bernard's Scientific Steps. Discovery Science conference, Sendai, Japan, October 2007, in proceedings pp. 248-252 fichier pdf
Ganascia, J.-G., Debru, C.: CYBERNARD: A Computational Reconstruction of Claude Bernard's Scientific Discoveries, Model-Based Reasoning in Science, Technology, and Medicine, vol. 64, Li, Ping, pp. 497-510, Springer Verlag Ed. (ISBN : 978-3-540-71985-4) (2007) (fichier pdf)