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Darwinian Reductionism: Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love by Alexander Rosenberg

By Alexander Rosenberg

After the invention of the constitution of DNA in 1953, scientists operating in molecular biology embraced reductionism—the idea that every one advanced structures may be understood by way of their elements. Reductionism, besides the fact that, has been commonly resisted by means of either nonmolecular biologists and scientists operating outdoor the sector of biology. a lot of those antireductionists, however, embody the suggestion of physicalism—the concept that all organic strategies are actual in nature. How, Alexander Rosenberg asks, can those self-proclaimed physicalists even be antireductionists?

With readability and wit, Darwinian Reductionism navigates this hard and probably intractable dualism with convincing research and well timed facts. within the spirit of the few exotic biologists who settle for reductionism—E. O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Jacques Monod, James Watson, and Richard Dawkins—Rosenberg offers a philosophically subtle security of reductionism and applies it to molecular developmental biology and the idea of usual choice, finally proving that the physicalist also needs to be a reductionist.

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Sample text

At this point, of course, the original generalizations will, like other descriptions of historical patterns, cease to obtain; but we will have an evolutionary explanation for why they do so, and we will be able to retain our original explanation for why these generalizations obtained about the composition of DNA and RNA during the period and in the places where they did so. In these respects, explanation in molecular biology is completely typical of explanation at all higher levels of biological organization.

There is little scope in this sort of reduction for satisfying the criteria for postpositivist reduction. ) To the general philosophical difficulties that the postpositivist account of reduction faced, biology provided further distinct obstacles. To begin with, as Hull first noted (1974), it is difficult actually to define the term gene as it figures in functional biology by employing only concepts from molecular biology. In other words, the required “bridge principles” between the concept of the gene as it figures in population biology, evolutionary biology, and elsewhere in functional biology and as it figures in molecular biology could not be constructed.

If this argument is too telegraphic, we may, trespassing on the impatience of What Was Reductionism? au courant biologists and philosophers, rehearse some of its details—suppressed premises, enthymemic inferences, conversational implicatures, and all. We may divide our down and dirty history of reduction into two parts: the vicissitudes of reduction in general, and its narrowly biological problems in particular. the eclipse of postpositivist reduction To begin with the general problems, we need to recall how the original exponents of reduction, certain logical empiricists and their successors, supposed reduction was to proceed.

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