Darwinian Reductionism: Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 15, 2008 - Science - 272 pages
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After the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, scientists working in molecular biology embraced reductionism—the theory that all complex systems can be understood in terms of their components. Reductionism, however, has been widely resisted by both nonmolecular biologists and scientists working outside the field of biology. Many of these antireductionists, nevertheless, embrace the notion of physicalism—the idea that all biological processes are physical in nature. How, Alexander Rosenberg asks, can these self-proclaimed physicalists also be antireductionists?

With clarity and wit, Darwinian Reductionism navigates this difficult and seemingly intractable dualism with convincing analysis and timely evidence. In the spirit of the few distinguished biologists who accept reductionism—E. O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Jacques Monod, James Watson, and Richard Dawkins—Rosenberg provides a philosophically sophisticated defense of reductionism and applies it to molecular developmental biology and the theory of natural selection, ultimately proving that the physicalist must also be a reductionist.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 What Was Reductionism?
25
2 Reductionism and DevelopmentalMolecular Biology
56
3 Are There Really Informational Genesand Developmental Programs?
94
4 Dobzhanskys Dictum and the Natureof Biological Explanation
134
5 Central Tendencies and IndividualOrganisms
157
6 Making Natural Selection Safe forReductionists
177
7 Genomics Human History andCooperation
201
8 How Darwinian ReductionismRefutes Genetic Determinism
222
References
239
Index
249
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Page 1 - It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material.

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Philosophy of Biology

Limited preview - 2007

About the author (2008)

Alex Rosenberg is the R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy and Biology at Duke University and the author of many books, including Economics—Mathematical Politics or Science of Diminishing Returns? and Instrumental Biology, or The Disunity of Science, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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