Lessons from the Living Cell: The Limits of Reductionism

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McGraw-Hill, 2002 - Science - 300 pages
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An elegant call to a new biology that goes beyond reductionism

The Human Genome Project is the culmination of a two-centuries-old scientific tradition that takes as its central tenet the principle of reductionism, or the belief that a system can be thoroughly understood when it is reduced to its most fundamental constituent parts. Experimental biologist Stephen Rothman explains that reductionism also has serious, even dangerous, limitations.

With the help of fascinating case studies, he takes a clear-eyed look at the social climate in which science is practiced and explores the collective psychology that he fears is leading scientists down a blind alley. Rothman explains why, despite all the hype surrounding the Genome Project, science is still no closer to building a bridge between molecules and reactions at the genetic level and large-scale biological processes. And, ultimately, he makes an eloquent and impassioned argument for a Darwinian-inspired approach to biological research that goes beyond reductionism to embrace living systems in their entirety.

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Beyond the Central Dogma
What Is It That Makes Something Living?
The Uncertainties

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About the author (2002)

Stephen Rothman, Ph.D., has been an experimental biologist for 40 years. He was a research professor at Harvard Medical School until 1971 when he joined the faculty at the University of California, San Francisco. Best known for his landmark studies of the transport of protein molecules across cell membranes, he has made notable contributions in everything from molecular biology to physiology. Dr. Rothman has published nearly 200 articles in Nature, Science, and other prestigious scientific journals.

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