Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology
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.
“Over the last twenty years and more, philosophers and theoretical biologists have built an antireductionist consensus about biology. We have thought that biology is autonomous without being spooky. While biological systems are built from chemical ones, biological facts are not just physical facts, and biological explanations cannot be replaced by physical and chemical ones. The most consistent, articulate, informed, and lucid skeptic about this view has been Alex Rosenberg, and Darwinian Reductionism is the mature synthesis of his alternative vision. He argues that we can show the paradigm facts of biology—evolution and development—are built from the chemical and physical, and reduce to them. Moreover, he argues, unpleasantly plausibly, that defenders of the consensus must slip one way or the other: into spookiness about the biological, or into a reduction program for the biological. People like me have no middle way. Bugger.”
“Alex Rosenberg has been thinking about reductionism in biology for a quarter of a century. His latest discussion is many-sided, informed, and informative—and extremely challenging.”
Introduction: Biology's Untenable Dualism
1. What Was Reductionism?
2. Reductionism and Developmental Molecular Biology
3. Are There Really Informational Genes and Developmental Programs?
4. Dobzhansky's Dictum and the Nature of Biological Explanation
5. Central Tendencies and Individual Organisms
6. Making Natural Selection Safe for Reductionists
7. Genomics, Human History, and Cooperation
8. How Darwinian Reductionism Refutes Genetic Determinism