Moving beyond the influence of molecular genetics on the debate about reductionism in philosophy of biology

  • Frederic Bouchard
Part of the Logic, Epistemology, and The Unity of Science book series (LEUS, volume 6)


The rise of molecular genetics has had a fundamental influence on the development of philosophy of biology because of its central role in the debate concerning reductionism. I begin by describing notable attempts to reduce Mendelian genetics to molecular genetics, the lightning rod of reductionist attempts in philosophy of biology. I then suggest that the syntactic reductionist may wish to focus on neglected biological cases (e.g. ecosystem evolution) that may eventually yield laws that could provide easier reduction than the attempted reduction in genetics


Molecular Genetic Biological Theory Classical Genetic Mendelian Genetic Explanatory Reductionism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    Beatty J (1990) Evolutionary anti-reductionism: historical reflections. Biol. Philos 5:199–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. [2]
    Beatty J (1980) What’s wrong with the received view of evolutionary theory. Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 397–426Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    Benzer S (1957) The elementary basis of heredity. In: McElroy WD, Glass B (eds) The Chemical Basis of Heredity. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 70–93Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Bouchard F (2004) Evolution, Fitness and the Struggle for Persistence. PhD dissertation, Duke UniversityGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    Bouchard F, Rosenberg A (2004) Fitness, probability and the principles of natural election. British Journal of Philos. Sci 55 (4):693–712Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    Cartwright N (1983) How the laws of Physics lie. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  7. [7]
    Crick F (1966) Of molecules and men. The John Danz Lectures. University of Washington Press, SeattleGoogle Scholar
  8. [8]
    Dobzhansky T (1966) Are naturalists old-fashioned? Am Nat 100:541–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. [9]
    Hagen JB (1989) Research perspectives and the anomalous status of modern ecology. Biology and Philosophy 4:433–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. [10]
    Hull DL (1976) Informal aspects of theory reduction. Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, 1974, 653–670Google Scholar
  11. [11]
    Hull DL (1974) Philosophy of biological science, Prentice-Hall Foundations of Philosophy Series, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJGoogle Scholar
  12. [12]
    Hull DL (1979) Reduction in genetics. Philos Sci 46(2):316–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. [13]
    Hull DL (1972) Reduction in Genetics-Biology or Philosophy? Philos Sci 39(2):491–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. [14]
    Hutchinson GE (1978) An introduction to population ecology. Yale University Press, New Haven, CTGoogle Scholar
  15. [15]
    Kitcher P (1984) 1953 and all that. A tale of two sciences. Philos Rev 93(3):335–373PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. [16]
    Lloyd EA (1994) The structure and confirmation of evolutionary theory. Princeton University Press, Princeton backs, PrincPapereton, NJGoogle Scholar
  17. [17]
    Mayr E (1961) Cause and effect in biology. Science 134:1501–1506PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. [18]
    Mayr E (1982) The growth of biological thought diversity, evolution, and inheritance. Belknap Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  19. [19]
    McShea DW (1998) Possible largest-scale trends in organismal evolution: eigh live hypotheses. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 29, 293–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. [20]
    Monod J (1970) Le Hasard Et La Nécessité Essai Sur la Philosophie Naturelle de la Biologie Moderne. Éditions du Seuil, ParisGoogle Scholar
  21. [21]
    Nagel E (1961) The structure of science problems in the logic of scientific explanation. Harcourt, Brace & World, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. [22]
    Rosenberg A (1994) Instrumental biology, or, the disunity of science. Science and its conceptual foundations. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  23. [23]
    Rosenberg A (1985) The structure of biological science. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. [24]
    Rosenberg A, Frédéric B (2005) Matthen and Ariew’s obituary to fitness: reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Biol Philos 20Google Scholar
  25. [25]
    Ruse M (1973) The philosophy of biology. Philosophy: philosophy (Hutchinson Firm). Hutchinson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. [26]
    Ruse M (1976) Reduction in genetics PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, 1974, 633–651Google Scholar
  27. [27]
    Ruse M (1971a) Reduction, replacement, and molecular biology. Dialectica 25(1)39–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. [28]
    Ruse M (1971b) Two biological revolutions. Dialectica 25(1)17–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. [29]
    Sarkar S (1998) Genetics and reductionism, Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  30. [30]
    Sarkar S (1992) Models of reduction and categories of reductionism. Synthese 91:167–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. [31]
    Schaffner KF (1967) Approaches to reduction. Philos Sci 34:137–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. [32]
    Schaffner KF (1993) Discovery and explanation in biology and medicine. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  33. [33]
    Schaffner KF (1974) The peripherality of reductionism in the development of molecular bioloy. J Hist Biol 7:111–129PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. [34]
    Schaffner KF (1969) The Watson-Crick model and reductionism. Br J Philo Sci 20:325–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. [35]
    Simpson GG (1964) This view of life: the world of an evolutionist, 1st edn. Harcourt, Brace & World, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. [36]
    Sober E (1993) Philosophy of biology. Dimensions of philosophy series. Westview Press, Boulder, COGoogle Scholar
  37. [37]
    Sober E, Wilson DS (1998) Unto others the evolution and psychology of unselfish behavior, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  38. [38]
    Swenson W, Arendt J, Wilson DS (2000) Artificial selection of microbial ecosystems for 3-chloroaniline biodegradation. Environ Microbiol 2(5):564–571PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. [39]
    Swenson W, Wilson DS, Elias R (2000) Artificial ecosystem selection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 97(16):9110–9114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. [40]
    Tansley AG (1935) The use and abuse of vegetational concepts and terms. Ecology 16:284–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. [41]
    Thompson P (1989) The structure of biological theories, SUNY series in philosophy and biology, State University of New York Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. [42]
    Valen V, Leigh M (1991) Biotal evolution: a manifesto. Evolutionary Theory 10:1–13Google Scholar
  43. [43]
    Valen V (1972) Laws in biology and history: structural similarities of academic disciplines. New Lit Hist 3(2):409–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. [44]
    Valen V (1973) A new evolutionary law. Evolutionary Theory 1:1–30Google Scholar
  45. [45]
    Valen V (1977) The Red Queen. Am Nat 111:809–810, 980CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. [46]
    Valen V (1989) Three paradigms of evolution. Evol Theor 9:1–17Google Scholar
  47. [47]
    Waters CK (1994) Genes made molecular. Philos Sci 61(2):163–185Google Scholar
  48. [48]
    Waters CK (2000) Molecules made biological. Rev Int Philos 4(214):539–564Google Scholar
  49. [49]
    Waters CK (1990) Why the anti-reductionist consensus won’t survive: the case of classical mendelian genetics. Philosophy of Science, Proceedings 1, 125–139Google Scholar
  50. [50]
    Williams MB (1970) Deducing the consequences of evolution: a mathematical model. J Theor Biol 29:343–385PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. [51]
    Wimsatt WC (1976) Reductive explanation: a functional account philosophy of science proceedings PSA. Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, 1974, 671–710Google Scholar
  52. [52]
    Wimsatt WC (1979) Reduction and reductionism. In: Asquith PD, Kyburg H (eds) Current research in the philosophy of science, pp 352–377. Philosophy of Science Association, East LansigGoogle Scholar
  53. [53]
    Woodger JH (1952) Biology and language. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  54. [54]
    Woodger JH, Tarski A, Floyd WF (1937) The axiomatic method in biology. The University Press, Cambridge EngGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederic Bouchard
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MontrealMontreal

Personalised recommendations