Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 75–91

How to be an anti-reductionist about developmental biology: Response to Laubichler and Wagner

  • Greg Frost-Arnold

DOI: 10.1023/B:BIPH.0000013291.43498.1f

Cite this article as:
Frost-Arnold, G. Biology & Philosophy (2004) 19: 75. doi:10.1023/B:BIPH.0000013291.43498.1f


Alexander Rosenberg recently claimed (1997) that developmental biology is currently being reduced to molecular biology. cite several concrete biological examples that are intended to impugn Rosenberg's claim. I first argue that although Laubichler and Wagner's examples would refute a very strong reductionism, a more moderate reductionism would escape their attacks. Next, taking my cue from the antireductionist's perennial stress on the importance of spatial organization, I describe one form an empirical finding that refutes this moderate reductionism would take. Finally, I point out an actual example, anterior-posterior axis determination in the chick, that challenges the reductionist's belief that all developmental regularities can be explained by molecular biology. In short, I argue that Rosenberg's position can be saved from Laubichler and Wagner's criticisms and putative counter-examples, but it would not survive a different kind of counter-example.

Developmental biologyMolecular biologyReductionism

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Greg Frost-Arnold
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA