Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 111–139 | Cite as

The peripherality of reductionism in the development of molecular biology

  • Kenneth F. Schaffner


I have not attempted to provide here an analysis of the methodology of molecular biology or molecular genetics which would demonstrate at what specific points a more reductionist aim would make sense as a research strategy. This, I believe, would require a much deeper analysis of scientific growth than philosophy of science has been able to provide thus far. What I have tried to show is that a straightforward reductionist strategy cannot be said to be follwed in important cases of theory development in molecular biology, and that in at least one important case, the Jacob-Monod operon theory, the methodology followed was more biological than chemical. It should be noted in closing, however, that since biological systems are thought by molecular biologists to be nothing but chemical systems, in the long run detailed investigations of such systems will be in full accord with the dictates suggested by the general reduction model.


Molecular Biology Biological System Specific Point Theory Development Molecular Genetic 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth F. Schaffner
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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