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The Autonomy of Biology as a Natural Science

  • Francisco J. Ayala

Abstract

The goal of science is the systematic organization of knowledge about the material universe on the basis of explanatory principles that are genuinely testable. The starting point of science is the formulation of statements about objectively observable phenomena. Common-sense knowledge also provides information about the material world. The distinction between science and common-sense knowledge is based upon the joint presence in science of at least three distinctive characteristics. First, science seeks to organize knowledge in a systematic way by exhibiting patterns of relations among statements concerning facts which may not obviously appear as mutually related.

Keywords

Natural Selection Reproductive Fitness Secondary Science Primary Science Corn Seed 
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.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    E. Nagel, The Structure of Science, New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1961, pp. 338–345.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    E. Nagel, The Structure of Science, p. 338; see also pp. 336–397.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    G. G. Simpson, This View of Life, New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1964, p. 107. According to J. G. Kemeny (A Philosopher Looks at Science, New York: Van Nostrand, 1959, pp. 215–216) the most likely solution of the question of the reduction of biology to physics is that a new theory will be found, covering both fields, in new terms. Inanimate nature will appear as the simplest extreme case of this theory. In that case, one would say that physics was reduced to biology and not biology to physics.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Except for the general conclusion that biological phenomena will never be satisfactorily explained by mechanistic principles.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    E. S. Russell, The Interpretation of Development and Heredity, Oxford, 1930; see also E. Mayr, “Cause and Effect in Biology,” Cause and Effect, D. Lerner (ed.), New York: Free Press, 1965, pp. 33–50.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    The temperature of the gas is identical by definition with the mean kinetic energy of the molecules.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See Th. Dobzhansky, “Biology, Molecular and Organismic,” The Graduate Journal, VII(1), 1965, pp. 11–25.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For instance, the maintenance of a genetic polymorphism in a population due to heterosis can be considered a homeostatic mechanism acting at the population level.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See F. J. Ayala, “Teleological explanation in evolutionary biology,” Philosophy of Science, in press.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    T. A. Goudge, The Ascent of Life, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961, p. 193.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    E. Nagel, “Types of causal explanation in science,” Cause and Effect, D. Lerner (ed.), New York: Free Press, 1965, p. 25.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    E. Nagel, The Structure of Science, p. 405; see also F. J. Ayala, “Teleological explanations in evolutionary biology,” Philosophy of Science, in press.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    E. Nagel, The Structure of Science, p. 424.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    It is a pleasure to thank Miss Mary C. Henderson who read the manuscript and made many valuable suggestions.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco J. Ayala
    • 1
  1. 1.The Rockefeller UniversityUSA

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