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Biology and Physics: Reflections on Reductionism

  • Francisco J. Ayala

Abstract

The relationships between biology and the physicochemical sciences, and between organisms and inorganic matter, are of considerable interest to the philosophy of science. Many papers, books, and symposia have been dedicated to these relationships in recent years (e.g., Refs. 1 and 2). The issues at stake are sometimes called “the problem of reductionism” or “the question of reduction.” Few philosophical issues have been more actively debated in recent years, particularly among scientists, than the question of reduction. These debates, however, often involve several different issues, not always properly distinguished. Issues about the relationship between biology and the physical sciences, or between organisms and their physical components, arise in at least three domains, which may be called “ontological,” “methodological,” and “epistemological.” I shall identify the issues raised in each domain, and then consider each domain in turn.

Keywords

Physical Science Component Part Biological Phenomenon Emergent Property Secondary Science 
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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References and Notes

  1. 1.
    A. Koestler and J. R. Smythies, Beyond Reductionism (Hutchinson, London, 1969).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    F. J. Ayala and Th. Dobzhansky, editors, Studies in the Philosophy of Biology (Macmillan, London, and University of California Press, 1974).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    G. G. Simpson, This View of Life (Harcourt, Brace, and World, New York, 1964).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    G. M. Edelman, “The Problem of Molecular Recognition by a Selective System,” in F. J. Ayala and Th. Dobzhansky, editors, Studies in the Philosophy of Biology (Macmillan, London, 1974), pp. 45–56.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    E. Nagel, The Structure of Science (Harcourt, Brace, and World, New York, 1961).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    K. R. Popper, “Scientific Reduction and the Essential Incompleteness of All Science, in F. J. Ayala and Th. Dobzhansky, editors, Studies in the Philosophy of Biology (Macmillan, London, 1974).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    D. Hull, Philosophy of Biological Science (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1974).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    F. J. Ayala, “Biology as an Autonomous Science,” Amer. Sci. 56, 207–221 (1968).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    F. J. Ayala, “Teleological Explanations in Evolutionary Biology,” Phil. Sci. 37, 1–15 (1970).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco J. Ayala
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeneticsUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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