How to be an Anti-Reductionist about Developmental Biology: Response to Laubichler and Wagner

Publication Year:
2004
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Repository URL:
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/4269
Author(s):
Frost-Arnold, Greg
preprint description
Alexander Rosenberg recently claimed (1997) that developmental biology is currently being reduced to molecular biology. Laubichler & Wagner (2001) 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.