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Darwinian ReductionismOr, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology$
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Alexander Rosenberg

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780226727295

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226727318.001.0001

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Dobzhansky's Dictum and the Nature of Biological Explanation

Dobzhansky's Dictum and the Nature of Biological Explanation

Chapter:
(p.134) 4 Dobzhansky's Dictum and the Nature of Biological Explanation
Source:
Darwinian Reductionism
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226727318.003.0005

This chapter argues that biology is history, but unlike human history, it is history for which the “iron laws” of historical change have been found, and codified in Darwin's theory of natural selection. And because everything else in biology is history—the description and explanation of local accidents—there are no laws in biology other than Darwin's. But owing to the literal truth of Dobzhansky's dictum, these are the only laws biology needs. This conclusion raises a challenge for antireductionism: to show that the principle of natural selection is in fact innocent of the charge of tautology owing to the biologist's definition of fitness. If the antireductionist declines this challenge, two other alternative challenges must be faced: either identify another law or laws that will carry biology's explanatory burden, or show how biology can explain without laws at all.

Keywords:   biology, reductionism, Darwin, natural selection, Dobzhansky, antireductionism, fitness

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