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Creating a Physical BiologyThe Three-Man Paper and Early Molecular Biology$
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Phillip R. Sloan and Brandon Fogel

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780226767826

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226762777.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 01 July 2022

Niels Bohr and Max Delbrück: Balancing Autonomy and Reductionism in Biology

Niels Bohr and Max Delbrück: Balancing Autonomy and Reductionism in Biology

(p.144) (p.145) Chapter Five Niels Bohr and Max Delbrück: Balancing Autonomy and Reductionism in Biology
Creating a Physical Biology

Nils Roll-Hansen

University of Chicago Press

This chapter attempts to develop a more precise understanding of the relation between Niels Bohr's philosophy of science and Max Delbrück's biological research program. It is argued here that Delbrück's biological research program was reductionist in the sense that it pursued physical and chemical explanations for biological phenomena. Bohr's primary concern was with fundamental features of empirical natural science that implied a radical difference between physics and biology, however successful reductionism might be. He found that Delbrück's reductionist program did not contradict his own philosophical view, but he did not involve himself in empirical biological research. Daniel McKaughan has argued, in apparent contradiction to this claim, that “Bohr and Delbrück shared an antireductionist outlook” and that Delbrück hoped to demonstrate a legitimate role for “teleological concepts” in biological science.

Keywords:   Niels Bohr, philosophy of science, Max Delbrück, biological research program, empirical natural science, empirical biological research, Daniel McKaughan, teleological concepts, reductionism

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