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Alex Rosenberg's "Darwinian Reductionism" Under Fire

The May-June 2007 issue of American Scientist contains John Dupré's review of Darwinian Reductionism: Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology by Alex Rosenberg.

Dupré fears that Rosenberg's adherence to strict physicalist reductionism ("Darwinian Reductionism"), where "everything is ultimately determined by what happens at the physical level--and that this entails that the mind is 'nothing but' the brain," is based upon a failure to understand why most philosophers of biology have abandoned such reductionism rather than a new revelation. As Dupré points out, most philosophers have abandoned this view because, among other reasons, genes have a "many/many" relationship with phenotype.

More specifically, his [Rosenberg's] portrayal of the genome as a program directing development, which is the centerpiece of his reductionist account of biology, discloses a failure to appreciate the complex two-way interactions between the genome and its molecular environment that molecular biologists have been elaborating for the past several decades.

Dupré excoriates Rosenberg for thinking of natural selection as an actual physical law rather than mere differential death. (Natural selection is, of course, the latter and much more akin to the "Stuff Happens" bumper sticker on the TV version of Forrest Gump.) Finally, Dupré also goes after Rosenberg for thinking "genes literally embody a program that produces development," for seemingly adhering to the notion that 95% of DNA is "mere junk," and for not keeping very current on molecular biology. For more, see the rest of Dupré's excellent but tough review "Is Biology Reducible to the Laws of Physics?"