Two Dogmas of Biology

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Abstract
The problem with reductionism in biology is not the reduction, but the implicit attitude of determinism that usually accompanies it. Methodological reductionism is supported by deterministic beliefs, but making such a connection is problematic when it is based on an idea of determinism as fixed predictability. Conflating determinism with predictability gives rise to inaccurate models that overlook the dynamic complexity of our world, as well as ignore our epistemic limitations when we try to model it. Furthermore, the assumption of a strictly deterministic framework is unnecessarily hindering to biology. By removing the dogma of determinism, biological methods, including reductive methods, can be expanded to include stochastic models and probabilistic interpretations. Thus, the dogma of reductionism can be saved once its ties with determinism are severed. In this paper, I analyze two problems that have faced molecular biology for the last 50 years—protein folding and cancer. Both cases demonstrate the long influence of reductionism and determinism on molecular biology, as well as how abandoning determinism has opened the door to more probabilistic and unconstrained reductive methods in biology.
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Archival date: 2017-08-07
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Two Dogmas of Empiricism.Quine, Willard V. O.

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2017-06-10

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