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Aims and Achievements of the Reductionist Approach in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology/Cell Biology: A Response to Kincaid

Joseph D. Robinson
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 59, No. 3 (Sep., 1992), pp. 465-470
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/188161
Page Count: 6
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Aims and Achievements of the Reductionist Approach in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology/Cell Biology: A Response to Kincaid
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Abstract

Kincaid argues that molecular biology provides little support for the reductionist program, that biochemistry does not reveal common mechanisms, indeed that biochemical theory obstructs discovery. These assertions clash with biologists' stated advocacy of reductionist programs and their claims about the consequent unity of experimental biology. This striking disagreement goes beyond differences in meaning granted to the terms. More significant is Kincaid's misunderstanding of what biochemists do, for a closer look at scientific practice-- and one of Kincaid's examples--reveals substantial progress toward explaining biological function with biochemical models. With the molecular detail emerge unifying generalizations as well as further aspects of the functional processes.

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