ISCID News Editor
Member # 1417
posted 09. December 2004 09:18
Source: EMBO Reports. The European Molecular Biology Organization.
Reductionism and complexity in molecular biology
Marc H.V. Van Regenmortel
SUMMARY: Scientists now have the tools to unravel biological complexity and overcome the limitations of reductionism...
EMBO reports 5, 1016 - 1020 (01 Nov 2004)
1st November 2004
2 Selected Paragaphs:
“The reductionist method of dissecting biological systems into their constituent parts has been effective in explaining the chemical basis of numerous living processes. However, many biologists now realize that this approach has reached its limit. Biological systems are extremely complex and have emergent properties that cannot be explained, or even predicted, by studying their individual parts. The reductionist approach — although successful in the early days of molecular biology — underestimates this complexity and therefore has an increasingly detrimental influence on many areas of biomedical research, including drug discovery and vaccine development.
The claim made by Francis Crick (1966) that “The ultimate aim of the modern movement in biology is to explain all biology in terms of physics and chemistry” epitomizes the reductionist mindset that has pervaded molecular biology for half a century. The theory is that because biological systems are composed solely of atoms and molecules, without the influence of ‘alien’ or ‘spiritual’ forces, it should be possible to explain them using the physicochemical properties of their individual components, down to the atomic level. The most extreme manifestation of the reductionist view is the belief that is held by some neuroscientists that consciousness and mental states can be reduced to chemical reactions that occur in the brain (Bickle, 2003; Van Regenmortel, 2004).”
EMBO Reports Volume 5 Number 11 Home Page with link to article. Note - this is a pay-to-access article
[ 09. December 2004, 09:51: Message edited by: ISCID News Editor ]