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a) Holist Versus Reductionist Accounts

Evolutionary biology presents another domain for the debate between reductionism and holism. ii) Methodology As Barbour, Ernst Mayr and others stress, methodological reductionism has been fruitful in molecular biology, but other methodologies such as population genetics and ecology are needed to deal with organisms as a whole.Ian G. Barbour, Religion in an Age of Science, Gifford Lectures; 1989-1990. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990), 165-66.ii) Epistemology. As Francisco Ayala points out,Francisco J. Ayala, "Reduction in Biology: A Recent Challenge," in Evolution at a Crossroads: The New Biology and the New Philosophy of Science, ed. David J. Depew and Bruce H. Weber (Cambridge:...there are biological functions and concepts which cannot be defined in purely chemical and physical terms; they include fitness, adaptation, predator, organ, heterozygosity, and sexuality. For Mayr,Ernst Mayr, "How Biology Differs from the Physical Sciences," in Evolution at a Crossroads: The New Biology and the New Philosophy of Science, ed. David J. Depew and Bruce H. Weber (Cambridge:...evolutionary biology is best treated as historical narrative. Anti-reductionist views such as these in biology fit nicely in the broader epistemic hierarchies developed by Peacocke, Murphy and Ellis.Such epistemic hierarchies are not intended as support for ontological and axiological hierarchies (e.g., ‘the great chain of being’) since, as feminists and ecofeminists stress, these in turn...iii) Ontology. Reductive materialism is frequently championed as the only alternative to vitalism, but there are other options. Barbour, for example, supports a holist philosophy of organicism drawn from Whiteheadian metaphysics in which the capacity for experience is ubiquitous in nature (i.e., panexperientialism). By envisioning the ecosystem as a whole, with its many interwoven ecological communities, rather than individual organisms in nature, as the primary context of ecological ethics, Holmes Rolston suggests a holist ontology as well.Holmes Rolston III, Philosophy Gone Wild: Essays in Environmental Ethics (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1986); Holmes Rolston III, Genes, Genesis and God: Values and Their Origins in Natural and Human History... Other holist ontologies include Murphy’s emergentist monism (nonreductive physicalism) and what I call ontological emergence (see Part 1, D and E, above).

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

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