Reductionism is an extraordinarily fruitful scientific tradition that has been with us since the Greeks, when Democritus first proposed that all matter is made of unseen atoms. Its central belief is that a system can be understood when it is reduced to its most fundamental elements - its constituent parts. In an extreme form, however, this way of looking at nature loses a sense of the whole while arduously squinting at its smallest pieces.As we enter the Genomic Age, many molecular biologists are optimistic that one day we will be able to know "a protozoan or a peacock" through its DNA alone. In this book, experimental biologist Stephen Rothman asserts that such a way of understanding will never be possible, and that hope that it will be is misplaced. He maintains that to oversubscribe to reductionism is to misuse this venerable tradition, to heighten the danger of stifling new ideas and to impede progress.
An elegant call to a new biology that goes beyond reductionism The Human Genome Project is the culmination of a two-centuries-old scientific tradition that takes as its central tenet the principle of reductionism, or the belief that a system can be thoroughly understood when it is reduced to its most fundamental constituent parts. Experimental biologist Stephen Rothman explains that reductionism also has serious, even dangerous, limitations.With the help of fascinating case studies, he takes a clear-eyed look at the social climate in which science is practiced and explores the collective psychology that he fears is leading scientists down a blind alley. Rothman explains why, despite all the hype surrounding the Genome Project, science is still no closer to building a bridge between molecules and reactions at the genetic level and large-scale biological processes. And, ultimately, he makes an eloquent and impassioned argument for a Darwinian-inspired approach to biological research that goes beyond reductionism to embrace living systems in their entirety.