Lifelines: Biology Beyond Determinism

Steven Rose, Author Oxford University Press, USA $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-19-512035-6
Biologists have often been accused of suffering from ""physics envy,"" desperately wanting to refine their experimental systems to the simplest form, much as physicists have been able to reduce their science to the study of atomic and sub-atomic interactions. Biologist Rose (winner of the 1993 British Science Book Prize for The Making of Memory) clearly has no such desires. Indeed, although he recognizes that scientific reductionism has provided many breakthroughs, he is adamant and articulate in his belief that the biology of behavior can be coherently understood only from a more holistic perspective. Rose challenges the positions of two biological icons, Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson, arguing that individuals are very much more than a collection of genes. His vision of living systems is one that ""recognizes the power and the role of genes without subscribing to genetic determinism, and which recaptures an understanding of living organisms and their trajectories through time and space as lying at the center of biology."" The implications of Rose's proposition go well beyond biology, impinging heavily on social policy. ""Reductionist ideology,"" he writes, ""serves to relocate social problems to the individual...rather than exploring the societal roots and determinants of the phenomena that concern us."" Through thoughtful and provocative examples, Rose explores the nature of science, demonstrating that it is not nearly as free of cultural bias as many proponents would have us believe. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-19-515039-1
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-09-946863-9
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