Other Ideas

The Dialectical Biologist: A Review

Don Pollock

The Dialectical Biologist by Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA: 1985) is readable and controversialčit has sparked some heated discussions in the laboratory!

The authors' credo:

We believe that science, in all its senses, is a social process that both causes and is caused by social organization. To do science is to be a social actor engaged, whether one likes it or not, in political activity.

Written by two biologists who have been "working self-consciously in a dialectical mode for many years," this collection of essays explores evolution and other topics using these dialectical concepts:

  1. a whole is a relation of heterogeneous parts that have no prior existence as parts

  2. organisms are both the subjects and objects of evolution

  3. change is a characteristic of all systems and all aspects of all systems

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