Different methods and metaphysics in early molecular genetics - A case of disparity of research?

Abstract
The encounter between two fundamentally different approaches in seminal research in molecular biology-the problems, aims, methods and metaphysics - is delineated and analyzed. They are exemplified by the microbiologist Oswald T. Avery who, in line with the reductionist mechanistic metaphysics of Jacques Loeb, attempted to explain basic life phenomena through chemistry; and the theoretical physicist Max Delbrück who, influenced by Bohr’s antimechanistic views, preferred to explain these phenomena without chemistry. Avery’s and Delbrück’s most important studies took place concurrently. Thus analysis of their contrasting approaches lends itself to examination of the Weltanschauungen view concerning the role of fundamental (metaphysical) assumptions in scientific change, that is, the view that empirical research cannot be neutral in regard to the worldviews of the researchers. This study shows that the initial ostensible disparity (non-integratibility) of the two approaches lasted for just a short time. Ironically it was a student of Delbrück’s school, James Watson, who (with Crick) proposed a chemical model, the DNA double helix, as a solution to Delbrück’s problem. The structure of DNA has not been seriously challenged over the past half century. Moreover, Watson’s and Crick’s work did not call into question the validity of Delbrück’s research, but opened it up to entirely new approaches. The case of Avery and Delbrück demonstrates that after initial obstacles were overcome the different fundamental attitudes and the resulting research practices were capable of integration. © 2008 Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn.
Keywords MOLECULAR biology   COMPLEMENTARITY (Physics)   REDUCTIONISM   MICROBIOLOGY   BACTERIOPHAGE typing   complementarity   explanatory power   Max Delbrück   Oswald T. Avery   phage genetics   reductionism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 10,374
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Similar books and articles
U. Deichmann (2004). Early Responses to Avery Et Al.'S Paper on DNA as Hereditary Material. Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 34 (2):207-232.
U. Deichmann (2002). Emigration, Isolation and the Slow Start of Molecular Biology in Germany. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 33 (3):449-471.
John Beatty (1982). The Insights and Oversights of Molecular Genetics: The Place of the Evolutionary Perspective. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1982:341 - 355.
Frank Portugal (2010). Oswald T. Avery: Nobel Laureate or Noble Luminary? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 53 (4):558-570.
A. Lindenmayer & N. Simon (1980). The Formal Structure of Genetics and the Reduction Problem. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:160 - 170.
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2012-01-08

Total downloads

2 ( #337,655 of 1,096,862 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #273,368 of 1,096,862 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.