Explanatory loops and the limits of genetic reductionism

We reconstruct genetic determinism as a reductionist thesis to the effect that the molecular properties of cells can be accounted for to a great extent by their genetic outfit. The non-reductionist arguments offered at this molecular level often use the relationship between structure and function as their point of departure. By contrast, we develop a non-reductionist argument that is confined to the structural characteristics of biomolecules; no appeal to functions is made. We raise two kinds of objections against the reducibility claim underlying genetic determinism. First, some conceptual distinctions at the protein level cannot be captured on a genetic basis. A one-to-many relationship between DNA sequences and proteins emerges from them. Second, the relationship between genes and proteins is characterized by explanatory loops or reciprocal explanatory dependence. The presence of proteins is explained by the transcription from corresponding DNA sequences, and the latter is in turn accounted for by the action of proteins. By contrast, a reductive account requires a unidirectional explanatory dependence.
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DOI 10.1080/02698590600960937
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