PLoS Biology 5:181-183 (2007)
The world is an untidy place, and the sciences—all of them—reflect this. One source of this untidiness is the relationship between levels of organization. Reducing macrolevels to microlevels—explaining the former in terms of the latter—has met with successes but has never been the whole story. In the biological sciences, there has been much attention lately to the shortcomings of reductionism on the grounds that (i) it changes the subject rather than explaining, (ii) it leads to a myopically molecular view of the biological world, and (iii) the behavior or behaviors of complex systems are often very poorly predicted based solely on their microproperties. It is just for these reasons that biologists of many stripes have called for a move away from reductionism and toward a new kind of biology for the 21st century. But what shape might this new biology take?
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