chapter  6
8 Pages

Martinez J. Hewlett

What price reductionism?

At the start of the twenty-first century it is probably correct to say that we are at the pinnacle of the scientific program envisioned by the philosophers of the post-Enlightenment. When David Hume proposed that the material world be the strict domain of the scientist and that empiricism should be the approach to understanding that world, an experimental method that had begun with Galileo and had been refined by Newton and Bacon was embraced with fervor. The Cartesian dualism that inspired this separation of the material and non-material aspects of reality into different spheres of human inquiry clearly led, in a pragmatic sense, to the progress of modern experimental science. But how did the exclusion of the non-material or spiritual aspect from consideration by science lead to the denial of its existence that has become a hallmark of the current view? Is this denial a reasonable result of the scientific enterprise? I will argue that the philosophical stance of science in which the spiritual not only is excluded from investigation but is de facto deemed to be impossible stems from two features of the research program followed in the natural sciences: reductionism, and the replacement of classical causality with scientific causality. For purposes of this argument, examples will be taken mainly from the biological sciences.