Rose on Biology/Determinism: BBS Call for Book Reviewers

Stevan Harnad harnad at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Thu Sep 10 10:42:46 EST 1998

Reply-to: bbs at

    Below is the abstract of the Precis of a book that will shortly be
    circulated for Multiple Book Review in Behavioral and Brain
    Sciences (BBS):

	by Steven Rose
BBS is an international, interdisciplinary journal providing Open Peer
Commentary on important and controversial current research in the
biobehavioral and cognitive sciences.

Reviewers must be BBS Associates or nominated by a BBS Associate. To
be considered as a reviewer for this book, to suggest other
appropriate reviewers, or for information about how to become a BBS
Associate, please send EMAIL to:

    bbs at

      or write to:
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences
    Department of Psychology
    University of Southampton
    Highfield, Southampton

If you are not a BBS Associate, please send your CV and the name of a
BBS Associate (there are currently over 10,000 worldwide) who is
familiar with your work. All past BBS authors, referees and commentators
are eligible to become BBS Associates.

To help us put together a balanced list of commentators, please give
some indication of the aspects of the topic on which you would bring
your areas of expertise to bear if you were selected as a commentator.
An electronic draft of the full text is available for inspection
with a WWW browser, anonymous ftp or gopher according to the
instructions that follow after the abstract.

Please note that it is the book, not the Precis, that is to be reviewed.
It would be helpful if you indicated in your reply whether you already
have the book or would require a copy.


			Steven Rose 
			Professor of Biology and Director of the Brain 
			and	Behaviour Research Group 
			Open University 
			Milton Keynes MK7 6AA
			s.p.r.rose at

	KEYWORDS: Neurogenetics, Homeodynamics; evolutionary theory,
	reductionism, ultra-Darwinism, autopoiesis; Metabolic webs,
	self-organisation; developmental trajectories; Human behaviour

	ABSTRACT:  There are many ways of describing and explaining the
	properties of living systems; causal, functional and reductive
	accounts are all necessary, but no one has primacy. The history
	of biology as a discipline has given excessive authority to
	reductionism, which collapses higher level accounts, such as
	social or behavioural, into molecular ones. Such reductionism
	becomes crudely ideological when applied to the human condition
	with its claims for genes 'for' everything from sexual
	orientation to compulsive shopping. The current enthusiasm for
	genetic and ultraDarwinist accounts,  with their selfish gene
	metaphors for living processes misunderstand both the phenomena
	of development and the interactive role that DNA and the fluid
	genome play in the cellular orchestra. DNA is not a blueprint,
	and the four dimensions of life (three of space, one of time)
	cannot be read off from its one-dimensional strand. Both
	developmental and evolutionary processes are more than merely
	instructive or selective; the organism constructs itself, a
	process known as autopoiesis, through a lifeline trajectory.
	Because organisms are thermodynamically open systems, living
	processes are homeodynamic, not homeostatic. The self-organising
	membrane-bound and energy-utilising metabolic web of the cell
	must have evolved prior to so-called naked replicators.
	Evolution is constrained by physics, chemistry and structure;
	not all change is powered by natural selection, and not all
	phenotypes are adaptive. Finally, therefore, living processes
	are radically indeterminate; we, like but to an even greater
	degree than all other living organisms, make our own future,
	though in circumstances not of our own choosing.

To help you decide whether you would be an appropriate commentator for
this article, an electronic draft is retrievable from the World Wide
Web or by anonymous ftp or gopher from the US or UK BBS Archive.
Ftp instructions follow below. Please do not prepare a commentary on
this draft. Just let us know, after having inspected it, what relevant
expertise you feel you would bring to bear on what aspect of the

The URLs you can use to get to the BBS Archive:

To retrieve a file by ftp from an Internet site, type either:
   When you are asked for your login, type:
   Enter password as queried (your password is your actual userid:
   yourlogin at yourhost.whatever.whatever - be sure to include the "@")
cd /pub/harnad/BBS
   To show the available files, type:
   Next, retrieve the file you want with (for example):
get bbs.rose
   When you have the file(s) you want, type:

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