By Ernst Mayr
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Extra resources for What Makes Biology Unique?
Leipzig: Quelle und Meyer. Kitcher, P. 1984. 1953 and all that. Philosophical Reviews, 93:335–373. Mayr, E. 1959. Darwin and the evolutionary theory in biology. In Evolution and Anthropology. A Centennial, B. J. ). Washington, DC: Anthropological Society of America, pp. 1–10. Mayr, E. 1996. The autonomy of biology: The position of biology among the sciences. Quarterly Review of Biology, 71:97–106. Mayr, E. 2002. Die Autonomie der Biologie [German version]. Sitzungs Berichte der Gesellschaft Naturforschen der Freunde (21 Jan.
An analysis contributes nearly always to a better understanding of these systems, even though reduction in the strict sense of the word is impossible (chapter 4). Biological systems are open systems; the principles of entropy therefore are not applicable. Owing to their complexity, biological systems are richly endowed with capacities such as reproduction, metabolism, replication, regulation, adaptedness, growth, and hierarchical organization. Nothing of the sort exists in the inanimate world. Another biology-specific concept is that of evolution.
At the first step variation is produced by mutation, recombination, and environmental effects, and at the second step the varying phenotypes are sorted by selection. Of course, during sexual selection real selection takes place. Natural selection is the driving force of organic evolution and represents a process quite unknown in inanimate nature. This process enabled Darwin to explain the “design” so important in the arguments of the natural theologians. The fact that all organisms are seemingly so perfectly adapted to each other and to their environment was attributed by the natural theologians to God’s perfect design.
What Makes Biology Unique? by Ernst Mayr