Modern biology has had much to say about the fundamental constitution of living things, including humans, and a good deal of it has been strongly reductionistic. If we leave aside the attempts of the logical empiricists to find logical relations of the appropriate sort between propositions—e.g. between the propositions of classical Mendelian genetics and those of modern biochemical genetics—then it seems that roughly two kinds of ontological reductionism have occupied thinkers in this area. On the one hand there are what we may generically refer to as naked ape types of theory and, on the other, there is the view of biochemists, such as Jacques Monod (1974), that organisms (including humans) are nothing more than collections of molecules in certain complex relationships. Here the difference between the two kinds of theory appears as a difference in the level of explanation, taking this as relative to ordinary, everyday descriptions of the world. Naked ape types of theory, including behaviouristic, socio-biological, etc. theories, remain close to everyday descriptions—it is just that one commonly noticed piece of behaviour is explained away as really being some other commonly noticed piece of behaviour as when it may be said that love is but lust with a fancy name. With the molecular biologists the world they describe seems quite different from the one that, in our non-speculative moments, we seem to inhabit. Colours, sounds, familiar objects all vanish.
If, for the time being, we accept this rough distinction between the two kinds of reductionist explanation, then we may notice that theories of the naked ape type—which try to pick on a few things to explain everything (both the few and the many things coming, in the first instance, from the level of the macroscopic)—are open to the sort of objection Robert Boyle used against the ‘chymists’ of his time. In the