Theory in biology

T80SMS1 at NIU.bitnet T80SMS1 at NIU.bitnet
Fri Dec 13 17:33:00 EST 1991

From: Sam Scheiner

>David Steffen <steffen at MBIR.BCM.TMC.EDU> writes:

>  When I think about it, my experience is that biologists talk about
>techniques more than theories by at least 10:1.  The reason for this
>is that in biology, theories are easy, experiments are hard.

The big problem with most of biology is too much data chasing
(or not chasing) too few ideas.  Just to insult two particular
groups :-), look at most of molecular biology and ecology.
In the former we have people cranking out DNA sequences for
no more reason than they have a probe for it.  The proposal
to sequence the entire human genome is the ultimate in this
folly.  Ecologists have been decrying the lack of any central
theoretical underpinnings of their discipline for decades.
The result is that most ecological studies are one more
description of some particular species or system.  How often
do you read a paper in either field that starts out, "In
order to test theory X we did..."?

Have a (pick one or more) (Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas,
                           Joyful Solstice)!

* Samuel M. Scheiner                 +                            *
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