Darwin said there is no Theoretical Biology versus Theoretical Physics

S. LaBonne labonnes at csc.albany.edu
Wed Aug 2 15:11:23 EST 1995


In article <3vo79c$cfb at newsbf02.news.aol.com>,
HPYockey <hpyockey at aol.com> wrote:

>Experimental molecular biologists are justified in demanding results they
>can use rather than philosophy of biology.

OK, then tell us some such results that we'll find in your book; I
don't have time to read things unless I have reason to believe I'll
learn something useful, so constantly repeating "read my book" is
unlikely to have the desired effect.  The coding example is not
promising, I'm afraid, since (as Keith Robison has pointed out) the
theory you sketched is flatly inconsistent with the phylogenetic
evidence.  (If you don't think so, may we see your argument to the
contrary, please?) Can you give us other specific examples of your
information-theoretical conclusions, of interest to a working
molecular biologist, which _are_ consistent with available empirical
evidence?  

It would also be reassuring if you showed some evidence of
understanding Sean Eddy's point: that (as I have heard his
Ph.D. mentor Larry Gold put it) living organisms are Rube Goldberg
contraptions put together by evolutionary "tinkering"; thus, specific
biological problems (eg.  "coding") are almost never solved in the
straightforward, rational way in which an engineer would solve them.
As a result, only experiment and observation can tell us how things
_actually_ work.  Look at the incredible dog's breakfast of the
eukaryotic transcription apparatus- before it was accessible to study,
could anyone possibly have anticipated its baroque complexity?  Your
quotations from Darwin about chemistry and physics are very nice, no
doubt, but they are comprehensively irrelevant to this point.  This
Rube Goldberg character of living organisms, derived from the
contingencies of evolutionary history rather than from rational
"design", is what makes biology _very_ different from physics, where
many properties of the physical world can be deduced logically from a
limited number of basic principles.
-- 
Steve LaBonne ******************* (labonnes at cnsunix.albany.edu)
"It can never be satisfied, the mind, never." - Wallace Stevens



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