genetic code & mutation rates

Ed Rybicki ED at molbiol.uct.ac.za
Mon Jul 31 07:59:59 EST 1995


> From:          eddy at wol.wustl.edu (Sean Eddy)
> Subject:       Re: genetic code & mutation rates

> In article <3vauce$obv at newsbf02.news.aol.com> hpyockey at aol.com (HPYockey) writes:
>   >Theoretical biology should follow theoretical physics. 
> 
> With respect, I couldn't disagree more.

And I couldn't agree more!

> Theoretical physics has made such tremendous strides because, in
> physics, simplicity is truth. In biology, simplicity is rarely
> truth. Occam's razor need not apply to a biological system that has
> been mightily lifted from the ooze by three billion years of
> evolutionary tinkering.
> 
> In my opinion, much harm has been done to "theoretical biology" by
> physicists who are unwilling to know how complex their favorite
> biological problem really is.  (Present company excepted, I hope.)

Hear, hear.  I have arguments with theoretical physicists in which it 
has quickly become apparent that they regard the complexity of the 
Universe as being the sum of its elementary particles...with not much 
thought as to the interactions between them.  The one I had the most 
sense from was amazed when he finally realised just what 
combinatorial possibilities there were inherent in strings of 4 
bases, let alone in long strings of 20 amino acids, or in the 
combinations of different polypeptides.  In biology there is still no 
substitute for experiment: so many of the systems are simply not 
amenable to theory.  A simple example is tobacco mosaic virus: only 4 
genes, but the consequences of changing a single base in any of them 
cannot be accurately foreseen in terms of effects of the phenotype.

 ______________________________________________________
 |     Ed Rybicki, PhD      |  ed at molbiol.uct.ac.za   |
 |    Dept Microbiology     | University of Cape Town |
 | Private Bag, Rondebosch  |   7700, South Africa    |
 |   fax: x27-21-650 4023   | phone: x27-21-650-3265  |
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"And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you"



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