Mol Evol and Mol Biol dilemma

John Demboski ftjrd at aurora.alaska.edu
Wed Jan 15 19:48:08 EST 1997

      I would like people's opinions/comments/thoughts on the relationship
between molecular evolution and molecular biology.

    Let me explain.  I am a grad student in a biochemistry and molecular
biology program.  Although there are several faculty (including my advisor)
engaged in molecular evolutionary research projects (systematics, etc) in
the program, there is a continuing debate as to whether molecular evolution
studies (using DNA sequence data for example) can rightfully be called
"molecular biology".  Most of this lack of understanding comes from the
"old school" faculty who do not realize the leaps and bounds this field has
made in the last 20 years. 

Some of the comments from faculty that have been made are:

"Evolution is an esoteric field"   (My favorite)

"Molecular evolution is just using the tools of molecular biology but is
not really molecular biology"  (This is the major criticism)

"Molecular evolution belongs in the realm of biology, not biochemistry or
molecular biology"   (????)

"Studies beyond the gene or protein are beyond the realm of biochemistry or
molecular biology"   (in other words if it is not addressed in Stryer it's
not biochemically related - species, populations, etc.)

   Maybe it is just the program I am in, but i never realized there was
such a rift between the various disciplines.  To me, there is so much
overlap, I don't know how you can dismiss one or the other and draw such
sharp boundaries between them.   
      I would be interested in your thoughts or suggestions on how to
address this.  Anybody else out there have the same problem?

John Demboski
University of Alaska Fairbanks

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