Monday, April 09, 2007

Engineering the Brain into a Solar-Powered Calculator and Will Biology Ever Be a "Real" Science?

  • As a biologist I'm always jealous of physicists, what with the Feynmanian mathematical certainty and Einsteinian grandeur that they wield in their quest to explain the universe. We biologists are are less self-confident bunch, tempered (and tortured) by lives predominated by experimental failures within the lab. Will biology ever join chemistry and physics as a so-called "capital-S Science", with a set of its own all-powerful, generalized and quantitative Laws? (Not to be confused with The Ten Commandments...) MIT biological historian Evelyn Fox Keller argues that biology may never see its Moses descend from the mountain. Instead, she suggests in this Nature essay, that biology is special, and the exceptions more important than the rule. Enquist and Stark, in this response, are more optimistic about the prospects for a quantitative Biology with all-encompassing Laws. Maybe there's hope for biology after all, and there will come a day when we can make predictions that even a VC investor would take to the bank.