Friday, March 17, 2006

Post Modern biology   posted by Razib @ 3/17/2006 02:21:00 PM

I have a post on Post Modern biology on my other weblog. I talked to David Miller of Radio Open Source about this topic on the phone. I basically told him using terms like "Post Modern" vs. "Modern" smacked to me more of marketing than substance. Of course, scientists have to eat and be famous too. I don't know much about the "controversy" here...I've known about epigenetics for a long time, and it seems like a viable and important field. Biology is a domain of knowledge where generalizations hold as expectations, and rivers sometimes do flow uphill.

Many people who read this weblog are in the biosciences, what do you think? Here is the abstract which prompted Miller contacting me:

Recent insights regarding stem cells, repression and de-repression of gene expression, and the application of Complexity Theory to cell and molecular biology require a re-evaluation of many long-held dogmas regarding the nature of the human body in health and disease. Greater than expected cell plasticity, trafficking of cells between organs, 'cellular uncertainty', stochasticity of cell origins and fates, and a reconsideration of Cell Doctrine itself all logically follow from these observations and conceptual approaches. In this paper, these themes will be considered and some implications for the investigative pathologist will be explored.

First, is "stochasticity" news to anyone here? Population genetics is constructed on the null ground of stochasticity. I don't think that terms like "Cell Doctrine" or "Central Dogma" have the same import for scientists that terms like doctrine or dogma have in the non-scientific domain (I have read that Francis Crick regretted the use of the term "dogma," and wouldn't have offered it if he was as cognizant of the nuances and assocations it evoked). To me, it is kind of like Richard Dawkins use of the term "selfish" in a genocentric paradigm, the word itself caused a great deal of confusion outside of evolution and genetics, and Dawkins had to devote several lectures in the late 1970s and early 1980s clearing up the semantic problems. I don't think the science is becoming Post Modern, as that people continue to be Post Modern in how words can confuse rather than clear up.