Blake Borgeson, in blog form

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Archive for the ‘biology’ Category

Towards completely understanding human biology

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Human genome at ten: Life is complicated

The above links to an awesome brief overview in Nature News of where we stand in reaching for that goal.

I like Davidson’s (of Caltech) summary best:

Biology is entering a period where the science can be underlaid by explanatory and predictive principles, rather than little bits of causality swimming in a sea of phenomenology.

Davidson has been using systems biology to work towards a pretty complete understanding of the developmental system of the sea urchin’s skeleton, which is pretty complex.

There are many in the article voicing the basic opinion that biology just gets more complicated the more you study it, and the more we learn the farther we seem from a complete understanding.  My opinion is that we’re understanding more and more, and quickly progressing towards being able to significantly interfere with human diseases and alter our own biology in positive ways.  When you set a bar like that, measuring progress actually becomes more tractable.

In particular, I especially love the bit from Schekman of Berkeley, who shares my views about there being 2 kinds of scientists regarding the kinds of predictions and prognostications they make:

I’ve seen enough scientists to know that some people are simplifiers and others are dividers.

I agree completely.  Some just like for things to stay complicated, and resist accepting any simplifying explanations.  These “dividers” (though that’s a bit of a harsh word) are in it for the exploration and the mystery and the thrill of discovery.  Others, the “simplifiers”, think in terms of forward progress in gaining knowledge that we can put to use in solving problems.  You can immediately tell most scientists’ bent by talking to them about some pretty poorly-understood issue in any field, like say how memories form at a neuronal level—some focus on what we know and are learning, others on what we don’t know and still seems “beyond us”.

Written by blakeweb

March 31, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Posted in biology