From: Scott Chase (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed 11 Jun 2003 - 16:27:39 GMT
>From: "Reed Konsler" <email@example.com>
>Subject: Morphogenic Fields
>Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2003 10:22:47 -0400
>"Okay. And what determines the "homologous pathways of development?"
>or fields? Whatever answers researchers come up with cannot help but be
>provisional. Every answer merely moves the question back a step.
>Ultimately, the information is either particulate or holistic. Ontogenesis
>is either bottom-up or top-down. Since biochemists are no closer than they
>were forty years ago to providing a detailed picture of how genes build
>bodies, there's no reason not to explore other possibilities. Indeed, this
>is the general trend of contemporary biology."
>First: "...are no closer..."? I'm not going to argue with you about your
>opinion, but there are conferences full of molecular biologists that have
>the impression that they know more than they did forty years ago.
>Second: When I was an undergraduate at University of Michigan and a
>chemistry grad student at Harvard, many of my collaborators were in the
>Biology department. If you look online, the Bio faculty at both
>universities are skewed dramatically in favor of biochemistry and genetics.
>Both schools had problems enrolling students in organismic biology and
>finding faculty to teach those courses. High school biology classes teach
>some ecology, a lot of cell biology, biochemistry, evolution and genetics
>and no organismic bio or comparative anatomy. AP Bio exams tend to short
>the ecology part.
>Anyway, it is my experience that "contemporary biology" is shifting, as a
>general trend, further in the direction of the "bottom-up" biochemical
>approach. Perhaps that is a bad thing. I suppose you could argue that all
>these scientists are being mislead by successful applications, million
>dollar research grants, and professional prestige.
>[shrug] There is a reason not to explore other possibilities. The money,
>the power, and the glory is in biotechnology, not morphic resonance. Until
>that shifts, the paradigm won't.
Eschewing morphic resonance, for the sake of not getting into that bugbear of mine, I would consider organismic biology and ecology and important endeavors not to be thrown away in favor of molecular biology. As an undergrad taking classes in ecology and vertebrate zoology and doing field work for several summers on gopher tortoises and sea turtles, my biases are with organismic biology and ecology, and I tended to snicker at the whining pre-med students who hated getting sweaty, dirty and their feet wet, when they'd rather be counting fruitflies and running gels in an air-conditioned lab (yeah right!). I also benefitted greatly from taking a comparative anatomy course which happened to be more difficult than the human anatomy course, though I'm glad I took the human anatomy course beforehand and had experience dissecting cats.
Plus, ecological and conservation geared research has benefitted from
molecular biology as one can do DNA sampling on populations and also in some
cases learn more about how disease states in animals of special concern to
conservationists may result from various viruses.
Molecular bilogy should augment, not replace, traditional approaches. My
guess is that molecular departments tend to be biased towards human biology
or the biology of a core set of model organisms (fruitflies, mice, and
zebrafish) that may help them understand human problems.
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