Re: preposterous

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Thu Apr 05 2001 - 19:22:18 EDT

  • Next message: Jonathan Clarke: "Re: preposterous"

    Careful of tautology here: defining the big things in biology as that done by
    physicists :-).

    To be honest I was not aware on any contribution to biology by the two people
    you name, but doubtless that is my ignorance. Please enlighten me.

    Of course one could also mention Linnaeus, Harvey, Lister, Pasteur, Koch,
    Darwin, Wallace, Mendel, Diamond, Ayala, and Florey, none of whom were
    physicists (to my knowledge). Of course in the 20th century the field of
    biology is now so vast that it is impossible to keep track of who is who.


    Moorad Alexanian wrote:

    > I have always said that physics is the prototype of science and I do not
    > know of any reasonable argument against that. The proof of that is the
    > historical order in which the different sciences achieved maturity. Imagine
    > biology, historical biology, etc. without the experimental scientific method
    > developed by the likes of Kepler, Newton, Galileo, etc. By knowing what
    > science is, then we are in a position to know what it is not. For instance,
    > it is self-evident to me that the fundamental question of origins is not a
    > scientific question, the answer lies outside of science. It is foolish to
    > attempt to find a theory for it. I never said that other sciences cannot
    > teach physicists something new. But it is true that the people who did big
    > things in biology were physicists, viz., Schrodinger, Delbruck, etc.
    > Moorad
    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: george murphy <>
    > To: Jonathan Clarke <>
    > Cc: <>
    > Date: Thursday, April 05, 2001 9:40 AM
    > Subject: Re: preposterous
    > >Jonathan Clarke wrote:
    > >
    > >> Was it Rutheford who said that "Science consists of physics and stamp
    > >> collecting"? I think that attitude with its self righteous sense of
    > >> superiority to lesser mortals has permeated conciously or otherwise much
    > of
    > >> the culture of physicists. Certainly when I was an undergraduate I
    > >> encountered it and it was only partlyu tongue in cheek. This has been
    > >> reinforced by much of the popular work of the philosophy of science (e.g.
    > >> Popper and Kuhn) also being written from the perspective where physics
    > >> provided the norm and the illustrations. At least, that is how I
    > remember
    > >> them. If we are going to talk about philosophy of science I think we
    > need
    > >> to conciously distance ourselves from such views because they are so
    > >> ingrained.
    > >
    > >By way of throwing some petrol on the fire -
    > > There is some truth in the statement attributed to Rutherford. (&
    > if
    > >Rutherford didn't say this there is a nice substitute in a statement of
    > Bunsen:
    > >_Der Chemiker der kein Physiker ist ist gar nichts - "The chemist who is
    > not a
    > >physicist is nothing at all." Rutherford of course thought it a great joke
    > that
    > >he had gotten the Nobel Prize for - Chemistry!) Physics achieves a higher
    > >degree of precision and certainty in the areas in which its methods can be
    > >applied, and other sciences gain considerably when it becomes possible to
    > apply
    > >physical theories to them. The application of thermodynamics and quantum
    > >mechanics to chemistry is an obvious example.
    > > However -
    > > 1) The methods of physics _can't_ be adoped (at least with our
    > present
    > >or any forseeable state of understanding) as the _modus operandi_ of some
    > >sciences - e.g., evolutionary biology.
    > > 2) Physics has achieved so much success by working with
    > differential
    > >equations and "bottom-up causality" that we tend to forget that those
    > equations
    > >need boundary conditions (in space & in time), & such conditions bring in
    > >something like "top-down causality". The nature of living systems may be
    > related
    > >to this in crucial ways. This doesn't mean that they can never be
    > described in
    > >terms of physics, but the ways in which the necessary physics will have to
    > be
    > >formulated may be rather different from that of the present day.
    > > 3) The fact that physics does achieve a higher degree of precision
    > and
    > >certainty than other sciences doesn't mean that those other sciences can't
    > tell
    > >us anything at all or give us any confidence in their results. I think
    > that is
    > >the mistake Moorad has been making: Physics gives precise agreement
    > between
    > >theory and observation for many phenomena and historical geology and
    > evolutionary
    > >biology don't give as precise correlations for the phenomena they deal
    > with, so
    > >we can't place any reliance on the claims of the latter sciences. But that
    > just
    > >doesn't follow.
    > >
    > >Shalom,
    > >
    > >George
    > >
    > >George L. Murphy
    > >
    > >"The Science-Theology Interface"
    > >
    > >
    > >

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