Arrogance of physicists (towards biology)

Reading a post by Larry Moran on Sandwalk, in which he “ridicules the enthusiasm James Shapiro expresses in his book ‘Evolution: A View from the 21st Century’ for physicists coming into evolutionary studies and bringing new skills and new ideas” (this is according to Shapiro), I remembered about an article I read recently (see below).

This is part of what Moran wrote:

Why don’t I move to physics and solve their problems? I’ve got all the proper qualifications, “lacking a formal education,” “less prejudicial background,” and I haven’t been taught to exclude impossible things. I bet I could convince half a dozen of my biologist colleagues to abandon the difficult problems of biology in order to help the physicists. It shouldn’t take more than a few years.

We need a name for this discovery, let’s call it The Shapiro Conjecture.

Meanwhile, I welcome all those physicists who know nothing about evolution, protein structure, genetics, physiology, metabolism, and ecology. That’s just what we need in the biological sciences to go along with all the contributions made by equally ignorant creationists.

This is one of the comments on that post:

The best ones don’t do this, but it is fairly common for mathematicians and physicists to waltz into biology convinced that their powerful mathematical techniques will be unknown there, and that they can revolutionize computational biology, to universal applause.


Anyway, this is from the book “A Random Walk in Science“, which was brought back to my mind while reading Moran’s post:


  1. The importance of being careful | Oligotropos

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