Is Biology the Misunderstood Science?

  • Thread starter BillTre
  • Start date
  • Tags
    Biology
In summary, biology is a complex and difficult field that is still evolving. It is full of surprises, and scientists are constantly trying to figure out how everything works.
  • #1
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,499
9,841
If mathematics is the queen of the sciences because it can be applied in so many different situations.
And physics is the king of the sciences because its rules underlie everything in other fields,
Then biology is:
  • a nightmare of complexity (many, way too complicated to calculate situations)
  • a randy offspring (biology being reproductive)
Looking for better comparisons.
Do you have?

Something involving agency might be good.
 
Biology news on Phys.org
  • #2
Well, two ideas (might need some more talent to express them right):
- the science which stares/studies back👀
- which bites🐍
 
  • Like
Likes BWV, BillTre and berkeman
  • #3
A special sort of chemistry

I am trying to pair that with something regarding inheritance but cannot think of anything.
Nothing pithy anyway.
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre
  • #4
Rive said:
- the science which stares/studies back👀
Works...
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre
  • #5
I always wonder about the many fairytales archeologists tell of how ancient societies worked: what they worshipped, whom they sacrificed, how they considered their rulers, or what their taboos had been. I cannot help to think that one has to have a special kind of fantasy to claim those things as given truths with only minor evidence at best.

The same feeling comes up when I look at the classification scheme in biology. It mostly originated in the pre-DNA era, i.e. determined by whatever?! Procyonidae is a good example. It gathers what I think cannot be related. Hence my proposal:

Drawer Roulette.
 
  • Haha
Likes BillTre and pinball1970
  • #6
fresh_42 said:
I always wonder about the many fairytales archeologists tell of how ancient societies worked: what they worshipped, whom they sacrificed, how they considered their rulers, or what their taboos had been. I cannot help to think that one has to have a special kind of fantasy to claim those things as given truths with only minor evidence at best.
Hair stylist becomes archeologist:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Stephens
 
  • Wow
Likes BillTre
  • #7
BillTre said:
Something involving agency might be good.
Sorry, what does that mean?

BillTre said:
Then biology is:
"The Blue Marble"
1659369015416.png

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo...s-most-amazing-high-def-image-of-earth-so-far
 
  • #8
fresh_42 said:
I always wonder about the many fairytales archeologists tell of how ancient societies worked: what they worshipped, whom they sacrificed, how they considered their rulers, or what their taboos had been. I cannot help to think that one has to have a special kind of fantasy to claim those things as given truths with only minor evidence at best.

The same feeling comes up when I look at the classification scheme in biology. It mostly originated in the pre-DNA era, i.e. determined by whatever?! Procyonidae is a good example. It gathers what I think cannot be related. Hence my proposal:

Drawer Roulette.
A tad harsh.
Archaeology in the words of Bart Ehrman the world famous scholar, 'cannot interpret itself.'

Someone had to start guessing the things they found. Now the discipline is very sophisticated (check out time team - they use Geophysics!)

Re: Biology.

A lot of the archaic schemes that started a few hundred years ago stuck. You must have a few in maths.
DNA technology re-wrote a lot of the evolutionary relationships in biology agreed.

I have always liked the Latin binomial nomenclature.

One of my favourites and easy to remember? Rattus rattus.

There is a quote from a Scientist that said, physics is the only true Science all the rest is just stamp collecting. Or something like that.
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre
  • #9
Slightly tangential, but I recall hearing that organic chemistry is the study of carbon compounds and biochemistry is the study of carbon compounds that crawl. Not sure if you can make anything out of that about biology in general...
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre
  • #10
berkeman said:
Sorry, what does that mean?
Agency (to me, WRT biology) refers to the ability of biological things to make the self-serving decisions that provide them with self-sufficiency in the environment they evolved in. It is not referring to how the word agency is used in medicine. Its a system or process capable of doing computations (like software or cybernetics).
These amount to cybernetic decisions of the operating chemical system, made for its own benefit.

fresh_42 said:
the classification scheme in biology. It mostly originated in the pre-DNA era, i.e. determined by whatever?! Procyonidae is a good example. It gathers what I think cannot be related.
Its determined by detailed comparisons of similarity and differences among organisms.
Cladistics, in general can provide a good introduction to this more modern, but now somewhat dated approach.
Although "It mostly originated in the pre-DNA era", much of it has been corroborated by DNA comparisons, which are basically the same kind of comparisons, by on comparisons among a much larger group of traits (billions of base pairs in some cases, way more than were used before). The comparisons are now performed by computers (instead of comparing by hand) to deal with the large numbers. This also makes the process less reliant on preconceived concepts.

Difficulties with cladistics include some of the more recently recognized biological processes like hybridization and horizontal gene transfers. These mess up the nice tree-like structures of relationships that ha come to be expected.

Interestingly, similar comparisons were generated by the older, pre-Darwinian biological taxonomies (which thought to be due the hand of God or something). The evolutionary explanation did not really change much of the taxaonomies at the time.
 
  • #11
pinball1970 said:
Someone had to start guessing the things they found. Now the discipline is very sophisticated (check out time team - they use Geophysics!)
An example of this would be Stonehenge. The stones are from somewhere in Wales. But I haven't heard a satisfactory explanation why someone would want to transport them to a place so far away. Why didn't they build it in Wales in the first place? Or otherwise, use locally available material instead? So are they really from Wales? How certain is that? Guesses over guesses wherever you look.

Biology is probably stuck somewhere in between (optical similarities versus DNA distances) with its classification, and the naming and sorting are only a small part of the science as a whole. I loved the "Stares Back" name. We are still considering ourselves special. I truly believe future biologists will consider this an ancient point of view. Maybe "Science of Metabolism" would be a good name, or to remain in the initial picture: The stomach of science.
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre
  • #12
Rive said:
- the science which stares/studies back👀
- which bites🐍
Ibix said:
biochemistry is the study of carbon compounds that crawl
To me these sound like behavioral processes that could be lumped into the agency bucket. A system has to observe its environment and respond appropriately to be successful.

pinball1970 said:
all the rest is just stamp collecting
The was Rutherford. To me, its just providing a reason to give up in the face of biological (or other kinds of) complexity rather than dealing with the issues.
 
  • #13
BillTre said:
A system has to observe its environment and respond appropriately to be successful.
You just dismissed homo sapiens.
 
  • Haha
Likes Rive, Ibix and berkeman
  • #14
Most (perhaps all?) of the posts just seem to me to be attempts at humor. I will make an attempt at seriousness.
With respect to this reference, does anyone have a serious comment about its contents?
 
  • #15
Buzz Bloom said:
Most (perhaps all?) of the posts just seem to me to be attempts at humor. I will make an attempt at seriousness.
With respect to the reference, does anyone have a serious comment about its contents?
Not true. Bio Logy is the science of Life. Now, what exactly is life? I think the only way to define it is by metabolism in some form. Hence my suggestion:
fresh_42 said:
"Science of Metabolism".
The initial picture was a comparison of sciences to human bodies. Therefore my suggestion
fresh_42 said:
The stomach of science.
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre
  • #16
Hi @fresh_42:

Your question: "Now, what exactly is life?"
Wikipedia limits life to cells, so viruses are not included.

Your statement is unclear to me: "The initial picture was a comparison of sciences to human bodies."
Can you explain the "initial picture" in some detail? Is it intended to be part of biology? Or was it just a comment regarding a comparison between "sciences" and "human bodies". Now it seems obvious that human bodies are in the category "living things", so perhaps you were suggesting a metaphor that the sciences are metaphorically living things. However, even if this is an understandable metaphor, it seems (metaphorically) miles away from explaining what the science of biology is.

Regards,
Buzz
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre
  • #17
Buzz Bloom said:
Hi @fresh_42:

Your question: "Now, what exactly is life?"
Wikipedia limits life to cells, so viruses are not included.

Your statement is unclear to me: "The initial picture was a comparison of sciences to human bodies."
Can you explain the "initial picture" in some detail? Is it intended to be part of biology? Or was it just a comment regarding a comparison between "sciences" and "human bodies". Now it seems obvious that human bodies are in the category "living things", so perhaps you were suggesting a metaphor that the sciences are metaphorically living things. However, even if this is an understandable metaphor, it seems (metaphorically) miles away from explaining what the science of biology is.

Regards,
Buzz
Not so complicated.

Mathematics = Queen of Science
Physics = King of Science
Biology = ?

It makes little sense to plunder further royal roles or other noble titles. So I reduced the comparison to human bodies rather than royal roles, leaving biology with the stomach.

It is hard to define "life" and literally libraries are filled with this subject. I think the reduction to metabolism is the least common property of all life. The German word fits even better: Stoffwechsel = changing matter. Life changes some things to other things. Viruses are borderline under that aspect, but they are borderline under every other aspect, too. Cell division would be another possibility. However, that would discriminate slimy.

1659380556976.jpeg
 
  • #18
fresh_42 said:
Not true. Bio Logy is the science of Life. Now, what exactly is life? I think the only way to define it is by metabolism in some form.
Metabolism is the motor that drives biology biochemically. Required for function, so good.
I like the stomach reference.

There are plenty of other "definitions" however. Its a never ending discussion.

Buzz Bloom said:
Wikipedia limits life to cells, so viruses are not included.
Cells are often part of life definitions.
Some only consider viruses alive when they are in a cell parasitizing its metabolic mechanisms. It this way viruses could be considered cellularized temporarily.
A lot comes with cells, including the potential for a unified control structure that can be selected if it successfully develops a useful form of agency.

fresh_42 said:
You just dismissed homo sapiens.
Not all of them.
 
  • Like
Likes collinsmark
  • #19
BillTre said:
Not all of them.
Negligible.
 
  • #20
fresh_42 said:
It makes little sense to plunder further royal roles or other noble titles. So I reduced the comparison to human bodies rather than royal roles, leaving biology with the stomach.
I like the idea of royal or noble roles, the Prince of Complexity or something.

The stomach thing is nice.
However, metabolism has several parts: eating, chemically processing food for nutrients and usable chemical energy for the cell, making the necessary replacement parts to keep things going (this involves autopoietic systems).
 
  • #21
Buzz Bloom said:
Most (perhaps all?) of the posts just seem to me to be attempts at humor. I will make an attempt at seriousness.
With respect to this reference, does anyone have a serious comment about its contents?
Absolutely serious, my first love. What is life? Good enough for a physicist? Good enough for me.
 
  • #22
Biology is the scientific study of life.

I get that the understanding of life has changed a great deal over the centuries. So what? So has Physics and Astronomy.
For some people, making jokes about the changes over time seems quite amusing.

Note: The processes of the functions of viruses are much different than the processes of functions of cellular life. I am not sure of this, but it seems reasonable that most scientists who research about cells and/or cellular creatures, and not the same as those who research viruses.
 
  • #23
BillTre said:
I like the idea of royal or noble roles, the Prince of Complexity or something.
Or chess pieces. Complexity is ambiguous. I would call biology and chemistry the bishops of the game. Both are pretty complex, so we need another characteristic. I'm still with the idea of changing matter because that is what it does. So my proposal would be Bishop of Matter (chemistry) and Bishop of Changes (biology).

And now, let us talk about the knights.
 
  • Haha
  • Like
Likes pinball1970 and BillTre
  • #24
Perhaps some form of schizophrenia thing.
I think of biology as having important components involved with: metabolism, inheritance (of traits), and grouped aspects (to be indivduated) like contents of a cell, resulting in a selectable unit and that can evolve control mechanisms.
 
  • #25
Well, Change gets it. It is the most important thing about evolution: nothing remains as it is. Some evolve fast, some slow, but the fixed points become extinct.

And behind my idea about chess pieces lures the slogan "Rook of Rock" for geology. :cool:
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre
  • #26
A bit of Wiki research has led me to understand the nomenclature regarding the distinction between cellular life and viruses.

Virology is the scientific study of biological viruses. It is a subfield of microbiology that focuses on their detection, structure, classification and evolution, their methods of infection and exploitation of host cells for reproduction, their interaction with host organism physiology and immunity, the diseases they cause, the techniques to isolate and culture them, and their use in research and therapy

Microbiology is a sub-field of biology.
Microbiology is the scientific study of microorganisms, those being unicellular (single cell), multicellular (cell colony), or acellular (lacking cells). Microbiology encompasses numerous sub-disciplines including virology, bacteriology, protistology, mycology, immunology, and parasitology.
 
  • Like
Likes Klystron and BillTre
  • #27
Maybe I should re-watch Game of Thrones.
As I recall, they had some good titles.
 
  • #28
if biology is just complicated chemistry and chemistry is complicated physics, then biology is
complicated2 physics

if we were smarter, we could be maybe discuss the wave function of the pizza I ate for lunch getting digested, then the wave function of me thinking about the wave function of the pizza I ate ...
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre
  • #29
fresh_42 said:
Mathematics = Queen of Science
Physics = King of Science
Biology = ?
"Joker."
 
  • Like
  • Haha
Likes Laroxe, Klystron, fresh_42 and 1 other person
  • #30
Bystander said:
"Joker."
You mean, with maybe the exception of sharks and horseshoe crabs, all biology is part of the Straight Flush?
 
  • Like
Likes Bystander
  • #31
This thread has gone west.

Biology means something.

It is sets of complicated and integrated yet competing sets of systems that can sustain themselves under certain conditions and can pass that complexity on into the future with modification.
 
  • Like
Likes BillTre
  • #32
Bystander said:
"Joker."
or Court Jester.

Also reminds me of one of my favorite songs; Dylan's long, very complex ballad, modeled on playing cards: Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
 
  • #33
pinball1970 said:
Biology means something.
Yes, it literally means the science of life. But neither was this the question nor can it be defined shorter than that at all. The question was
BillTre said:
If mathematics is the queen of the sciences because it can be applied in so many different situations.
And physics is the king of the sciences because its rules underlie everything in other fields,
Then biology is: ...
which cannot sufficiently cover the complexity of any science in general and biology in particular. So all that remains is, whether a certain slogan is appropriate or not. Any slogan is an impermissible reduction.
 

Related to Is Biology the Misunderstood Science?

1. What is biology?

Biology is the study of living organisms and their interactions with each other and their environment. It encompasses a wide range of topics, from the structure and function of cells to the behavior and evolution of species.

2. Why is biology considered a misunderstood science?

Biology is often misunderstood because it is a complex and constantly evolving field. Many people have misconceptions about certain aspects of biology, such as evolution or genetics, which can lead to misunderstandings about the science as a whole.

3. How does biology impact our daily lives?

Biology has a significant impact on our daily lives in many ways. It helps us understand and improve our health, food production, and the environment. It also plays a role in technology and innovation, such as in the development of new medicines and biotechnology.

4. What are some common misconceptions about biology?

Some common misconceptions about biology include the belief that evolution is "just a theory" or that all genetically modified organisms are harmful. Another misconception is that all bacteria are harmful, when in fact, many are beneficial for our health and the environment.

5. How can we better understand biology?

To better understand biology, it is important to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to learn. It can also be helpful to seek out reliable sources of information, such as scientific journals or reputable websites. Engaging in hands-on activities, such as conducting experiments or observing nature, can also deepen our understanding of biology.

Similar threads

  • Biology and Medical
Replies
15
Views
2K
  • Biology and Medical
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • Biology and Medical
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • Biology and Medical
Replies
1
Views
1K
Replies
6
Views
5K
  • Biology and Medical
Replies
8
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
24
Views
5K
Replies
29
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
532
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
7
Views
919
Back
Top