When you're an old fuddy-duddy like me you've lived through several revolutions in biology. I still remember when recombinant DNA technology was going to change the world. Then it was developmental biology and evo-devo. Along the way were told with a straight face that sequencing the human genome would cure cancer and everything else.
After a while it all got very boring. We put up with the hype on the grounds that it was good
I've gone way beyond being bored by this kind of nonsense. Now I'm angry—especially when it seems that those who are ignorant of history are doomed to misrepresent it. Here's the opening paragraph of a press release on Systems Biology [Systems Biology poised to revolutionize the understanding of cell function and disease]. It summarizes the contents of a report to the European Science Foundation.
Systems Biology is transforming the way scientists think about biology and disease. This novel approach to research could prompt a shake up in medical science and it might ultimately allow clinicians to predict and treat complex diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, cancer, and metabolic syndrome for which there are currently no cures.I wonder if they just reuse the reports from years past substituting "systems biology" for "genomics," or whatever the last cure for cancer was supposed to be? This kind of stupid motherhood hyperbole would be laughable if it wasn't for the fact that these people are deadly serious. That makes it pathetic.
Look what one of authors of the report has to say ...
Until recently, researchers tended to focus on identifying individual genes and proteins and pinpointing their role in the cell or the human body. But molecules almost never act alone. According to Lilia Alberghina from the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy: “There is a growing awareness in medical science that biological entities are ‘systems’ – collections of interacting parts."I suppose this depends on what you mean by "recently." If it's 40 years then maybe the statement might make some sense but even then it's a gross misrepresentation of the truth. Of course we isolated genes and proteins one-at-a-time but the goal was always to put them back together to make molecular machines. Does Lilia Alberghina really think that older scientists were completely unaware of the fact that biological entities are "systems"? I wonder if Alberghina is aware of metabolic pathways that were worked out half a century ago, or ribosomes, or DNA replication complexes, or muscle, or the complement system, or Drosophila embryogenesis, or any number of other systems that haven't just sprung into existence in the last few years.
Most scientist are already tired of these fads masquerading as revolution. I wonder how long it will be before the public and the politicians catch on?