Currently another wave of physical scientists is entering the life sciences. They bring with them a much-needed and fruitful sophistication in observation at the micro level, in mathematical formulation of results, and in computational methods of data analysis. Physicists-turned-biologists have an additional advantage of lacking a formal education in the life sciences; consequently, they have not been taught to exclude from their thinking notions previously concluded to be "impossible." We can only hope that their less prejudiced backgrounds will make it easier for them to develop novel conceptual frameworks to complement the analytical and experimental techniques they are introducing.This insightful observation has great potential beyond solving the major problems in the biological sciences and I wonder if Shapiro fully appreciates the implications.
I have no formal training in physics. I haven't the foggiest idea what quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is all about, beyond what I can read on Wikipedia. I don't have a firm grasp of general relativity and my math skills are very weak.
However, I understand that physics is grappling with unified field theory and that string theory is going nowhere. I've heard rumors that physicists can't find the Higgs boson, although I can't imagine where they might have put it. I have plenty of experience helping Ms. Sandwalk find her car keys and credit card so I've come up with a brilliant idea.
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.1
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.
AFTERTHOUGHT: Biologists have been using computers to analyze complex data sets for over fifty years and we're pretty sophisticated at making observations at the micro level. Why do we need physicists to show us these techniques?
1. See The Salem Conjecture.