Friday, 2 October 2015

Stop trying to put biology in a quantifiable box!

This brings me to my favourite and sadly spot on rant about bioinformatics. I am a bioinformatician and I would count on being one for nearly 20 years. I am not a big name but I do small things well and carefully and I think a lot around them. I am not that interested in the big projects and the latest band waggons (microbiome comes to mind).

There is too much politics, too many vested interests and there are too many inflexible people. Biologists seem to have this paranoia about detailed measurement. They seem to feel inadequate compared to physics which is much more quantifiable. The thing about biology is that it ISN'T quantifiable so stop trying to do it. There always has to be some hand waving. There is not a single equation in Darwin and that is the only theoretical framework Biology has. All the great population biologists got the maths wrong in some way because nature is non-linear. Even statistics cannot always help. An average dog has less than four legs demonstrates the point. We need to know about history despite Popper's misgivings.

So be happy with the hand waving and publish and be damned. A lot will be wrong but some will be right and evolution will apply the filter. Trying to reason and rationalise and plan will give you the wrong results and waste your time. Get your imperfect ideas out there. Let there be survival of the fittest. You cannot beat evolution.

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