Saturday, July 28, 2012

Not a #badomics word but - "Evolutionary Systems Biology" is - well - pretty complex

Just saw the title of this article Evolutionary Systems Biology: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on an Emerging Synthesis by Maureen A. O’Malley in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 2012, Volume 751, 1-28, DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-3567-9_1.  And my first thought was "Hmmm - WTF is Evolutionary Systems Biology".  Given that I am still unsure what Systems Biology is exactly I figured - this could be a doozy.  Thus I perused the abstract:

According to the abstract
Systems biology (SB) is at least a decade old now and maturing rapidly. A more recent field, evolutionary systems biology (ESB), is in the process of further developing system-level approaches through the expansion of their explanatory and potentially predictive scope. This chapter will outline the varieties of ESB existing today by tracing the diverse roots and fusions that make up this integrative project. My approach is philosophical and historical. As well as examining the recent origins of ESB, I will reflect on its central features and the different clusters of research it comprises. In its broadest interpretation, ESB consists of five overlapping approaches: comparative and correlational ESB; network architecture ESB; network property ESB; population genetics ESB; and finally, standard evolutionary questions answered with SB methods. After outlining each approach with examples, I will examine some strong general claims about ESB, particularly that it can be viewed as the next step toward a fuller modern synthesis of evolutionary biology (EB), and that it is also the way forward for evolutionary and systems medicine. I will conclude with a discussion of whether the emerging field of ESB has the capacity to combine an even broader scope of research aims and efforts than it presently does.
I am not sure what to say here.  The author has published some interesting work previously on philosophical issues in biology.   But from the abstract - well - I am pretty lost.  It seems that ESB covers a lot of ground.  First - systems biology - whatever it means -  itself is pretty broad.  And then on top of that, ESB apparently covers even more than SB.  Still not sure what ESB is --- I am torn about whether it could be interesting or completely flaky.  I am (as many know) a big fan of adding evolutionary approaches to just about any area of biology.  So that alone makes me think about reading the paper to see whether there is any there there.  But alas, I do not have access, so I am going to have to move on to something else.



Some comments from the web on this paper

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