Discussion of controversial problems in Cell Physiology

Hi Vladimir. Welcome to TONMO. Your area of expertise is quite outside that of mine, and most members. I am interested to see whether you repost - I must admit I viewed your new thread and post as potential SPAM - but I'm prepared to leave it until I know otherwise - and I also understand that it takes some effort to join up to this site, so spamming is not a major problem. Perhaps you could tell us a little more about yourself, and how your research and that of cephalopods is related.
Cephalopods has physiology too

Hi Steve! I agree with you that this site is not absolutely suitable place for my post. I hoped only that physiology can be an interesting science too for members of your site. According to my experience, there are no sites in the Internet on which problems of physiology of living cell would be discussed. I find everywhere deep specialization only. Everywhere very narrow questions are discussed only: how correctly dissolve some chemicals or what type electrophoresis should be chose. Nobody sees big and important problems in science. Everybody has only one "global" problem: how made electrophoresis correctly. That is all we need! As a result my post looks like spam everywhere...
That's fine Vladimir; thanks for responding. Now that we know this to be sincere I am sure that you will hear from somebody, some time; being a very specialised science (relative to what we have discussed online here before) I wouldn't expect to be inundated with questions, but that is just the nature of the game.

I have tremendous respect for physiologists, and probably a ton of questions for you, as soon as I get them sorted out in my head. This site is, afterall, about octopus [insert 'and squid'] biology and physiology.

A double welcome to you.

The last 50 years in the history of life sciences are remarkable for a new important feature that looks as a great threat for their future. A profound specialization dominating in quickly developing fields of science causes a crisis of the scientific method. The essence of the method is a unity of two elements, the experimental data and the theory that explains them. To us, "fathers" of science, classically, were (are) the creators of new ideas and theories. They were the true experts of their own theories. It is only they who have the right to say: "I am the theory". In other words, they were carriers of theories, of the theoretical knowledge. The fathers provided the necessary logical integrity to their theories, since theories in biology have not still to be based on strict mathematical proofs. It is not true for sons. As a result of massive specialization, modern experts operate in very confined spaces. They formulate particular rules far from the level of theory. The main theories of science are known to them only at the textbook level. Nowadays, nobody can say: "I am the theory". With whom, then is it possible to discuss today on a broader theoretical level? How can a classical theory - for example, the membrane one - be changed or even disproved under these conditions? How can the "sons" with their narrow education catch sight of membrane theory defects? As a result, "global" theories have few critics and control. Due to specialization, we have lost the ability to work at the experimental level of biology within the correct or appropriate theoretical context. The scientific method in its classic form is now being rapidly eroded.

Themes for discussion can be found on the following sites:

The Hidden History of a Fundamental Revolution in Biology
Contents. A Revolution in the Physiology of the Living Cell
Gerald Pollack. Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life: A New, Unifying Approach to Cell Function
Gilbert Ling
Насонов Дмитрий Николаевич
Ludwig Edelmann
Mr. Matveev,

In reading your post, I was struck by a few thoughts that have been on my mind lately about science in the modern world. I, too, have my concerns about how science is being used for political and non-scientific motives. Also, I appreciate your post, because TONMO’s science section occasionally needs a good external view. Since much work on cephalopods is on the cytological level, your post could spark a lot of new questions and ideas. That being said, there are a few questions I would like to ask you concerning your recent post.

I agree that I would like to see scientists as a unified front against the problems facing mankind. I also agree that I occasionally see a baffling lack of general knowledge by both students and instructors alike. This may be due to specialization, but isn’t such specialization the result of the progression of science itself? Since time out of mind, scientists have used and built upon the work of their predecessors. Specialization occurs due to the discovery of greater parts to the whole. Are you saying that this is somehow inappropriate or flawed? Or are you stating that the scientific method itself, or that modern science is flawed? In what ways are they flawed?

Can this lack of general knowledge also be attributed to academic laziness? We live in an era where information databases and e-mail are just clicks away from anywhere. Could it not be that the lack of real information exchange so essential to the propagation and survival of science is due to scientists simply not communicating with their peers or publishing in established journals? Could encouraging more scientists to communicate more frequently solve this problem?

Cell theory is just theory, yes, but research using aspects of this theory have led to discoveries in cell physiology from membrane depolarization to the action of cytotoxins (all important in the field of cephalopods). It can also be argued that gravity is just a theory, and yet we observe that it affects our biology on many levels and must be taken into account when dealing with bone growth and muscle development, to name a few examples. Are you saying that cell theory is incorrect, or that we should modify our approach? How would you go about doing this?

In his book The Growth of Biological Thought, Dr. Ernst Mayr argues that while the scientific method is good, it sometimes detracts from the goal of science, which is to answer our questions about the world around us. He also makes the point that many if not all theories have a few scientifically based contrary or alternative hypotheses. In short, theories change, and science cannot view them as dogma. In The Demon-Haunted World, Dr. Carl Sagan states that Hippocrates even told his students to examine all the possible theories, even those that contradicted observations. Such rules are the fundamentals for science are they not? What would you argue has gone wrong with science? Could you explain a bit more?

Thank you for your post. We always appreciate food for thought.

Fujisawas Sake said:
In his book The Growth of Biological Thought, Dr. Ernst Mayr argues that while the scientific method is good, it sometimes detracts from the goal of science, which is to answer our questions about the world around us. He also makes the point that many if not all theories have a few scientifically based contrary or alternative hypotheses.


RIP Ernst Mayr, who died at the age of 100 last week.

Too much data, too little brains. Back in the day, someone could know everything because nobody knew anything. Now, nobody knows anything because everybody knows something.


I'm going to be watching this potentially interesting thread, but I think that'll be the last time I post to it. :-/
"Now, nobody knows anything because everybody knows something."

Well spoken...it seems more and more common for the general public to have a conversational knowledge of the sciences...which is refreshing (I argued for a good hour with our waiter last night on some scientific issues), but can be ludicrous also...too many chiefs, and damn few indians!
Dear John,

Hippocrates was a clever person, but whether you can tell the same to a reviewer of your article? No, because a reviewer "does not know anything because he knows something". "Too much data, too little brains." Therefore a field where scientific method works is permanently narrowed. How it is possible to revaluate some general theory, having so little brains? That is my main idea. That is the result of specialization in science.

Vladimir Matveev
St.Petersburg, Russia
Hi everyone,

I guess the main point here is that as humans we only have finite resources at our disposal, so a judgment call has to be made regarding their allocation. So studying one topic will come at the expense of something else.

That's my 2c anyway.

Vladimir Matveev said:
... a reviewer "does not know anything because he knows something". "Too much data, too little brains." ... How it is possible to revaluate some general theory, having so little brains? That is my main idea. That is the result of specialization in science.

Dr. Matveev,

I think I would have to respectfully disagree. Yes, I have seen sloppy peer review and the occasional bad paper that slips through the cracks, but this can be also attributed to academic laziness. I see no evidence that reviewers lack brains, just sometimes they lack the drive to really examine papers.

What is your definition of science? How do you personally view the philosophy, history, and methods of science? Its been my observation that specialization seems to be the progression of the sciences, as we find that the answers to our questions about the world around us lead to more questions. There is a saying here: "the Doctorate knows a whole lot about little bit". I understand; an erosion of general science knowledge comes when you sacrifice a lot of your time specializing to earn that advanced degree.

It seems to me that you are saying that no one tries to come up with new scientific theories or that we take the old theories as gospel. I agree that's not good science. However I see no proof that this is universally the current mindset. I see challenges to established theories in the life sciences often, even if on a larger scale (morphological, anatomical, etc.).

Do you think that more emphasis on science history would help this situation? How would you go about protecting general knowledge?

It may be that specialization is damaging general theoretical knowledge. It could also be that such specialists are guilty of knowledge-hoarding, and refusal to share their discoveries. Academic theft is rampant, as well as the evil of plaigarism. Could it not be that we can have specialization while encouraging the free exchange of ideas? Sure, not everyone will want to do this (I know too well the scourge of academic elitism), but such an exchange might shift the mindset of the life sciences to a cooperative, and allow for a "six degrees of seperation" between old and new theories.

Once again, thanks for your post.

Oh, and Matt? Sadly, those resources are VERY finite...

Dear John,

Specialization separates people and consequently dialogue between them becomes almost impossible. In addition even people working in the same field are divided by distinction in their understanding of the same facts. It is one more problem which was not concerned by us yet. A circle of people which can understand each other is narrowing. What science we will have when a space of the circle will be equal to zero? These are difficult questions but someone should set them to try to rescue a science. Yes, new theories appear, but I would like to know why nobody accept them? Because they are erroneous or because nobody is capable to understand them?

Vladimir Matveev
St.Petersburg, Russia
"Because they are erroneous or because nobody is capable to understand them? "

In many cases, both of these statements are true. In our little world of Cephalogical Science, it is amazing how much mis/disinformation there is floating around...not at all uncommon to see educational texts and programs rife with falsehoods, but accepted by the mainstream. How hard to people like Dr. O'Shea have to work to swim against that tide?
In the field of Herpetology, I am bombarded by idiocy on almost a daily basis, and most often by the so-called "scientific experts" who lack any sort of wide viewpoint that is necessary to see things in a proper perspective...viewing through a microscope mind-eye gives you a lot of detail, but no realistic information.

A rather interesting, philosophical thread!

I cannot speak for physiology, but I do know that general natural history has suffered considerably over the last few decades, and as a consequence Universities are now filling with staff that are either mathematically or genetically inclined (that couldn't differentiate a sponge from an octocoral, an isopod from an amphipod, or any of the many worm-like Phyla, and deal with 'species' [and spend an inordinate amount of time debating species concepts] at itsy-bitsy levels). I am not saying that there is anything wrong with either discipline - just that emphasis has changed from the bigger-picture stuff to this itsy-bitsy super-specialised mentality. The current academic disinterest in general natural history is breeding a new generation of disaffected students (they are not 'ignorant', they have just never been exposed to the intellectual calibre of a previous academic generation, and know no better), all specialising in their itsy-bitsy disciplines.

Once upon a time science was about constructing something, but nowadays it seems to be more about deconstruction (people wanting to take something to pieces, whether it be a theory, a reputation, or DNA). It is probably not surprising that MANY students today are very capable of criticising or reviewing something, but they grind to a halt when asked to construct something (even a sentence) [although this could be attributed to 'modern teaching', where 'x' papers are given out .... come back next week and we'll talk about them]. (Sadly students prefer this approach!)

Vladimir, I completely agree with what you are saying.

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