Scientists Audit As Conant, Frank Speak on Biology
Over 300 scientists last night came to hear two Harvard men and a University of Chicago professor speak on the question. "Is the concept of Science different in Biology from what it is in the Physical Sciences?" In this symposium, the first meeting of the Boston Society of Biologists held at M.I.T., President Conant spoke for the chemist, Dr. Philipp G. Frank, lecturer on Physics and Mathematics, represented his fields and Dr. Paul Weiss, professor of Zoology at the University of Chicago, took the biologist's viewpoint.
Though "one speaker came to apologize for biology and the other two to excuse his apologies," the two and a half hour meeting brought forth the alleged differences between the sciences. Frank pointed out that the theoretical physicist is faced with much the same sort of problem as is the biologist when the former attempts to explain complicated physical phenomena. Conant subscribed by adding that the very "success of physics was that it had by-passed the really difficult problems."
All speakers agreed that there was need for biologists who set forth theories that come out of biological observations alone and that did not immediately draw upon the standing physico-chemical web of concepts. Historical examples were drawn to show that a "boldness and courage of this sort" had been fruitful in stimulating more research. Eventually the unrelated concepts had fit into a scheme that was made consistent with schemes in other fields, the speakers commented. Genetic theory was given as an example of this sort of bold concept that was not at first built on existing physico-chemical bases.