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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Biologists, biology, and related fields and their practitioners

As a former physics/engineering student, I find biologists, and practitioners of related and derived fields, such as animal scientists, doctors, veterinarians, etc. to be easy targets for humour. Primary reason: Physics is very well understood, whereas the biologists are mostly stumbling around in the dark. Engineers can make machines that produce more fuel than they consume, whereas doctors can't raise stuff from the dead. Engineering creates elegant solutions to complex problems using an intimate understanding of the concepts involved. Medicine is akin to putting up a building by throwing the bricks into position from thirty feet away. A dam requires a mighty effort to cause it to fail, life forms are absolutely pathetic when subjected to much smaller forces. A biologist can come up with something they find impressive, but I can still zap it in the microwave. Engineers have ISO 9000, and can make machines operate at nearly 100% uptime, cranking out all manner of useful stuff, while the most reliable technology based on the work of biologists are chemical weapons. (To those who ask why I regard pharmaceuticals as less reliable, chemical weapons don't have any undesirable side effects. True, some of the people hit by them survive, and are left with all manner of chronic health problems, but remember, these are weapons, they're supposed to cause harm. Undesirable side effects in this case would be increased fertility rates in survivors.) Drugs cause all kinds of unpleasant side effects, while structural members of buildings don't punch people who walk past. The list goes on and on...
I don't devalue their work though. It is definitely useful, and I'm sure they'll have their breakthrough sometime.

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