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Popper Versus Bacon Introduction by: John Brockman People have to go around measuring things. There's no escape from that for most of that type of work. There's a deep relationship between the two. No one's going to come up with a model that works without going and comparing with experiment. But it is the intelligent use of experimental measurements that we're after there because that goes to this concept of Bayesian methods. I will perform the right number of experiments to make measurements o
  Popper Versus Bacon Introduction by:  John Brockman People have to go around measuring things. There's no escape from that for most of that type of work. There's a deep relationship between the two. No one's going to come up with a model that works without going and comparing with experiment. But it is the intelligent use of experimental measurements that we're after there because that goes to this concept of Bayesian methods. I will perform the right number of experiments to make measurements of say the time series evolution of a given set of proteins. !rom those data when things are varying in timeI can map that on to my deterministic Popperian model and infer what's the most likely value of all the parameters that would be Popperian ones that would t into the model. It's an intelligent interaction between them that's necessary in many complicated situations. INTRODUCTIONby  John Brockman  There’s a massive clash of philosophies at the heart of modern science. One philosophy, called Baconianism after Sir Francis Bacon, neglects theoretical underpinning and says ust ma!e observations, collect data, and interrogate them. This approach is idespread in modern biology andmedicine, here it’s often called informatics. But there’s a #uite di$erentphilosophy, traditionally used in physics, formulated by another British %night, Sir %arl &opper. In this approach, e ma!e predictions from models and e test them, then iterate our theories. In modern medicine you might 'nd it strange that many people don’t thin! in theoretical terms. It(s a shoc! to many physical scientists hen they encounter this attitude, particularly hen it is accompanied by a con)ation of correlation ith causation. *ean hile, in physics, it is e+tremely hard to go from modeling simple situations consisting of a handful of particles to the comple+ity of the real orld, and to combine theories that or! at di$erent levels, such as macroscopic theories  here there is an arro of time- and microscopic ones  here theories are indi$erent to the direction of time-.t /niversity 0ollege 1ondon, physical chemist &eter 0oveney, is using theory, modeling and supercomputing to predict material properties from basic chemical information, and to mash up biological !no ledge at a range of levels, from biomolecules to organs, into timely and predictive clinical information to help doctors. In doing this, he is testing a novel ay to blend the Baconian and &opperian approaches and have already had some success hen it comes to personali2ed medicine and predictingthe properties of ne+t generation composites.&3T34 0O53637 holds a chair in &hysical 0hemistry, and is director of the0entre for 0omputational Science at /niversity 0ollege 1ondon and co8  author, ith 4oger 9igh'eld, of The #rrow of Time  and !rontiers of $omplexity.   POPPER VERSUS BACON ll my life, the problems that have been of interest to me are the ones that connect science into a hole. o e have an integrated theory of science, as it ere, or is science bro!en into many separate parts that don(t add up; <e have, from observation, the e+pectation e live in a single universe, so e(d e+pect consistency, and that(s hat leads you to demand this in properties of theories that describe the orld e live in. If you loo! at the ay e categori2e our theories, there are di$erent aysof analy2ing them. Some lie ithin the domain of physics or even applied mathematics. <e have chemistry, biology, engineering= these usually are regarded as separate disciplines and historically have comparatively littleto do ith one another. It(s not a surprise hen you as! #uestions about ho(s doing hat, in scienti'c terms, that ans ers my #uestion of a uni'ed theory of !no ledge, so to spea!, that it(s rather fragmented still today.<e have people ho e+plore the e+tremely large8scale>you might call that cosmology>or the very small scales. gain, that(s a physical domain>subatomic theories, going do n to e+tremely short length in timescales.<e can have problems that relate to life, such as here life has come from on this planet, but e have plenty of reasons to suspect that it(s probably much more idespread than that, and then #uestions are posed in rather di$erent ays. In modern biology and medicine today you ould 'nd most people not even trying to thin! in theoretical terms. It(s #uite a shoc! to many physical scientists hen they encounter this. It(s a funny clash bet een t o philosophies of science that have been around for overall ?@@ years or so. <hat e call ABaconian theoryA says, don(t orry about a theoretical underpinning, ust ma!e observations, collect data, and interrogate the data. This Baconianism, as it(s come to be !no n, is very idespread in modern biology and medicine. It(s sometimes also called informatics today. <e have the model of philosophy of science, hich is the physicists’ one, formulated in a nice and concise ay by Sir %arl &opper. These are t o curious %nights of the British 4ealm, in fact, hose descriptions of the ay science or!s are at complete odds ith one another.  &opperian theory is one here it(s fundamentally mathematical, and you can describe reality in terms that are someho out there, obective. <e ma!e predictions from these theories and models and e test them. If the agreement isn(t good enough, it could be that the e+perimental observations are rong. 3very no and then e have to change the theory.  If you practice, as many of our biological colleagues do today, a Baconianapproach, there isn(t an underpinning theory. There(s nothing that needs to go rong, it(s ust a necessary re#uirement to !eep on collecting data. Once you become in)uenced by these things and you ant to understand, in the modern conte+t, tangible things li!e ho I can ma!e sense of the human as a scienti'c entity, can I predict things about the ay a human(s life is going to evolve, hich methodology am I going to choose; I(m more physically based. I(d li!e a &opperian theory, but I rapidly run up against people ho don(t relate to that. <e have a massiveclash of doctrines at the heart of these descriptions. There’s de'nitely a idespread movement in scienti'c circles>in life and medical sciences> hich is about ust capturing data, don(t orry about theoretical underpinnings. Indeed, some people ould deny there is a value to having a theory. The idea is ust continue to collect data. t somepoint though>you may understand hat I(m getting at>as our understanding of science progresses, e(re as!ing, have our theories got some validity that(s much more universal; 6ever mind the theoretical physicists( claim about universality that applies to some areas of observation, hich no e !no to be e+ceedingly limited. I(m tal!ing about areas of our o n direct e+perience, so e(d e+pect to have methods that can be applicable in the medical area ust as surely as they could in chemistry, or in physics, material science, or engineering. That(s the type of #uestion that e(re tal!ing about here. Is there some cra2y rupture that suggests that things ust are too amorphous that they cannot admit theoretical underpinnings; 0ertainly, that(s not my position on this at all. I ould agree that it(s bene'cial, in areas here e don(t understand a hole lot, to do a lot of observational or! initially. That ill help you unravel some of the correlations that do e+ist. The big challenge is then to ma!e sense of thatin a deeper ay, and that(s usually forgotten. /nfortunately, e get the con)ation of causality ith correlation there, hich is clearly a false one. If I ere involved, as I am, in trying to support a rather for ard8loo!ing version of medicine, hich is to say, given some information about a patient>it(ll usually be in digital form>it could be their genome, it might be that and a lot of other data, it might include imaging data and so on, I need to assist a clinician ho has to ma!e a decision hat intervention tocarry out. <hat method am I going to use to do that; The methods that e are interested in using are the good old ones that ultimately are &opperian>a physics8based one. But that pushes the modeling and the theory into areas here it(s #uite unfamiliar and creates interesting challenges. That(s ust part of the hole agenda that I(m interested in. 9o far can you use your theoretical methods across science as a hole;  There are plenty of other domains e could discuss there. Some of the biggest #uestions remain open. Things li!e consciousness have to be continually studied to be apprehended. That doesn(t mean if  e don(t understand that e understand nothing about the ay life evolves. It(s very far from that. It(s much more of a sigmoidal curve of understanding, gro ing, and being able to bene't from that understanding to continually accumulate improved methods of prediction, hich, in the medical area, ill transform the hole domain. If you ust stic! ith personali2ed medicine for a moment the #uestions are to do ith: so hat if I !no your entire genome se#uence; gain, if you ere a reductionist, molecular biologist, pulling a !ins( leg for a moment, you might thin! that(s the blueprint, that(s all e need to !no and the rest is then a conse#uence of hat that genome se#uence is. I don(t thin! anyone seriously believes that to be the case. The huge number of genome studies that people carry out today sho that no matter ho much people try to use so8called big data analytics> informatics>they cannot get clear correlations that account for disease cases hich are based solely on genomic data. This is an e+tremely rare occurrence.  7ou(ve got an entanglement of data coming at those levels, ith higher levels of information. It could be organ system levels. If you had a problem ith your heart and you have to go to see a doctor and this doctor has to perform surgery, are they going to loo! up your genome se#uence before they carry out that surgery; It(s, of course, not going to happen. In the long run, e ill bene't from that information, but as it ere, in 2eroth8order, they ill use information hich is at a higher level.  7ou can build physically8based models of the heart at those levels hich can be very helpful for predicting hat !ind of intervention should be carried out, but you ill not need, at 'rst level, any information on the genomic component.It(s going to depend on hat the problem is, hich level you select to ta!e as the primary one to base your analysis on. This is the same through all of science. <hen e tal! about physics, there’s a sense that chemistry someho sits o$ it, maybe biology and engineering too. The same applies hen e tal! about the organic or the medical. The same analogies pertain there. If I(m trying to design ne materials, once again their chemistry uses #uite di$erent levels of description from their properties. In the modern era>there have been some interesting developments in the last ee! hich relate to this> e all !no it(s not sustainable to !eep running automotives or aerospace entities based on steel. I ould e+pect ithin 'fty years or probably a lot less, people ill have made di$erent types of materials that are as strong, probably tougher, have greater durability, and are far less heavy so they don(t re#uire anything li!e the amount of energy to move around. That(s part of the drive. <e(re interested in that. 9o do you produce those materials; 9o do you go about creating them; This is another analogous challenge. I need to !no chemistry= I need the physics and the chemistry of hat the ingredients are to mi+= I need to be able to predict engineering properties out of them, mechanical properties>strength, toughness, durability> hich are
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