The unification of biology

The enormous scientific success of biology in the course of the last century is evident from the fact that many other disciplines have adopted biological epithets. This is not limited to biochemistry and biophysics, but extends to disciplines such as biogeology, bioarchaeology, and biopsychology. As a consequence of this spreading movement, biology has become such an extensive scientific field that it is hardly possible to view the whole. What was just zoology, botany, and microbiology before is now scattered over a wide variety of subdisciplines. The same diversifying trend is present in ecology itself, which has to cover the widest span of all: from molecule to ecosystem. How sustainable is this situation? Should we fear for the future of ecology as an homogeneous science? Not denying the tendency to diversify, which is typically seen in any growing field, we also expect an opposite trend, the unification of biology. Genomics could very well turn out to act as a new point of crystallization, bringing biologists of various plumages to the same core. As demonstrated by the recent establishment of a Gordon Research Conference series on Evolutionary and Ecological Functional Genomics (Feder and Mitchell-Olds 2003), there is an increasing interest among molecular biologists in issues of evolution and ecology. Likewise, more and more ecologists are becoming interested in the molecular biology of ecological phenomena. We hope that this book has contributed at least a little to this admittedly ambitious perspective.

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