Scientists: Biology needs a mathematical theory
Scientists have been rallied to do research in the area
We are in need of a theory which describes thebiological processes in living organisms. That was the main conclusion drawnduring the 1st AnnualConference on Integral Biomathics, Stirling University, Scotland (ACIB’2011) held at theend of August. The conference was organised by the EC funded project INBIOSA (www.inbiosa.eu).
The commonly acknowledged opinion is that the problemof modern-day biological science is the absence of a unified theory. Dr. Plamen L. Simeonov (JSRC, Germany), coordinator of the project,commented: “Until now an enormous amount of data has been collected in thescience of life, but that data alone doesn’t make a theory. The time is ripefor the establishment of a research program in the area which will support andeventually lead to the creation of a new biological theory.”
The laws and methods of physics cannot beunconditionally applied to the biological sciences due to the inconsistency ofthe systems in biology, and more generally to the differences in nature of thesubjects studied by these two scientific disciplines. A new type of super-mathematics,unifying and extending diverse fields of mathematics to tackle biologicalproblems is necessary, according to the attending the conference scientists. “We need a mathematics that candescribe such an ever-changing, indeterminate, yet persistent “thing” ,including how it maintains its “identity” within certain boundary conditions,yet ceases to function outside of those boundaries. Such an emergent,developmental and evolutionary mathematics does not exist“, isthe opinion of the scientists.
“Equationsof motion for biological system may not be appropriate. We should seek rules oforganisation for living systems, and also rules of organisation for neuralsystems“, commented Prof. Leslie S. Smith, University of Stirling, UK,co-investigator on the project and organizer of the Stirling conference. “There maybe generalizations of logic which include stochasticity. Further, we shouldalso consider generalizations of information and information theory which mightbe more appropriate for living systems”, he added.
In contrast to the classical science, which is basedon the externalist approach (or third person descriptions) in most of itsareas, we also need to adopt the internalist approach (first person descriptions)when dealing with biological problems.
“We should consider time, and alsoversions of central pattern generators that apply to cognitive (rather thanmotor) systems”, is one of the conclusions the scientists reached.
There is great interest in the topics underlying theINBIOSA project and the problems it tackles are gaining popularity. That isalso shown by the results and discussions from the two workshops that werecarried out: International Workshop on IntegralBiomathics (iBioMath’11-US), San Jose, California, USA, in conjunction with the 2011International Joint Conference on Neural Networks, IJCNN 2011; andInternational Workshopon Integral Biomathics (iBioMath’11-EU), Paris, France, in conjunction with the EuropeanConference on Artificial Life ECAL 11 “Back to the Origins of Alife”, aswell as the Stirling conference ACIB’2011.
The workshops and the conference brought together wellknown scientists from a number of fields among which were Dan Levine, Ralph Abrahams (one ofthe founders of chaos theory), Paul Bourgine, Barry McMullin, Steen Rasmussen, BrianJosephson (Nobel prizewinner in physics), Ron Cottam, Felix Hong and Koichiro Matsuno aswell as other pioneers.
IntegralBiomathics is envisioned to discover and establish newrelationships and deliver new insights into the interaction and interdependencebetween natural and artificial (human-created) phenomena for a number ofscientific fields. It is expected to invent and develop new mathematicalformalisms and provide a generalized framework and ecology for research inlife, physical, social and engineering sciences.
The INBIOSAProject was launched in January 2011 with the support of the EuropeanCommission’s 7th Framework Programme. The project will continue until the endof December 2011. The project investigators are Dr. Plamen L. Simeonov (JSRC,Germany) and Professor Leslie S. Smith (University of Stirling, UK).
INBIOSA aimsto identify new research topics and to assess emerging global S&T trends inICT for future FET Proactive initiatives. The project’s base is a long-termfundamental research programme in mathematics, systems biology and computationcalled Integral Biomathics.