Thursday, December 3, 2009

Race for the Double Helix Q2

Rosalind Franklin was a meticulous lab scientist who avoided any sort of speculation. She relied on hard evidence – the factual data – before drawing any conclusions. Watson and Crick on the other hand, did no labor intensive research and merely postulated a possible structure for DNA.

Was Watson and Crick’s approach to solving the problem “less scientific” than Franklin’s?

Do you think there is value in scientific speculation?


  1. It depends on what scientific is. If we take it to be "using data to put together conclusions", then no. Their approach was no less scientific. You could, in fact,say that their approach was more scientific, in the way that they actually made conclusions. Franklin did not- she just spent her time on finding evidence.
    There is definitely value in scientific speculation. If we didn't have it, then where would all these crazy ideas come from that end up being true? If we relied on hard facts all the time, then we wouldn't have discovered that the earth is round for many more years.

  2. I suppose seeing is believing, but in the case of DNA that is hardly possible. Through years of hard work it seems sad that the only solid data drawn is that DNA is "crystalline" or "helical". As I said in Q1, W/Crick used an approach which drew a conclusion that possibly would not have been drawn had it not been for their method. Science is a tool of observation and Rosalind's versus W/C's is a matter of perspective. Compare the girl who tried to see DNA with her eyes and the guys who tried to see it with their brains. They got the Nobel Prize and she died of X-Rays and stuff. Who even cares about the "scientificness" of it if they brought legitimate results right?

  3. Both methods of research can be considered scientific. Rosalind Franklin used a labor intensive process, based on heavy research. Watson and Crick used a scientific process based more on exploring new ideas, and less on experimentation. However, the speculation of Watson and Crick relied largely on the usage of the ideas of other great scientific minds. Speculation is a very valuable part of science, however proper credit should be given to those who deserve it. However, if one is able to overlook the less than ethical methods in which Watson and Crick obtained the ideas that supported their speculation, one can see the value of postulation. If new ideas are never advanced, then, as Karli mentioned, it is impossible for conclusions to be made. However, successful speculation cannot occur without some knowledge of the subject, or without evidence obtained through research.

  4. Well, according to the Mac built in dictionary, science is "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment"
    Rosalind Franklin certainly was more meticulous than Watson and Crick, and more systematic. But does this mean she was more scientific? Science also includes the "intellectual" realm, something that the pair excelerated at more than Franklin. They had an ability to interpret data, even if they did not collect the said data. Obviously there is value in scientific speculation. However, that is very different from mere speculation. Science with mere facts is only half of the subject. Without speculation theories cannot be formed.

  5. The American Heritage Dictionary defines science as "The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena" and theoretical as "Given to theorizing; speculative."

    These definitions clearly show that both kinds of science, identifiable and speculative, should command the same respect. Although some scientists, such as Rosalind Franklin, prefer the observable forms of a science, others, including Watson and Crig, prefer the more imaginary branches of the subject because it allows them to piece together the puzzle without having all the pieces. Neither type of science is better than the other in the same way that neither reading from left to right nor right to left is superior to the other. Both are just methods used to reach a common goal and the two forms of science are the same.

  6. Franklin’s meticulousness is very important for scientific discoveries, but without speculation we wouldn’t know exactly what to study. This is shown especially how Franklin wanted to focus on the A sample, but started looking into the B sample when everyone become obsessed with the helical shape they thought it had. Franklin’s idea that knowing is nothing without knowing why is good, but it is important to speculate so that you may test and find out why after. It is much easier to find something if you know what you are looking for than to gather a whole bunch of information and try to find something in it. Watson and Crick’s approach is no less scientific, they are willing to put themselves on the line and throw out their ideas and use the feedback they get to make better ideas. While they may not do the work themselves, they were willing to put their names on the line and so they should get credit for their guesses. Watson and Crick’s speculation was an important factor in speeding of the discovery of the mysteries in DNA and while their methods of getting that information are questionably unethical, I think they deserve credit for their guesses.

  7. Watson and Crick’s approach to solving the problem was not less scientific than Franklin’s approach. One major part of the scientific process is the delicate interplay between hypothesis and observation, both of which must be present for their to be serious scientific progress. Hypothesis without observation can lead nowhere, and science moves toward the philosophical realm; whereas observation without hypothesis makes science no more than a jumble of numbers and figures, without any tangible meaning. Franklin focuses on observing the DNA where Watson and Crick focus on hypothesizing as to its structure. Without Franklin, Watson and crick could not have made the brilliant discovery they did, and without Watson and Crick (and other speculators like them), Franklin work would have no meaning. Although Franklin's relationship with Watson and Crick seemed destructive on a holistic level, on a scientific level they had a symbiotic relationship, each begin necessary for the other to have meaning.

  8. Imagine a detective working to solve the murder case of Murray Cohen. The detective could spend months compiling evidence, finding more fingerprints or DNA-sampling Tofu's fur in search of a stray human hair. But what would the detective do with the evidence if he didn't try random speculation? Sure, there could be large traces of silver nitrate on Murray's desk, leading the detective to believe it was someone from the science department who undertook the crime. But what if it was simply a clever math teacher who snuck into the chem supplies room in order to frame the science department and get away with the crime?

    The same basic idea applies to science. Modern-day cosmic theories like string theory are often wild and bizarre speculations, but what would come out of years of analyzing the same satellite readings of cosmic radiation? Fact-based analysis is reliable and useful in the scientific world, but the kind of wild speculation displayed by Francis and Crick can often lead to answers never dreamed up by raw data.

  9. In our class, we defined science as (I'm paraphrasing here) the logical and experimental process in which hypotheses can be tested and validated or invalidated.
    What Watson and Crick did was not science. While there was some logic, and some hypotheses, there was no data, no experiments. As we saw in the movie's portrayal, Dr. Franklin put aside making an idea so that she could find evidence beforehand. Evidence is necessary for scientific truth, not mere guesswork. For example, we read of the men who discovered the cause for the ozone hole over Antartica as an example of what science was. These men didn't merely come up with a possibility and tout it as truth, however logical it might have been. They went through experimentation that could have invalidated their theory. Think what would have happened if they had decided emperor penguins caused the ozone hole! While this example might seem outlandish, well, bear with me. This theory makes some logical sense. What does Anartica have that no place else has? Emperor penguins. What else does Anartica have that no place else has? A big freakin hole in the ozone layer. Fluctuations in other parts of the globe could then be credited to zoos.

    While this has been very amusing, my point with that exercise was not to educate you about how Emperor penguins are hurting the ozone layer, but to show you an example of a theory that might have been presented as fact without experiments to prove it wrong.

    This assumption (and assumptions are always bad, since they make an ass out of you and umption) of Watson and Crick is the equivalent. The fact that they were right does little to validate them. A broken clock is right twice a day. The fact that they went through previous theories first means nothing; Perhaps a previous theory was that ALL penguins, not just emperor penguins caused holes in the ozone layer (which would be wrong, because there are penguins living as far north as the Galapagos islands).

    Rosalind Franklin put aside any theory-making until all the evidence was available. On the other side of the spectrum, we have Watson and Crick, who, as we saw in the movie, put aside some theories for PURE ARTISTIC MERIT. The truth should be beautiful, they said. A true scientist has to put aside all personal bias in order to truly find the cause of something, must approach a problem with a completely cleared slate. As we've said before in class, we have to accept the idea that there is always another possibility. Even gravity, despite all of our experiments, all of our teachings in science classrooms, is only a theory. It could be disproved tomorrow. (Well only if anyone was actually still experimenting on it....)

  10. Both methods used were scientific methods. Watson and Crick came up with a hypothesis and then observed data they got from other scientists and their own experimental drawings they put together from the data they collected. They made the hypothesizing while Rosalind did the research and data part of scientific methods.