For some in the field, finding a theory starts with upending how biologists describe living systems. “When I go to a biology conference, somebody always stands up and says, ‘life is chemistry,’ and then shows a whole bunch of putative reactions,” says Nigel Goldenfeld, a physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign who studies problems related to evolution and ecology. “I don’t think life is chemistry.” Chemistry provides information on the molecules needed to make life, but not on how to get a functioning cell, for example. Instead, he says, “life is physics,” and researchers should think of living organisms as condensed-matter systems with thermodynamic constraints.
I’m not sure I completely agree. I am certain there is much we might learn by applying physics to biology, but it’s not clear that physics is the whole story. My own field of statistics is a mathematical discipline, but in application requires a certain “art” of using key information from other fields. A person can understand the math but not the application.
I’m betting that others will have their own reasons to think physics is not the whole story.