Evolution has a great potential to unify biology. The left box includes all fields of biology that describe processes within an individual (biochemical, molecular, cell, developmental, neuro, biology) and assumes that they can be integrated into a computable genotype – phenotype map. It also assumes knowledge about mutation and recombination so that probabilities of change from the current genotype to all other possible genotypes can be computed. The right box includes all fields of biology that describe processes at the population level and above. This is the place of ecology and of evolutionary processes like selection, genetic drift and migraton. The right box assumes that the fate of new mutations in the population can be tracked so that probabilities of fixation can be computed. Interactions between the boxes will exist, but should be much less frequent than interactions within the boxes. For example, the molecular recombination machinery will be important to determine the genotypes of offspring, but its outcome strongly depends on what types of parents are available, which is a population level question. The proposed separation of concerns facilitates clarity of thought about how the modelled processes work.
Loewe BMC Systems Biology 2009 3:27 doi:10.1186/1752-0509-3-27