Nautilus

This Ecologist Wants to Tell You What Matters in Science

Many scientists love to sing the praises of their own specialties, but few proclaim them with the confidence of Andrew Dobson, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University and the director of the University’s Andrew Dobson Lab. To Dobson, biology’s importance outstrips everything from the search for elementary particles to the exploration of the universe. More specifically, he says, the study of biology’s network systems, from food webs to neural networks, represents “our only hope.”

Absent this understanding, Dobson fears, we stand to lose all that is best about life on Earth. In his email signature, he quotes the computer programmer P.J. Plauger: “My definition of an expert in any field is a person who knows enough about what’s really going on to be scared.”

In an affable English accent that belies a cutting

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