Joan Strassman has a very nice post about why it is sometimes useful to step back from the intricate details of biological systems in order to understand the general processes that are operating. Here’s a little taste of the general message
In this talk, Jay said that MacArthur claimed the best ecologists had blurry vision so they could see the big patterns without being overly distracted by the contradictory details. This immediately made a huge amount of sense to me. Biology is so full of special cases, of details that don’t fit theories, that it is easy to despair of advancing with broad, general theories. But we need those theories, for they tell us where to look next, what data to collect, and even what theory to challenge. I am a details person, but love the big theories.
The whole post is definitely worth a read.