Writing in last week's Nature, Nobel laureate Paul Nurse came down on the side of systems biology but was careful to distance the concept from the 'big biology' tag that the field's critics are attaching to it.
For Nurse, "biology stands at an interesting juncture". Previous advances, he argued were based mostly on molecular biology: "applying the ideas that the gene is the fundamental unit of biological information and that chemistry provides effective mechanistic explanations of biological processes". But he warned:
"...comprehensive understanding of many higher-level biological phenomena remains elusive. Even at the level of the cell, phenomena such as general cellular homeostasis and the maintenance of cell integrity, the generation of spatial and temporal order, inter- and intracellular signalling, cell 'memory' and reproduction are not fully understood."