Descartes method of questioning what is real is a very important aspect of the world of science. I will show how this method of philosophy is crucial to the studies of biology. Descartes said that the only time that something is not doubted is when it is clear and distinctly true. This is the difference in science between theory and fact. In order for something to be clear and distinct it must be a fact.
DNA was discovered on April 25,1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick. They discovered that it was a double helix made up of 5 carbon sugars, phosphates, and 4 different nitrogenous bases.
This is where Descartes comes in to play. There was much questioning whether DNA even existed and if it did what was it like. DNA is only about 10 nanometers wide so it is extremely small and easily overlooked. There was much research done to try to figure out the structure of DNA molecules. Chargraff came up with the theory of there being 4 different nitrogenous bases in equal quantities purines and pyrimidines. This was eventually proven true but at the time was not definite. Descartes would not be satisfied with this because it wasnt clear and distinct fact yet.
Different theories came up about the actual structure of the molecule. Originally Watson and Crick believed that the molecule could be single stranded and at one point they also believed that it might be triple stranded. This still was only theory and not clear and distinct, so their research continued.
Rosalind Franklin was an assistant on the DNA project. She was an X-ray crystallographer, which is someone who takes pictures of strands of DNA. Much research went on till one day a picture was taken to show the B form of DNA, which gave Watson and Crick the information that they had needed. This picture showed that DNA was double stranded and that it was in the shape of a double helix. It was with a little more research that it was finally proven that DNA was a double helix and due to this structure its function was also proven. It was now clear and distinct that DNA is real.
If Watson and Crick just left their research at one of the other points such as the single strand or triple strand the real structure would not have been found. This would continue the doubt about DNAs existence and function. People would also be learning the wrong information because they would be learning about theories that were never concluded.
The same thing is being done with the cure to Cancer as well as many other diseases. Possible cures are thought up very often. These possible cures are far off to be factual. It takes many years of testing to really see whether the original theory of the cure will actually work. Even then there is still doubt. The problem with most drugs is that they react differently to each individual in terms of their success. This would make drugs go against what Descartes would trust because it is not fact. If you decide to take a drug to cure cancer it may not because there is no proven way at this time.
Descartes theory is pretty much the basis for the world of science in general. Science is made up of people doubting things and only believing in them when they are proven fact. This is what Descartes whole point was in his theory. Trust only what is fact.
Ideas begin with a hypothesis, which is an educated guess. The hypothesis is the basis for the research. They are then tested and theories arise. Theories are still not proven even though there has been research done. Much research needs to be done before it can be proven. Only then can the end result be clear and distinct fact.
Biology and all science is based on these theories of questioning till proven. Science is respected because things are tested till they are clear and distinct facts. This is why science can be trusted by the ideals of Descartes.