A VIEW FROM BIOLOGY
Mike U. Smith Mercer University
This chapter is an attempt to critically analyze problem-solving research within the domain of biology, especially genetics, and to combine the conclusions of that analysis with a critical analysis of research in other disciplines so as to produce a unified theory of problem solving that would apply across content domains. This is truly a formidable task, and the result should be considered as only a first approximation of a statement of such a theory. The purpose of this work, therefore, is not to produce a definitive statement of a unified theory of problem solving, but to provide a target for discussion, criticism, and debate among problem-solving researchers and theorists. Such criticism is a routine and necessary part of the evolution of any theoretical construct.
Before any attempt is made to develop a statement of theory, one must first ask, what is a theory and how is the merit of a theory to be judged? According to Popper ( 1959), "Theories are [sets of] universal statements" (p. 27) or propositions. They serve two essential functions: explanation and prediction. Popper maintains that