Comparisons of biologists vs. math, continued.
Well yes and no. The paper might be only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the work.
The problem is that papers are still really the only currency we have, iceberg tip or not, we don't have much other proof that we did anything.
Although I consider myself at least as smart as most physicists and mathematicians I meet, I guess you are qualifying it by saying that physicists and mathematicians are 'smarter' than most biologists "on average"?
I would tend to disagree, but I've blogged at length in the past about the different kinds of intelligence/smarts, so I won't do it again here. Of course I'm too lazy to figure out which posts those were. One of these days I swear I'll go back through and tag them.
I guess I can see what you mean by physics requiring more raw brainpower.
If you're not good with your hands, if you have no aesthetic sense, you won't be good at biology.
Some people seem to think 'raw brainpower' measured in math is somehow more important, more valuable, or otherwise more useful in life.
Raw brainpower isn't all that good at running pretty gels or observing differences in morphology. Raw brainpower is usually not such a great mentor or teacher, either.
If you want to be good at biology, you gotta have good hands, and you gotta have good eyes. So raw brainpower is part of the equation, but it's not the whole enchilada.
I think you can train most any muscle, including your brain, but only so much.
If you're totally uncoordinated and tend to knock over bunsen burners and set benches on fire (like a lab partner I had briefly in college), you'll tend to feel safer doing math. Only so much damage you can do with paper cuts and broken pencils!
I did not know that physics majors do better on the MCAT than biology majors. But honestly, it doesn't really surprise me. Most of the people I work with in biology now were not biology majors in college.
Modern biological research requires a very different background than the curriculum most college biology departments teach.
And by the way, to hell with the MCAT. Why do I care about anyone's scores on the MCAT? So far as I know, no one has done a study to show any correlation between MCAT scores and rate of obtaining faculty positions doing research.
As for (3), that really was not how your original comment read.
Your general implication, that most biology postdocs are idiots who are easily mislead, is pretty condescending. Maybe that's not how you think about it, but that's how you sound.
On the other hand, I do think that if biology did what physics does by limiting the number of slots, it might be better for everyone. But I don't see it happening. Just the opposite.
Did you see that Congress will discuss the possibility of increasing the number and salary for NSF graduate fellowships? The theory is that better students will have more incentive to stay in science if they get one of these.
I definitely think grad students should be paid more.
But I don't think we need more of them. Far from it. I'd rather have three great students, paid well enough that they don't need to worry about it, and have plenty of time to mentor them in my (future imaginary) lab, than 9 mediocre grad students and not enough time to help them all.
But hey, that's more than just raw brainpower talking.