I have heard Sydney Brenner give a talk (see link below) on how the entire program of Systems Biology is suspect because, according to him, a chap named Hadamard showed that inverse problems are impossible to solve, or something to that effect.
I find it somewhat odd that no one seems to be paying any attention to this, and many are blithely carrying along trying to reverse-engineer biological organisms. I personally think that this reverse-engineering effort has its place, but Sydney Brenner doesn't seem to think so, and advocates tackling only the forward problem. Here's an excerpt from an abstract to a similar talk of his:
"...This notion of computation is, in my opinion, the only valid approach to biological complexity and is opposed to many of the ideas underlying what has come to be called systems biology, which is very fashionable today. It will be shown that systems biology attempts to solve inverse problems - that is, obtain models of biological systems from observations of their behaviour - whereas, what I call computational biology, continues in the classical mode of discovering the machinery of the system and computing behaviour, solving a forward problem."
Is Brenner simply wrong on this or is there something to his objections?
Here's the link to the actual talk that I refer to: http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/reading-the-human-genome-with-sydney-brenner/much-ado-about-nothing-systems-biology-and-inverse-problems