Feynman writes, in his Lectures on Physics Vol. 1, Chapter 1:
The most important hypothesis in all of biology, for example, is that everything that animals do, atoms do. In other words, * there is nothing that living things do that cannot be understood from the point of view that they are made of atoms acting according to the laws of physics.* This was not known from the beginning, it took some theorizing to suggest this hypothesis, but now it is accepted and it is the most useful theory for producing new ideas in the field of biology.
He would have written this around 1961-1963. Was he right then and/or is he right now? Is what he says applicable for the entirety of biology (say evolutionary theories) or only for a subset of biology?
Would Feynman have been referring to a few specific advances or to the general state of biology at the time?
Please note that this question comes from an (interested) amateur to both physics and biology, I hope the question is appropriate for this site.
Edit: Perhaps this will clarify the intentions behind my question:
I would be interested to know how much atomic theory actually helps biological research. For instance, it often happens that the specific low level details are not necessarily important for explaining the high level theory. A nice example is abstract algorithms vs implementation in programming languages vs hardware implementation. Is this the case with biology or do the details of atomic theory matter? For instance, have advances in physics led directly to new biological discoveries?