ED at molbiol.uct.ac.za
Wed Apr 19 10:05:15 EST 1995
> From: frazier at mbcrr.harvard.edu (David P. Frazier)
> Subject: Re: Philosophical Leanings
> In article <m0s189U-0004PVC at uctmail.uct.ac.za>, ed at molbiol.uct.ac.za wrote:
> > I use a photograph of a T4 phage model made by one of our students - in
> > Ain't no philosophy to it; life is simply the phenomenon accompanying
> > the propensity of nucleic acids to make more of themselves.
> Characterizations which equate humankind and its activities with the
> replication of viral nucleic acid may be glib, but they are also patently
> false. Furthermore, such glib characterizations of the will_ of nucleic
> acid ...
Hold up here - who mentioned WILL? Note above: it says PROPENSITY.
A different thing altogether. Rocks can have a propensity to fall,
given an appropriate location; no-one imputes WILL to their falling!
> Certainly no one would consider nucleic acids to be
> the fundamental particles of the universe.
And no-one did, did they? I certainly didn't.
> Why then do we speak of the will_ of nucleic acid
> collections rather than the will_ of organic atoms or of large
> collections of subatomic particles?
And who is WE, Mahavira? [note: attempt to be Tom Wolfe-ian a la
"The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test"]
> Second consider the top-down approach to
> this question. Should all human enterprise be viewed as simply an effort
> to spread genetic material? Of course not. Such a viewpoint fails to
> take into account the tremendous higher order structure which determines
> the behavior and existence of human beings. There isn t a court in the
> world (even in the USA) that would allow I was merely following my innate
> need to distribute my genetic material_ as a rape defense. Human
> societies are based correctly on the concept of the free will of
> individuals leading to personal responsibility for our behaviors.
> Biological determinism based on the desires_ of our genes is a dangerous
> concept which as molecular biologists we should be working to resist not
> promote. Human consciousness derived from the extraordinary structure of
> the mind is the primary determinant of societal behavior; the will_ of
> our genes is not.
Yeah. Well. Uh. To go from propensity of nucleic acid to replicate
itself, to whether DNA-driven rape will stand up [pardon] in a US
court? a little...shall we say...excessive, in terms of leaps of
logic? A little politically correct, are we, about determinism?
But seeing as you brought it up, there can be no real question as to
the motive of DNA/RNA: its purpose in life, in that a molecule can
be said to have a life or have a purpose, is to REPLICATE ITSELF...I can think of no better exemplar
of this than the humble viroid, which is simply a piece of RNA which
relies on inherent tertiary structure to get itself replicated by a
cellular RNA polymerase. Ted Diener, are you listening/reading?
And having said THAT, once the nucleic acid has its little mindless
will [Damn! Said "will"! Will! Said "damn"! Ah, bugger it, never
wanted to be a molecular biologist, anyway...], and replicated, it
leaves its parent organism alone to do what the hell it wants to do.
Given the complexity of human beings, as you so rightly pointed out,
any concept of molecular determinism ruling one's life must be
subordinated to free will [for most of us, anyway].
But I did NOT imply any such thing at any point. Amazing what peope
will read into what you write. Even when there's not very much of
| Ed Rybicki, PhD | ed at molbiol.uct.ac.za |
| Dept Microbiology | University of Cape Town |
| Private Bag, Rondebosch | 7700, South Africa |
| fax: x27-21-650 4023 | phone: x27-21-650-3265 |
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