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A Tweet Representing the Core Challenge We Face

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ribosome
Photo: "Ribosome Sculptures," New York Hall of Science, Ryan Somma via Flickr (cropped).

Christian Landry is the Principal Investigator of a lab at Laval University in Quebec, doing really interesting work on cellular networks, the origin of novelties, and evolutionary genomics. Like most academic biologists, he also teaches (cell biology, in his case). Here is a tweet from his Twitter feed, dated April 7:

But why remove “purpose?” Does that word hinder explaining cell function? Likely the answer is no, because Landry clearly loves the textbook.

He doesn’t like what “purpose” may entail philosophically. And there you have it — the challenge we face.

By the way, the purpose of ribosomes is to translate mRNA into protein. That’s an entirely natural use of “purpose,” and makes perfect sense. Try this instead: this large structure (don’t call it a machine, please!) just happens to bind to mRNA, and mirabile dictu, proteins emerge. Through a tunnel in the large subunit which regulates folding — oops, pardon the teleology, just happens to do something related to folding…

Madness.