Barefoot In the head

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Friday, September 23, 2011


When the young Earth cooled, it rained for centuries, filling up the oceans. Thunder and lightning in the Methane, Ammonia atmosphere of the primordial Earth filled its newly formed oceans with all sorts of organic molecules including several Amino acids. Through millions of years of permutations and combinations, one molecule came to be. Ribonucleic acid, or RNA.

RNA had the ability to make copies of itself. And the copies could make copies of themselves and on and on and on. But then the RNA can copy itself only if it has the necessary raw materials around. And the copies would survive only if they were protected from the harshly corrosive oceans of the Earth.

So RNA evolved. It covered itself in a sheath of protein. Cells became the copying machine for RNA. But how can a cell protect itself? Cells learned to move away from danger, unicellular organisms formed. RNA multiplied a little more reliably.

But unicellular organisms are not the best survivors, they are too delicate. Cells clumped together to form multicellular organisms that could sense their environments in many different ways. These were true survivors, soon they would be out of the oceans, away from the corrosive danger of water.

The tree of evolution produced millions of species of plants and animals. Complex sheaths of protein to protect and replicate RNA, safely. But then, species go extinct because of the forces of nature. One comet wiped out the dinosaurs, products of millions of years of evolution. With the dinosaurs went countless trillions of fresh RNA.

In the next round of evolution, cells clumped together to form larger brains. Finally, a brain large enough to work out ways to manipulate nature. Homo Sapiens, the ape with the power to change the planet. This then was the safest RNA replicator ever produced. A magnificent effort by one mindless molecule, RNA, to survive.
But the Earth will not last forever. When the Sun swallows it up in a few billion years, RNA would be gone forever, at least from this part of space. The human brain evolved, producing ever increasingly complex technology to change the planet and its surrounding. Already it has the potential to change the orbit of the Moon, thereby changing the entire Solar System, subtly.

One day, the Universe itself will collapse on itself. All RNA would be gone for ever.

Our purpose then is to stop this from happening, to create a steady state universe that is eternal. Then only will RNA continue to multiply for all time to come.
So, could this be the answer to our nature and purpose? We, humans are the way we are because we are the most efficient RNA multiplier created by nature. Our purpose is to let this multiplication happen through all eternity.

All our values focus on the preservation of life, peace and a happy environment. Because a healthy and happy human body produces more and better RNA than any else.
We should not be annoyed with RNA for creating us as its copying machine. Because RNA does not think.

It is just a molecule.

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Blogger Richard said...

You managed to make a religion out of a scientific theory. I am not sure, that is a good thing.

"We should not be annoyed with RNA for creating us as its copying machine. Because RNA does not think." ... so and this is the main point why your explanation does not qualify as a 'purpose'.
1) If RNA does not think, it does not have a purpose. It just is.
2) If you have a stupid 'boss', that gives you stupid tasks that you have to repeat forever, you will find a new job at some point, right? So even if it were the purpose - why would we care? The 'boss' is 'mindless'.

September 24, 2011 at 2:03 AM  
Blogger Vikram Footring said...

Are you sure you are not mixing up DNA and RNA. ALthough similar, these two substances are functionally very different. RNA is a single helix and contains the Pyramidine group Uracil, but it contains no genetic information to be passed down. DNA, the double helix structure containing Thymine is the one that contains genetic information and appears to be the one that you are talking about in this post. These ideas were explored by Richard Dawkins in his book "The Selfish Gene".

As to the question of the purpose of life, I think it is a bit of a non question. To say "What is the purpose of life?" is grammatically correct, but doesn't really work as a question. It is like asking "What is the purpose of mountains?". While grammatically correct, it still makes no sense. You can go into their formation, and the complex processes involved, but asking their purpose does not hold meaning.
While these are my own views, they have been informed by the work of Richard Dawkins (again).

September 25, 2011 at 4:21 AM  
Blogger Sugata Mitra said...

Surely mountains have a purpose? No ?

September 25, 2011 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger JF Brandon said...

If you have a boss, it because he creates order in a hierarchical way...if you don't like him, its because you have thought of a better way to organize without him.

DNA and RNA are different...DNA is the message, RNA is the messenger. One could say metaphorically that DNA is the word, or God, and RNA is his prophet or angel. Regardless, Thymine does not contain information in itself. Rather, it is the sequences of thymine, adenine, guanine and cytosine working together that provide the information needed for life. Rather like 1s and 0s provide the information to transmit information about.....let's say the latest hockey scores.

Mountains perhaps have a purpose, but in a rather odd way. They were induced by tectonic forces to become highlands, and deduces to sharp crags by wind and water. A rather physical description of induction and deduction.

October 7, 2011 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger gzaller said...

I think this has already been done eons ago. That's why we are here.

Think of something else to do.

March 22, 2012 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Torn Halves said...

Dear Professor, I am a little surprised at the poverty of your conception of the overall telos of human endeavour. If the End is the perpetuation of the genetic code, there is no need for art, no need for mutual understanding, no need for democracy, no need for the sisterhood of humanity, since it will be enough to have a sufficiently powerful and wealthy technocracy able to manipulate the rest of society (and, by the way, how better to make people more malleable than by atomising all societies and getting everyone to sit alone in their rooms in front of their PCs?).

August 10, 2012 at 2:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Interesting comments:)

March 27, 2013 at 8:06 AM  

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