Nature just is

3 January 2013

What better way to start 2013 than with a meaningful quote from Jon Yewdell:

We might think we know how Nature should work, and we certainly gain insight into Nature by using our logical powers (endowed by Nature) to predict how Nature might work, but ultimately, we have to understand the way Nature does work. Nature, in all its glorious complexity, is completely impassive. It cares not a whit what we may or may not believe. Nature just is.

It’s astounding how many scientists don’t really get this.

Jon’s statement includes the subject of this blog – viruses – which have no intentions or desires. Viruses are the product of mutation and selection, the goal of which is simply existence. Evolution does not move viruses along a trajectory aimed at perfection. Change comes about by eliminating those viruses that are not well adapted for the current conditions, not by building something that will fare better tomorrow. Viruses just are.

  • Amado

    This beats thinking of viruses as menacing predators or microbes set out to decimate populations. They really just are. It’s the human immune system with its still-developing mechanisms, that needs to evolve for humanity to fare better tomorrow.

  • http://www.virology.ws profvrr

    Exactly my thoughts, Amado. I saw a few articles this week calling norovirus ‘the perfect pathogen’. I think that is the wrong way to look at it.

  • Lionel Berthoux

    Yet I can see the benefits of looking at a pathogen as an adversary, an enemy we can try to place ourselves in their shoes. I remember Didier Trono saying once, “if I were HIV, I would want to interact with…” and I think
    that this “trick of the mind” can sometimes results in interesting new
    ideas. It might be wrong from a fundamental point of view, but if it
    helps some investigators in their thinking, why not?

  • http://www.virology.ws profvrr

    Many have succumbed to the temptation of ascribing various actions and motives to viruses. Anthropomorphic characterizations are inaccurate and often misleading. Humans are not viruses and cannot hope to understand them by applying human traits and desires. More problematic is when the non-scientist hears such talk: it confuses them into thinking that viruses can ‘do’ something. They actually don’t ‘do’anything!