Before this it was ATP synthase - the tiny turbines that power every cell - that made my draw metaphorically drop
It's easy to think of in-between steps for any post-cellular-life step in the evolutionary process that led to intelligent life but if you have no self-replication you can't have evolution. Most likely at the start proteins just floated around freely in water and did various random things, most of them not really useful. Every now and then some, by chance, some protein would do something useful. Now earth is big and before life, proteins could float around freely without being repurposed by bacteria or other organisms as building material.
But the best protein that's the result of random processes isn't helpful without the ability to clone it in some way. Proteinbiosynthesis  is an extremely complex process that involves multiple substeps each needing complex proteins of their own to facilitate it. It also needs an ample supply of ATP that has to come from somewhere and not be wasted by "useless" proteins.
The most simple cell that we can build today has 531 thousand basepairs .
Paper linked at the bottom: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-02742-3
Apologies, can’t find the original article.
You’ll come away fighting off the idea that it’s a sentient adversary with a much better understanding of biology than our own. The complexity of the environment it operates in is already astonishing, and then number of tactical mechanisms it employs to thrive in a healthy body seems one tick shy of statistically impossible to stachastically occur.
When you get cancer you encounter cells that through natural selection developed to beat your immune system so they've already essentially discovered every trick in the book and when you attack them the cells that survive are those who wrote a new book to do so.
Things like tumor escape mechanisms aren't sentient they are just random things that cancer cells attempt and you only see the outcome of those that worked.
Basically a cancer cell might start shouting "yo bro you should totally try this..." and other cells that receive the signal and capable of doing that action might just happen to try it, in fact in some case this is just how you get cancer, one cell starts yelling chug chug chug and all the other cells around it get hammered.
You're a gift to horror/sci fi writers.
Hope that helps
Fast little buggers.
Just a thought. My first sentence was a question because I’m not sure if my distinction boils down to semantics.
EDIT: if I had to elaborate, I would say that we can readily ascribe functions or reasons for things, but saying 'the reason for x is y' strikes me as treating the case as closed, whereas 'y is the function of x' brings up a whole raft of other questions, opening new territory for inquiry.
Another way to say it is that Nature does not confine itself to reasons. It just does things, and some of them stick. We can find an unlimited number of reasons that contribute to why they stick.
As such, science should continue to deny that teleology has any place in science, except perhaps (when it produces claims of the second, complex type) as an inspiration for practitioners in generating hypotheses without actual teleological content.
Scientists can—and many do—still embrace teleological beliefs, though teleology is not necessary to avoid nihilism, as purpose can be found within as well as without.
Unless there's hard evidence to lift it above story-telling, it's just as unlikely to be true as any other comforting story.
The scientific basis for that is something called "narrative pseudo-logic". Brains seem to be something of a story machine. Unfortunately the bar for story plausibility is shockingly low, which is why humans believe all kinds of strange and wildly contradictory things about where the universe came from and what it's for.
The point of empiricism is to break out of narrative pseudo-logic and find stories that are reliably and consistently true when tested - not just stories that sound like they should be true because we want them to be, or we like them, or we're not imaginative enough to consider that they might simply be wrong.
If you think it is something that should be accepted without demonstration, then please describe a framework of thought where this is acceptable and which still remains useful. I literally can't think of any.
That's not surprising. There is a long and colorful history of conflict between scientists and a panoply of false narratives. This is ongoing and requires an active defense. If you wish to survive that gauntlet you'll need something pretty compelling; an abstraction camouflaged by obscure terms won't suffice.
I would tie it in with what Martin Buber called "I and Thou"
> Buber's main proposition is that we may address existence in two ways:
> 1, The attitude of the "I" towards an "It", towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience.
> 2. The attitude of the "I" towards "Thou", in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds.
> One of the major themes of the book is that human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships. In Buber's view, all of our relationships bring us ultimately into relationship with God, who is the Eternal Thou.
Also, "What Bodies Think About: Bioelectric Computation Outside the Nervous System" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18736698
In a nutshell, the things that neurons do to think happen between non-neural cells all the time.
Consider also the "wood wide web" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycorrhizal_network
Not to put too fine a point on it, but these things think in just the same way that neurons think. Life is purposeful.
To me it seems clear the scientific attitude pushes us toward a kind of animism.
I'm too excited to put this well, sorry!
That said, given how much the total number of scientists/ engineers/curious people with resources has grown, it feels like, for any work happening in one corner of the world with a particular cognitive blind spot, you can find one in another corner without it.
It was a very interesting piece, but what was really interesting was an organic chemistry or biochem class back in the mid 80s where the professor, possibly 90 years old at the time, said something to the effect that there's not a snowball's chance in hell any protein just came into being on its own. That really stuck with me.
What astonishes me is that they must have heard the counter-argument by now, yet they persist in thinking the 747 analogy is a mic drop moment.
In short: it would be a great comeback if evolutionary theory claimed that a modern protein/cell/animal just randomly assemble in one fortunate event. But it doesn't. In fact, the entire point of evolutionary theory explains why one fell swoop isn't necessary.
For example §6.1.3 "Function and Teleology"
(British comedy series, "Yes, Minister", usual staff response to an appointed gov't minister's barking-mad pronouncement.)