As scientists, we believe in cause and effect. If this is so, then everything is predetermined, at least at the macroscopic level. This would also mean that we are just molecular machines that have no responsibilities because we have no free will. In society, we would regard a person with such a radical view as a sociopath. We argue that we are indeed responsible for our actions and thus rightly punished for our crimes. How can these two views co-exist? Obviously, the human brain has evolved to observe, interpret and react to the outside world, but this does not mean that our soul, our thoughts, and our language are in perfect sync.
“From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned.” — Immanuel Kant.
In May 2014, a clinical trial of reverse-transcriptase inhibitors in Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS) is scheduled to start at the Necker Hospital in Paris. The orphan disease AGS is a Mendelian inflammatory disorder of the brain and skin. It is a clinical and radiological mimic of congenital infection, and it is associated with increased levels of the antiviral cytokine interferon alpha. Sadly, thirty-five percent of children with this disease die before the age of 10. A subgroup of patients carry a mutation in a gene that encodes the enzyme Trex1. Mutations in this gene are also responsible for 2% of lupus cases. The investigators of the trial write that they were “inspired by the really fantastic paper [from our lab: http://www.retrovirology.com/content/8/1/91], … which indicates that the accumulation of cytosolic DNA in Trex1-null cells can be ameliorated by inhibiting endogenous retro-element cycling.” In that paper we showed that mice with this lethal enzyme defect can be rescued by FDA-approved drugs (retroelement inhibitors) and suggested that such treatment might also ameliorate AGS in humans.
Most people with lupus have in their blood antibodies to DNA that is “native,” i.e., in the state most often found in our cells. DNA contains the information to build and maintain our bodies. Unlike a plan to build a bridge or a building, DNA is not separated from the cells that make up the body: all cells except red blood cells contain it. The DNA also instructs the cells of the immune system, which defends us against invading microorganisms and parasites. Read More
Imagine you just woke up from a nightmare—all sweaty and terrified. Thank God, it was only a dream! How do you know? The systems check tells you that now you are awake: Your body and the world around you obey the natural laws, with no exceptions. Persons and things no longer metamorphose on a whim, there is familiar cause and effect again, and you cannot fly, either. Read More
We are satisfied with explanations at different levels. In daily life, to explain a situation that is not important, we tell a quick story, perhaps without much structure, before moving on to the next topic. The explanation is unlikely to, and is not intended to, contribute a greater framework of understanding. Read More
This paper is an edited version of a lecture given by Charles Steinberg at the University of Basel in 1994 (translated from German and edited by Matthias and Rafael Wabl)
In 1955, a revolution began in immunology, and by chance I was there. I would like to give an account of these events and use it to illustrate how scientific revolutions come about.
The book by Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, was released in 1962, and since then the so-called “sociological approach” to the theory of science has been widespread. There are four basic concepts in his book. Read More