Sunday, May 08, 2005

To be pure!

Does science believe in Cult? Definitely NO. But scientists do. And therefore the scientific notions are many a time driven by such dogmatic believes. I first faced the problem while writing the recent article that has got accepted in Immunology.

As I had wrote in the last blog, the first question that I asked was why every body missing the real point. The mistake that I was questioning, in the article, is quite obvious. Every body knows selection can be both positive and negative. So just looking for positive selection of mutations can not give a picture on antigenic selection of an antibody clone. But every one was just following the trend and churning out papers. Even Dr. Rath frankly told us that he had also thought that the method used by people is wrong. But no one was questioning it.

Let me give another example of this trend. It is really amazing to note the symmetry and organization of a living system. But how does such an organized structures emerge out of basic molecules? The questions regarding emergence of living from non-living has always intrigued scientists. Similarly, if such organized structure emerges spontaneously, then why does it break into pieces? And why does it replicate? (Remember, replication has a huge cost in terms of energy and material). These questions are still unanswered.

But I want to draw attentions to some related thing. Many a time biology teachers ask students to explain whether biological systems are in contradiction with second law of thermodynamics. They argue that life is an organized form of bio-molecules. So with organized structure there is loss of entropy. But the process is spontaneous. Does the whole thing fits in the second law of thermodynamics? Their expected answer is that the organism is loosing entropy but the environment is gaining it due to the metabolic process. Even one can find many long articles on this line. Now, for me, asking such a question is stupid. In our thermodynamics classes, we first learn about different types of systems and their definitions: open system, closed system and isolated system. And in simplest terms second law of thermodynamics states that when an internal constrain of an isolated system is removed the entropy of the system increases. And every one knows that all concepts of thermodynamics are actually based on isolated systems. Life is no way an isolated system. So kindly dont ask such a question.

But there is a long history behind such seemingly stupid question. Most probably it all started with Shrödinger. In his book, "what is life?", he wrote -"living systems seems to feed on negative entropy " (I don’t remember the exact line, rather just the gross meaning). But what is negative entropy? No one had heard about it before. No one had deduced it. Is it possible? It’s the beginning of a new era dealing with "negative entropy". So we developed the term negantropy. However such concepts have not been able to solve the problems related to living systems. Rather we realized strongly that classical thermodynamics is not going to help us much to deduce ‘life’. I think all these debates actually trickled down in diluted form to Biologists. And may be that’s the origin of such a question that a biology student still faces in there college viva.

I am writing all this words just for me. Just to remind me not to get trapped in the club of cults. Being a member of this society one is always at risk of loosing ones own thought process and just ending up as a follower of a leader. We really need some psychological aerobics every day to get out of it and to keep ones thoughts pure.