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TagPierre-Luc Germain

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Can We Eliminate the Idea of Function From the Study of Life?

The question is, can biology journals take away what they did not give, without harming their own enterprise?

We tend to assume that our values come in part from the careers we follow. Often, that’s true. If a given mindset works well at work, we may try it at home. But that process can work in reverse. We can start with a mindset and try to graft it onto our work. With mixed results. That seems to have happened in some quarters in biology. For example, the term “function” in life forms is linked historically with the idea that life forms show evidence of design. Therefore, philosopher Emmanuel Ratti and molecular biologist Pierre-Luc Germain argue, biologists shouldn’t use it: The notion of biological function is fraught with difficulties — intrinsically and irremediably so, we argue. The physiological practice…