Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the very SUI GENERIS Dr Dawson

  About 1926, very suddenly, (roughly two thirds of the way along Modernity's century long heyday) there came a cluster of scientific discoveries and theories that questioned the fundamental (and unexamined) assumptions that lay at the very base of the Modernity Project.

  The implications of Paul Dirac's Vacuum Sea were
probably the most devastating of these assaults upon the certainties behind 19th Century physics, chemistry, biology, economics etc, but there were many others.

  These new ways at looking at the ultimates of reality, however, were mostly a case of scientists making their case to other scientists.

  When mainstream science gave most of these new ideas short shrift , few of these new ideas even made it into the discussions of the mainstream media at all.

  Beginning at the end of the Second World War, the Modernity Project got buffeted at the other end.

  Social scientists/philosophers like Horkheimer
and Adorno examined the moral implications of Modernity's assumptions about the differing worthiness of varying types of Life, showing how it lead to firebombing of civilians and worse, on all sides of the recent conflict.

  But I could find no one who was in the forefront of assailing Modernity's scientific AND moral assumptions - I would it seems have to write two - very separate - books on the subject of the slide from Modernity to Postmodernity, with no connection between the two books.

  But that was not my thesis.

  Not at all.

  I believed that these handful of scientists had put paid to Modernity's presumptions in the 1920s.

  But until the evidence in their articles were more or less believed by other scientists, judged to be important and was acted upon (by others doing lots of new research), they would have no impact scientifically or in the greater world outside Science.

  And in fact it was not until after the war and extending into the 1990s, before some of these pioneers of the 1920s were finally accepted as being basically right all along.

  Why then did today's scientists decide to look into their 'crackpot' ideas, after their elders had dismissed them for half a century?

  My thesis is that "Science follows the Election Returns and that the Election Returns follow Science" , to paraphrase Mr Dooley.

  Growing private doubts about the course of Modernity and the first Modernity War, evident (in Film Noir films and books if no where else) from about 1943 onwards in the general world population, was starting to slowly (very slowly) feedback into the world of science.

  A new generation of babyboomer scientists gradually got tenure and department chairmanships and grant committee memberships etc as the Modernity generation ( which never refuted its views) died.

  They were a generation less self confident that Modernity had done and could do, no harm.

  Then I fell upon Dawson's story.

  In Henry Dawson I saw someone who appeared , on one hand, as bone-dull ordinary, someone who almost seemed to give off negative charisma  because he was so unremarkable in so many ways.

  Yet this bog-ordinary ward doctor,this arthritis/aspirin doctor, also seemed to be truly sui generis.

  He had challenged Modernity both scientifically and morally - and then he died and was mostly forgotten.

  Both the rumbles from his efforts still shake our world 70 and 80 years later.

  Here was a scientist who was the first to challenge the Darwinian view of genes as solely Reproductive DNA, by suggesting there was also Transformative DNA.

  The glory and be-all of DNA to Darwin's coterie of believers was its fidelity - it amazingly reproduced the complexity of Life without almost any mistakes, generation after generation.

  By contrast, Dawson's Transformative DNA was amazing for the ability of DNA to transform one being instantly into a new being, different from anything that existed before - thus being a major source for evolutionary variety of the most rapid kind.

  This was not 'Transmutation' - the idea that some bacteria could change into another existing species.

  This is exactly like the alchemists' dream of changing (transmuting) lead into gold - with gold as abundant as lead it be worth as much as lead too.

  No cares if a strep bacteria could become a staph bacteria - with a trillion times a trillion staph bacteria already on the planet, who'd notice one more, no matter how amazing the process?

  No, Dawson's Transformative DNA would transform a penicillium fungi cell into a being now able to produce something ordinarily only made by some bacteria - that something being a beta lactam antibiotic, to be fully specific, penicillin.

  Penicillin is like, and also not like, the older bacterial beta lactam antibiotics - it is a metis, a hydrid, a half breed, something new - wonderfully new.

  Dawson's claim that beings at the very bottom of the Darwinian Food Chain could perform genetic miracles that the beings at the very top of Darwin's Ladder of Progress (upper middle class western male scientists) could not even dream of doing, was not very popular in the 1920s (or even today) among Darwinists.

  In the 1940s, Dawson challenged Modernity's view that in war, the 4F exists to protect the 1A.

  He argued for an older view, that the strong's job is to defend and protect the weak - particularly in war.

  In September 1940, Dawson said he believed that systemic natural (impure) pencillin could cure the worst manifestation of the then leading killer of young people - Rheumatic Fever, the Polio of the Poor.

  This was SBE, invariably fatal endocarditis of the heart valves caused by Rheumatic Fever.

  He was right it could.

  But the government said the SBEs were useless to the war effort and any extensive efforts to save them could wait till the war's end - IA soldiers with self-inflicted (non-fatal) VD were the priority for penicillin.

  By the war's end many of the SBE would be needlessly dead and nothing post that fact could bring them back - so Dawson deliberately stole government penicillin to keep them alive - and perhaps to bring the matter to a boil.

  That it did and eventually the government gave in to Dawson on two fronts -providing penicillin for SBEs during the war AND accepting Dawson's view that natural impure penicillin could do the job with no need to chase the chimera of synthetic penicillin.

  His penicillin was what was used for the rest of the war.

  (That is the penicillin we still use to this day.)

  I believe that Dawson's boyhood moral inclinations pushed him into areas of scientific research where he would find evidence that the weak are by no means as stupid  (and hence useless) as Modernity believed.

  I think his scientific research confirmed this view, in spades, and this only heightened his sense he had a moral obligation to defend the weak against Modernity's assault - which in turn led to his penicillin crusade during World War Two.

  This coupling (and two way feedback) between Dawson's science and his moral standpoint makes him a very intriguing example of
my thesis of 'election returns and science' .....

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