Friday, May 10, 2013

1945 : as apogee AND nadir of Modern Science

Hitler may have successfully convinced his most rabid followers that the murder of every last Jew in Europe was a fitting consolation prize for his failure to deliver up western Russia as the new frontier for the Aryan super race in 1941.

But the rest of humanity regarding Auschwitz as a particularly (and peculiarly)  modern and scientific crime made it particularly hard for modern scientists in the rest of the world to present their continuing support of eugenics as the public face of postwar biology.

Still Auschwitz in the end proved a godsend to Oswald Avery's 1944 reductionist claims that Free Will didn't really exist but was simply manipulated by the chemical workings of a simple molecule called DNA.

Thanks to DNA, the old science of eugenics, ( ie its old positive program, along with a reduced version of its old negative program (now to be limited to families agreeing, semi-voluntarily, to the abortions of genetically 'damaged' foetuses) could carry on as before, but as the new science of DNA genetics.

DNA thus joined Atom-busting and Penicillin as three of the biggest triumphs of Modern Science, the three big Plan As that had emerged during WWII, if not all  as actual products of that war.

But let us look at these claims more closely.

 Atom-busting and atomic re-arranging is a natural event, discovered, rather than invented, by Modern Scientists.

It is based upon the discovery in 1896 (the same year that Henry Dawson was born) of natural radioactivity.

This is an event that is totally random and totally anti-deterministic ; we still have no idea when and why an individual atom breaks into two or more pieces.

I would thus take natural radioactivity as anti-modern, post modern, science at its most characteristic because it refutes one of three cornerstones of  all Modern Science : strong determinism .

This holds not just that every thing has a cause as to by it happens, but also that humans can discern that cause and then manipulate it to our advantage.

Another cornerstone of modern science is reductionism.

In the weak version of genetic reductionism, the one that we virtually all hold, it was already known by everybody before 1944, that whatever a gene was, at the bottom it had to exist as some arrangement of atoms.

(By contrast, strong genetic reductionism (chemical eugenics), as held by Avery, holds that once we know how those atoms are arranged, we can predict whether or not a girl will agree to date a particular boy.)

Viewed in this light, we might do well to remember that DNA manipulation was not invented by humans, but rather was only discovered by them  ---- and discovered by medical doctors, not geneticists.

Those medical doctors, led , above all, by Henry Dawson, discovered that some bacteria (intellectually as far from the mind of the modern scientist as can be) easily manipulate DNA in ways directly contrary to the Central Dogma of Biology and Genetics that genetic inheritance in vertical forward only.

(This vertical inheritance is the view that all that we are or can ever be , came directly from our (past) parents and their parents, an inheritance that is always strictly limited to remaining within our own species.)

In fact, microbes ( bacteria, viruses,sub-viruses, together with the smallest plants and animals are happy to snip DNA from here and drop it there, willy nilly : horizontal inheritance, HGT, across species, genus and families.

This is the major source for most of the real interesting genetic variety, including why all the world's bacteria can become resistant to a new drug in just ten years.

HGT is another 'difficult-to-get-your-head-around-if-you-have-High-School-Science', postmodern scientific concept, but it was guised in 1945 as another Plan A from Modern Science.

Penicillin was not invented like the totally synthetic sulfa drugs that proceeded it but rather it is produced by incredibly tiny fungus factories smaller than the eye can see.

Henry Dawson - again - led the way in proposing and using natural penicillin today over obtaining synthetic penicillin - maybe - tomorrow.

 But the chuzpha-bound men of modern science, naturally, tried to "point-to-with-pride" to the large stainless steel human factories that (nominally) held the smaller fungus factories doing all the work, as the source of our penicillin : just another Plan A of Modern Science.

Cheek !

In fact Chemistry, the Queen of the Sciences until 1945, faded after the war as a direct result of the rise of postmodern science of microbiology ---- directly as a result of the failure of  wartime synthetic chemists to make penicillin and most other antibiotics.

So much of modern science's triumphs of 1945 can just as readily be shown to be the anti-modern triumphs of postmodern science....

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