Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dawson's commensality supplies Modernity's "Missing Middle"

Seventy five years on, WWII (conventionally 1939-1945 but actually lasting much longer) looks like nothing more than two great grist stones, Reification and Reductionism, relentlessly grinding up all humanity between them .

For example, the Axis reified a scientific claim that humanity could be accurately divided into being either members or non-members of a concretely actual Aryan Race --- and then set out to eliminate all the non members.

The Allies, equally guilty, chose to worship at a scientific temple that claimed the reduction of all human complexity to the view we are but simple aggregates of tiny indivisible protons and electrons.

Neither claim can stand up to a probing examination - then or now.

But in fact, those claims weren't generally contested seventy five years ago.

However one scientist, Henry Dawson, while paddling in his quiet backwater of the study of human-bacterial commensality, implicitly seemed to offer up an extremely muted scientific critique of these two complementary explanations of Reality.

No wonder his view was ignored.

However he persisted because it did seem that these two complementary explanations - one encompassing the very biggest things in reality and the other covering the very small entities in reality - left out the vast middle of reality.

And that is the very place where all life (and most matter and energy) actually 'lives' .

The key concept in commensality ("the dining together of all life, big and small, at a common table") is that tiny but vital connector :  AND  .

Commensality re-unites what reductionism and reification divides.

Commensal Penicillin : the saving of the lives of 1A soldiers AND  4F civilians , on both sides of the war

But it was not until he put his ideas on commensality into practise, as he confounded the Allied plan to weaponize wartime penicillin, that commensality began to have an actual impact on the thoughts of scientists and the general population.

For in science, as in life generally, words - even peer-reviewed published words - don't always speak louder than actions....

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