Monday, August 31, 2015

The course of WWII : from fungophobia to fungomania ?

Hitler's Nazis described all the Jews as being a fungoid growth, a poisoned mushroom, and said the next war would see either the death of all the Jews or the death of all human civilization.

And Zyklon B was to be their fungicide of choice.

The Nazi's use of metaphors about fungoid growths spreading their invisible threads through national bodies, of slimy smelly molds found only in dark dank decaying places, and evil and deadly 'devil's fruit' mushrooming up everywhere overnight was not at all unusual for that inter-war era.

HP Lovecraft, as well as a host of otherwise ordinary writers, easily outdid the Nazis in their vivid descriptions of the ultimate evil as being fungoid in character.

And in 1945, when atomic bomb explosion clouds first emerged looking at least as much like cauliflowers as mushrooms - guess what species got overwhelmingly picked to describe this horrible new weapon of war ?

There was no doubt that fungophobia was the in-house mental illness for of all western civilization, be it Allied, Axis or Neutral.

All the more paradoxical then --- in the full G K Chesterton sense of that term --- that WWII also ended with much of the world in the throes of fungomania.

All over a small, smelly, slimy, blue green smear, a common household pest, that gave suffering humanity its best ever lifesaver : penicillin.

Ironic, isn't it ?

The Age of Progress was inevitably also the Age of Big

Michael B Schiffer (The Portable Radio in America) is fighting an uphill battle and he knows it.

Schiffer is hoping to show the rich history of success by American engineers at making extremely small and portable radios (and hearing aids) before WWII and before the transistor and before the Japanese.

I think his book and all its documentation makes his case - in spades.

But Schiffer is frank is stating the postwar American customer generally wanted no part of anything small - not in cars and not in radios or TVs ----- or in hydro dams, bridges, aircraft, bombers or battleships.

In a an era of Progress and Manichean Modernity, the Bigger was very much the better.

Microbes were small and hopelessly primitive --- Man and his works were big and clever.

Ipso Facto.

The cult of the small and the miniature, seen most fully in our present world of electronics, only truly came to the fore when the phrase "this is the microbes' world and we humans are just visiting" became a commonplace.

It may be a coincidence but I don't think so.

Like the TV detective always says, "I don't believe in coincidences"....

Microbes can reproduce a million times as fast as humans - or a thousand times as slow

Wait, wait a minute - you ain't seen nothing yet folks - there's more, lots more !

They can live almost without water, live in salty brine or strong acid, resist radiation, survive extreme hot and cold, and the high pressures of the deep underground, live in the dark, live inside incredibly tiny holes in rock.

They can share all their billions of different genes through the process of horizontal gene transfer, HGT, a sort of loosey goosey world wide library system where everyone is both author and patron.

No globe wide catastrophe in four billion years has been able to kill them.

No wonder, if we recall they can remain in suspended animation for perhaps millions of years, without any food or water, inside extremely hot or extremely cold bare rock, just patiently waiting for Churchill's broad sunlit uplands to reemerge.

Of course, on October 15th 1940, almost no one would have believed any of this, even if it had been gathered in one popular account for all to read.

For "The Symmetry of Progress and Manichean Modernity", circa 1940, simply demanded that the brilliance of civilized Man is to be balanced and framed by the stupidity of the primitive Microbe.

Martin Henry Dawson's pioneering injections of mold-made penicillin into patients on October 16th 1940 began the slow drip drip drip that eventually ended that delusion.

Of course the many war time activities of Europe's biggest civilization also helped...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What if penicillin was a Paradox, rather than a miracle ?

Google penicillin + miracle together and you get over a third of a million references, in English alone.

So wartime penicillin was clearly one of God's miracles, n'est c'est pas ?

But what if it was one of God's paradoxes instead ?

We all recall how much GK Chesterton loved to talk about God's paradoxes and how freely he added many of his own.

Adolf Hitler love to 'talk' too - rants usually.

All too often about how Jews were fungoid growths and fungus ferments.

Adolf and German right wing culture of his era generally all had a real mania for seeing Jews as literally being cultural fungus pathogens bent dissolving the German organic society.

During WWII, the Nazis saw the entire war as being about a fungoid growth taking the world by storm ---- with the Aryan race resisting it all the way, in a case of it being either them or us.

That proved to be the case, because in 1945, the Nazi Aryan vision was totally defeated and penicillin did indeed take the entire world by storm....

"Isn't it ironic," sings Alanis M.....

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Which would you rather have injected into your veins : fungus piss or piss from a guy with VD ?

Seemingly not an attractive choice is it but most people learned to take in all in stride as long as you weren't too blatant about it.

Most people during WWII had to make do with semi-purified fungus excrements (aka penicillin) injected into them.

An unlucky few got the penicillin extracted (sic) from the urine of men with VD at the Marine Hospital on Staten island who had just received penicillin.

From 40 to 60% of the original penicillin injected into us, leaves in our urine four hours later, completely unharmed.

The extraction was supposedly very simple, according to Dr LH Sophian, admittedly a very well regarded medical scientist.

(Basically making the urine even more acid by adding very strong HCL acid and then adding some acetone and chilling the mix in a fridge for 4 hours and then separating penicillin from acetone into water) and yielded up to 30% of the 40%-60% excreted.

That is 12% to 18% of the original penicillin.

But I doubt that the result could have been as pure as the original penicillin, itself already pretty impure.

Because if the result was at all pure, given such a supposedly easy extraction method, all the Allies' wartime drug industry would be busy extracting penicillin this way, on a commercial basis.

And very odd, when for 20 years the world's doctors and scientists were united in being repulsed by the mere thought of injecting natural fungus piss into humans, they said nothing about the idea of injecting VD filled "piss penicillin" into the same human veins...

The acorn becomes an oak : October 16th 1940

Adults of a certain age were all quite small when they first learned the acute difference between those two very similar sounding medical words that adults like to use : antiseptic and antibiotic.

For when we scratched our knee falling off our trike, Mom washed it, put an orange antiseptic that stung like heck and then gave us a kiss and a cookie.

We had long forgotten the spill before the orange washed off and the scratch healed.

But then one dread-filled summer's afternoon, the whole house was extremely tense as neighbours filed in. whispering low.

"Spinal Meningitis".

Suddenly old Dr Mattison, who never ever made housecalls, came speeding up the drive on two wheels and ran up the steps two at a time, dragging his black bag.

Without as much as even a curt hello, he drew a big needle out of his bag and plunged it deep into little sister and held his thumb full down until it emptied.

Then, after a profound release of pent up air, he casually tapped Mom on the shoulder and in an unnaturally loud voice said , "Marg, where's your manners, how about a cuppa ?"

No one but no one ever dared call Mom 'Marg' and she looked momentarily shocked,  but then she shook all over, gave off a relieved laugh and scurried off to the kitchen.

And for the first and only time in your life, you saw Dad burst into tears, balled like a baby, as Doctor Mattison patted baby sister's on the head repeatedly and said, "you'll be alright" until the ambulance arrived.

That is the difference an antibiotic makes.

But just as even a mighty oak started as a tiny acorn, so too the most famous of all antibiotics, penicillin, started out as a harmless antiseptic rather than a mighty life-saving antibiotic.

For the first twelve years of its existence as a medicine, its prolonged childhood of the soul, penicillin was only used occasionally, dabbed as an antiseptic on external infections, with usually modest results.

But seventy five years this Fall, on October 16th 1940, at NYC's famous Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Centre, Penicillin finally climbed out of short pants and into long pants as it was injected for the very first time in a dying patient with the intention of saving his life.

That patient, Charles Aronson, was a young man dying of then invariably fatal SBE, the form of heart valve disease caused by earlier bouts of Rheumatic Fever.

That pioneering dose of penicillin, ushering in our present Age of Antibiotics, must of helped because unexpectedly Charles lived and returned to a useful working life.

An in that instant, an acorn became an oak....

When both pigs and badly crippled birds fly, the only miracle we humans chose to notice involves the pigs

One definition of God's miracles is that they must defy gravity, as with pigs that fly, or involve defying some one or other of God's ten thousand or so commandments of science.

But what if God sometime choses to follow His own scientific commandments but merely gild their lilly a bit beyond normal expectations?

What we catholics like to call miracles in the third degree.

As in the crippled bird returning to nest, or when a crippled plane successfully returns to base.

Or when the penicillium arrived to usher in a kinder gentler post-modern era just at the very moment when Manichean Modernity was really going postal.

These unnoteworthy quiet 'miracles', in the human metaphorical sense, might turn out to have been God's miracles as well...

What if Penicillin really was a miracle ?

What if we never find the mis-laid personal account from Henry Dawson, finally explaining the reasons for the other Manhattan Project, because that document never actually existed.

Because perhaps Dawson could never explain, even to himself, just why he began the project.... and why he carried it through at the cost of his own life.

Because Dr Dawson perhaps sometimes felt propelled forward by forces beyond his ken, to do what he did, regardless of the cost.

I can and I will, give my best educated guesses as to why Dawson rationally and deliberately did what he did --- but I have no proof, no proof at all.

Another reason, a very celestial reason, makes just as much sense and has just as much proof.

Or maybe a bit more - because in 1943-1946, it was very common indeed, among the devout and among the atheists alike, to speak of the "miracle" of penicillin.

As a Roman Catholic doctor* once remarked to Margaret Jennings about the atheist Howard Florey and penicillin and miracles, wouldn't Florey have been surprised, if it really had been a miracle.

But won't we all have been surprised as well, the nominally devout at least as much as the militant doubter ?

What if God did choose to come back at the height of the horrible WWII, as a blob, like none of us, just a smear on a subway wall --- or on a tenement hall.

Once again, just to help Humanity find its way home....


*recalled in Trevor Williams' biography of Howard Florey

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Way out of his comfort zone

I was not truly 'surprised' that the normally highly diffident Dr Martin Henry Dawson broke his own team protocol and became the first person in history to inject an antibiotic (dirty natural penicillin) into a patient, 75 years ago this October 16th.

For the diffident Dawson had done something similar at least once before, pushing on with his equally pioneering research into the horizontal transfer of DNA between microbes, against the express orders of his boss at NYC's Rockefeller Institute.

That totally ruined his career prospects at the world's most attractive centre for doing medical research --- so this new decision to merely jump his own tiny team's protocol would have far less dire career consequences.

But what did surprise me - and did so for a very long time (years and years and years in fact) - was his twin decisions made the month earlier.

"Can you tell a rich guy's poo from a poor guy's poo -- or a civilized poop from a primitive's poop ?

Yeah, me neither.

And telling the difference between human poo and animal poo doesn't get any much easier.

We are all animals, all excrete, all age, all die, all decompose.

Yeah, we humans do think and dream (more accurately, we humans think and dream more than do other animals) but it doesn't seem to have increased our evolutionary luck.

No dumb critter ever came up with a way to mutually assure their species would all instantly die in a nuclear war.

Cleanliness and purity, elegance, beauty, symmetry, equilibrium are all just concepts the old religions and the new religion (Science) use to convince us that the religiously pure and the civilized don't really poop and don't stink, don't age, die and decompose.

The sight and smell of poop and fungoid growths always make that sort highly uneasy or even irrationally angry, because those sights and smells remind them that our mental defences are just that : mental --- totally unable to arrest the inevitable physical processes of our bodies.

And here is where our ability to think hurts and doesn't help : the animals simply poop and move on.

We humans agonize about it, deny it and even organize mass killings of "stinky" Jews, Gypsies, Blacks and Spics around it....

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"a Nazi's work is never done"

I know, I know, the phrase is usually "a woman's work is never done".

It refers to the repetitious nature of traditional women's work done in the home .

Woman know well its endless cycle of cleaning house, shopping, cooking, cleaning up dishes, washing clothes, washing children and ironing hubbie's clothes ---- on and on.

And then start it all over again the next day ---- and for all the days, weeks, months, years and decades after that.

Futile --- like trying to sweep back the ocean.

But the Nazi men self-selected for themselves the sort of work normally reserved for women in a very real sense when they took on the task of keeping both 'the home' of Germans and the German Volk 'family' 100% pure and 100% clean --- free from any sort of human 'germs'.

And it would have been a task that would never ever have stopped, even if Nazis had won the war and they had killed off all the world's Jews.

A new bogeyman would have been invented, to blame, to fear and to seek out and kill.

Meanwhile even if the Aktion T4 had killed all the defectives and even if the concentration camp system had killed off the 'politicals' and the 'asocials', each new generation would just breed some more, to be once again hunted down and killed.

And smelling out all the mixed babies created by illicit sex in dark corners, between Germans and forbidden races and ethnicities - between dark haired pure Germans and impure blonde Poles - oh don't get me started on that one says Himmler.

As G&S once sang, a compulsive obsessive mass murderer's lot is not a happy one.....

clean and pure are 100% or they are dirty and impure

The 'One Drop Rule' --- the American laws that if you had ever had any non-white fore bearers in your distant past, one drop of black* blood in you, then you were not 100% pure white and hence had to be completely black instead, are now seen by most as a great moral evil.

They were also very good examples of the dangers of relying upon logical thinking that avoids checking in on the real world.

Those laws were all based upon following up the consequences leading from their primary assumption, the seemingly unambiguous definition of the word "pure".

(*In Whites Only Australia and in Latin America, interestingly, the tendency was if the person had one drop of white blood then they were white --- equally real world absurd but in the other direction.)

The problem was that definitions like clean and pure are those Platonic words of absolute absolute - things can only be 100% pure or 100% clean or they are no longer pure or clean, by definition*.

(*Pure : not mixed with any other substance.)

And because avoiding having a few stray atoms of other matter cling to even the purest of scientific samples is impossible, nothing in the real world is really pure or really clean.

At best, it can only be relatively clean and relatively pure --- or equally convincingly, it can only be described as relatively dirty and relatively impure.

All matter, including us humans, is therefore really arranged on a long continuum made up of varying shades of grey --- not 100% clean white and 100% dirty black.

Unmodified words like clean and pure therefore are best understood as the external manifestations of an internal mental affliction.

They are also examples of a long history of thinkers seeking to impose unreal Platonic and universal definitions upon our shared real world, all in order to salve an internal and personal mental condition suffered by only themselves and their fellow afflicted.

Prozac relief by dictionary, as it were.

Thinkers who tend to see the world in broadly Platonic ways all suffer from a common mental condition shared by many others, that of having a marked intolerance for ambiguity.

We recognize this affliction also among people who are politically conservative, or rigid in personality, or among a common subset of scientists, philosophers and mathematical-oriented types.

And to these poor people, the fact that words like clean and pure have no real world equivalent is beyond cognitive acceptance.

And to some of these afflicted folk in our recent past, the mere fact that anyone competent in both logic and with a knowledge of history could demonstrate that if we humans all came 'out of Africa', then we must all have at least 'one drop of Negro blood' in our distant past, was totally without consequence.

They badly need mental relief and this law used to provide it --- for everyone was now back to being either fully black or fully white, neatly reflecting the way these afflicted folk viewed the entire world.

These 'one drop' laws has been abandoned (in theory) but interestingly the FBI (as you might have guessed !) still does not recognize mixed race as a self definition - one is either white, black or yellow etc.

The FBI is now in the 21st century and recognizes and accepts many things that it didn't in the past --- but along with its fellow afflicted sufferers in conservative parties and in branches of academia, accepting ambiguity is not one of them....

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Penicillium mold upends our notions of Science and Progress says 1952 medical editorial

Is there a stranger chapter than this in the
whole history of scientific progress?
Ten years ago, "mold" was a faintly repulsive fungoid growth which sometimes caused the spoilage of food products.
The very word "moldy” implies something “musty,
fusty, and stale.”
Today, the blue mold is recognized
as a synthetic chemist of the first order— a
friend and benefactor of the human race.
    — Editorial , American Journal of Public Health, March, 1952.

I just discovered this editorial in an old copy of a county medical society journal but it said then what I have always thought about the wartime penicillin drama....

Penicillin "J" : instead of the body and blood of a rural carpenter's helper

What if "Jew-Boy Jesus" came back during WWII & The Holocaust and no one even noticed ?

If instead of being a humble (but still very human) rural carpenter's helper offering the world's suffering His body and blood, this time He came back as a mere household pest.

Came back as that ever annoying blue green mold that ruins so much of our food and clothing.

Yes, as a 'fungoid growth', to paraphrase someone infamous.

And instead offering up His body and blood, this time the world's suffering and hurting got His poo and pee.

Because that is what the scientific consensus in that interwar period thought was the purpose of fungus secondary metabolites, like the life-saving penicillin - mere excretions of post-metabolic waste.

(Poo and pee, in words that even ankle-biters like Sam down at the daycare would understand.)

"J" as in Jewish or Jesus ?

The Double Miracle of penicillin "J".

In the face of Hitler's horror, a truly avenging Jewish Penicillin "J".

Saving lives and busting human hubris wherever it went.

Now of course many religious people think God is far too rational and level headed to do anything as hair-brained as that.

Myself, God is totally mysterious and free-spirited and loving and He just might.

For morally, for the most innocent of humanity-- its children, WWII was a truly desperate time, with the adult human ego and hubris on all sides of the conflict raging unchecked.

And desperate times do call for desperate (or at least inspired) measures....

Penicillin "J" , the OTHER Manhattan Project

What if Jesus came back during WWII, and no one even noticed ?

What if God was a blob like none of us, just a smear upon a subway wall...or tenement hall ?

WWII as "dirty" penicillin vs ethnic "cleansing" and racial "purity"

What if Jesus came back - during WWII - and no one even noticed ?

But no, not this time as a simple carpenter's helper, slouching into town as 'a dolt on a colt'.

Because humble as that act was, it didn't really curb human hubris for very long.

No, this time, to really rub some salt of humility into the open wound of overweening hubris, He comes back as a blob.

Just a smear on a subway wall, or tenement hall, HP Lovecraft's moldy smelly slimy smear relentlessly spreading all over your favourite pair of boots, in some dark dank closet.

Penicillin "J", only now, coming out of the closet, to offer hope in a time of horror.

Tiny hyssop, in a time of giant Cedars ...

WWII Europe : Ethnic Cleansing was next to Godliness, for small and big nations alike

Not all the world violently reduced their ethnic minorities at the point of a gun during and at the end of WWII : only its most civilized portion : Europe !

The whole ideology of Progress, with its claims that the most civilized nations at the top were also the most moral, took another fatal body blow as a result.

Even before WWII formally began, small nations like Poland licked their lips and seized tiny portions of the equally small Czechoslovakia that they claimed - horrors - had a few of their "fellow" ethnics who they discovered had been mistreated by the Slovaks.

(One wonders how many hundreds of nations could invade Canada using the same feeble excuse, seeking to recover their "fellow" ethnics who emigrated to Canada beginning almost 500 years earlier.)

When Poland itself was soon invaded by Germany in turn, using the excuse that it was merely rescuing mistreated ethnic Germans in Poland, the general moral case for humanity helping Poland was neatly undercut.

Poland ended the war kicking out millions of its German residents from the lands to the west of the old Poland while receiving millions of Poles forcibly kicked out of the lands to the east of the old Poland.

Perhaps as many as a million Germans died in this process, mostly the weaker and relatively innocent children and elderly.

Then the Ukraine murderously killed and chased their Poles out of their new nation - a process the new Polish nation did to their Ukrainians in reverse.

This sort of squalid behavior happened all over middle and eastern Europe.

Western Europe and their colonial allies, together with all the neutral nations, refused to stop all this ethnic cleansing and ethnic cleansed themselves in a sense by not taking in many refugees or DPs themselves.

And by knowingly returning the fleeing citizens of the Iron Curtains countries to the non-tender care of their erstwhile Ally, the USSR.

Almost nobody in 1945 protested all this murderous cleansing, because pure nations of one ethnicity only was a widely accepted goal of all civilized peoples - a Godly good.

Seventy five years later, with almost the adults of the civilized world of 1945 dead and buried , it will soon be possible for their children and grandchildren in the former civilized world to stop pretending that only the Nazi Germans practised ethnic cleansing during the time around WWII....

Monday, August 24, 2015

In a world that is finite, is bigger better or just fewer and hence more fragile to unexpected change ?

Are we safer with a small gene pool of only the most useful genes or with a big gene pool filled with genes we haven't yet seen any value in ?

The world we live in is indeed finite, and this allows us to imagine two extreme earthly biospheres, set along a continuum of numbers of beings from high to low.

One is a biosphere sustaining a trillion trillion trillion tiny microbes and one is a biosphere sustaining a hundred thousand big blue whales.

A tendency towards bigger entities, in a finite world, must always tend to fewer entities compared to a tendency, in a finite world, to see more of the smaller entity.

A single species populating the earth with hundred thousand blue whales represents a very small set of underused genes for a biosphere to meet the crisis of a pronounced trend to hotter climate, leading to the drying up the oceans.

But a trillion trillion trillion microbes probably represents a million distinct species and an enormous amount of underused genes to allow this biosphere to successfully adopt to a much hotter climate.

The 1940s complaint against preserving and even expanding the existing gene pool came down to the philosophic and scientific virtues of simplicity (aka overcoming personal ambiguity anxiety with a PhD) --- it was messy and untidy to have all these junk genes lying about the garage - simply 'pick the best and bin the rest'.

This implied that the future, like the present and the past, was simple, stable, predictable, controllable ---- a notion that you either accepted or rejected.

Most scientists in 1940, perhaps even today, accepted the future was simple and predictable.

Dr Martin Henry Dawson did not ---- his was a messy garage, just filled with junk genes that you never knew might come in handy some day....

October 1940 : purifying or preserving the Gene Pool of 'useless' penicillium & SBE genes

Is the world safer by minimizing or maximizing the Gene Pool ? 

In the Fall of 1940, American Science renewed its century long efforts at triaging and then discarding much of the world's gene pool; this time under the new guise of a sudden need for "American Military Medicine Preparedness".

It was a movement, ironically enough, that was mostly led by conservative Isolationists among the scientists, men who had long opposed military intervention to help the little peoples of Europe from the evil axis of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.

These conservative Isolationists had long opposed intervening to help the little peoples of America as well (opposing Social Medicine for example) so they could not be accused of inconsistency, merely of heartlessness.

That Fall, they gave off plenty of indications that the stripping down for military preparedness meant the final death of Social Medicine.

No good news for the young patients suffering from then invariably fatal SBE.

The conservative isolationists considered that even if the SBEs survived one bout, eventually another would certainly kill them.

Meanwhile the SBEs just consumed lots of scarce medical resources without any prospects they would recover enough to become useful servicemen or do productive work in war industries.

With many conservative doctors believing that SBE, along with most diseases afflicting the poor and minorities, were highly genetically based, it could even be asked why even bother keeping them alive long enough for them to breed and pass on their defective genes to another generation of the collective human gene pool ?

Weren't the SBEs' genes something rather to purify and discard out of the human gene pool ,by a strict policy of deliberate government neglect, and wasn't the excuse of a planning for a Total War the best time to start doing so ?

Even lower on the conservatives' scale of genes worth retaining than those of the SBEs were the genes of that common household pest, the blue green penicillium mold.

If obtaining adequate amounts of lifesaving penicillin meant keeping the genes alive of the slimey mold that originally made penicillin, many were against it.

Better that human chemists, the smartest in the universe, quickly bested the slimey little chemists and made better penicillin cheaper and faster and far more predictably.

Synthetic man-made penicillin in this war or no penicillin, said Howard Florey, while Alexander Fleming and the Allied medical establishment cheered assent.

Dr Martin Henry Dawson strongly disagreed.

He felt the world would be better off, enriched even, if SBE patients like Bobby Darin was allowed to live, perhaps even to sing, dance and act, rather than to squalidly die from deliberate government neglect.

And his entire scientific career had been devoted to proving up his belief that the small and the weak and the useless 'gene carriers' all had something to bring to the commensal table of global Life.

Dawson had demonstrated more than enough examples showing that the microbe chemists were far far smarter than anyone had ever imagined.

He was not at all sure that the penicillium chemists hadn't polished the production of penicillin to a fine velvet sheen over hundreds of millions of years of trying -- and that the smartest chemists in the universe mightn't be able to beat them in a few frantic months of trying.

No matter how much money and labs and bombast was thrown at the problem.

So on October 16th 1940, a day the nation specifically set aside to triage all the 1A young men in America, Dr Dawson injected natural, freshly squeezed, orange colored penicillium juice into two 4Fs of the 4Fs patients, SBE sufferers Negro Aaron Leroy Alston and Jew Charles Aronson.

A product from rejected microbe genes injected to save some rejected human genes, as Dawson sought (against the grain of 1940s thinking on the topic) to preserve and protest the existing gene pool, not purify it and shrink it.

So began our present Age of Antibiotics - in a wartime scientific dispute over whether it was better to reduce or preserve the world's gene pool.

Dawson and Florey certainly weren't the only ones to dispute this issue : on the wider stage, Hitler certainly had his own take, as did Europe's Jews.

But, as is well known, the Dawson-Florey dispute was the only one that ended happily for humanity ....

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Valuing biodiversity implies we think the Reality they must survive is also diversely dangerous ....

I have based my claim that the world of Science was totally upended during WWII by pointing out that Science circa 1940 valued purity above all else while today's science values diversity above all else and that these two values oppose each other in every possible way.

I am not limiting myself to shallow definitions either : not just to yesterday's eugenic notions of racial purity versus today's natural biodiversity and civil rights supported human social diversity.

I mean that the scientific theories that won near universal support before 1940, regardless of the often tiny amount of physical evidence supporting them, all tended to exalt the pure --- ie the simple, the linear, the stable, the symmetrical and systems in equilibrium in their visions of Reality.

So if Reality was really as simple, stable, consistent, understandable and predictable as these theories claimed, then we could indeed see into the Future and pick the one simple 'right' answer to solve all possible of today's and tomorrow's problems.

We could thus safely and sharply purify and reduce the world's gene pool - by picking the single best corn species and discarding all the second best, for example - confident that nothing could ever go wrong.

Simply pure and definite certitudes for a purely simple certain world.

But then, just for an example, in 1970 America's most important industrial material (their corn crop) was almost all wiped out by a fungus that was finely tuned into killing only this high yielding monoculture crop.

Panic !

Suddenly even the Koch Brothers of this world could see the virtues in gathering and protecting all the bio-diversity found in the many ancient and hitherto 'useless' variants of corn, just to cover all bets in what was suddenly looking to be a world of highly diverse dangers....

Upending Science after '45 : Purity into Diversity

They touted protecting the gene pool before WWII, yes they did, but they really meant just protecting and purifying the white European subset of the human subset of the overall global gene pool.

Purifying as in reducing, reducing human gene diversity down to the few genes they thought had rightly made white protestant middle class European males the top of the ladder of Life.

Putting all your eggs in one very small basket, because you know - you just know - that these few are all the right eggs needed to face and surmount all future crisis.

It displayed a confidence, an arrogance, a hubris that post 1945 humanity didn't have as much of.

Before WWII, Dr Martin Henry Dawson had researched and celebrated the neglected diversity that was the non-pathogenic bacteria world and the world of the shut-out-of-sight chronically ill physically handicapped.

So for him, in wartime, to suggest that the chemists that are the lowly penicillium slime could probably make penicillin better than all the smartest human chemists in the universe was probably no great leap.

Just as it was for him to say that the 4Fs of the 4Fs, the lowest of the low, young patients dying from invariably fatal SBE, were worthy of penicillin - even in wartime and should be be sentenced to dead from wilful neglect by Allied medical death panels.

In fact, they should be saved, particularly in wartime, if our claims of being morally different from the Nazis were to have any weight.

Small and weak he said, was bountiful and beautiful and worthy of respect and attention.

He saw protecting the gene pool meant leaving it as big as possible - because we all need each other's talents in a global Ministry of all the Talents, if we are to continue to survive all the human and natural menaces on this Earth...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Late night war movies and little children : a cautionary tale

My parents always liked to put us small ones to bed at an ungodly early hour, right up into High School age.

One exception, for no reason I could ever discern, was when I was a small child (between the age of six to almost ten) when our family was living in 1950s Victoria and Vancouver and owning a reliable TV.

I was the eldest child, but obviously still not very old, when my parents made me sit up late with them and watch late night TV, ie the TV movies presented between 9pm and midnight.

(Made me , I repeat, because as a life long scaredy cat, I was not begging to watch scary war movies, believe you me.)

My takeaway lesson, as a wee child, was that WWII consisted mostly of armed uniformed men strafing civilian refugees on the road, bombing civilian homes, torturing civilians in POW concentration camps, torpedoing without warning civilian liners or blockading and starving civilian cities.

That is when they weren't putting hapless civilian hostages up against walls to shoot as reprisals for civilian resistance action.

I wasn't just a tiny child, I was tiny even for a six year old child and as a constant newcomer to my schools was often the bullies' target.

I saw WWII as a lot like elementary school, but with guns; big guys beating up little people.

Natural penicillin, made by the sort of tiny slimey no counts you might see on dank basement walls, was the only hero this tiny child could see in these war movies, saving kids like me here there and anywhere from deadly infections, be they from bombing injuries or simply brought on by hunger and fatigue.

If my book on WWII (Upending) sounds more than a little familiar to this tale from almost sixty years ago, blame it on my parents....

The OTHER Manhattan Project : Dawson's "Small is Bountiful"

In 1940, the scientific maxim on everyone's lips was hardly "small is bountiful" and "we must protect biodiversity and the gene pool at all costs".

Instead it was "bigger is better" --- who can forget the Thirties absolute mania for breaking records of all sorts and for seeking ever bigger dams, bridges, factories, tanks, battleships, bombers, science projects, what have you.

The Universe, as was known in 1940, was certainly doing its part --- it had started off very small and very hot and very active and would end up someday very big, very cold and very inactive.

A clearly negative example for the case that "bigger is better", for here bigger only meant deader.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Zyklon B and Penicillium C : as Auschwitz tries to eradicate one 'Fungoid Growth', Brooklyn's Pfizer bring another to worldwide prominence

Why 'Jewish Penicillin' in the world's largest Jewish city actually is penicillin !

Hitler fiercely believed the world's Jews were all evil agents bent on ceaseless cosmic dissolution, with their chief targets the world's most organic civilizations - above all the Aryan Race.

So when he hurtled the abusive term 'fungoid growths' at the Jews in one of the most famous passages from his autobiography, Mein Kampf, it had an almost literal rather than figurative meaning.

That is because it is indeed the fungus molds who are Nature's prime agents at dissolving organic material.

(Dissolving their tough chemical bonds and thus releasing their building blocks to rejoin the earth's greatest resource cycles involving elements like carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur etc.)

The Nazis and their intellectual fellow travellers around the world were, above all, fixated on maintaining rigid social, ethnic, gender boundaries at a time of great social fluidity.

So it is not at all surprising that proto-Nazi HP Lovecraft saw the world's greatest evils as looking like shapeless, boundary-less, oozing fungal slime.

He (and the Nazis) all failed to see that their hoped-for world of total stability and non-decay/non-renewal would be lifeless in its lack of variety and so fragile that it would be likely to fail to surmount any sudden small change from outside.

So, in Nazi controlled Europe, synthetic Zyklon B gas was used to take the lives of over a million of the Jewish 'fungoid growths'.

But in the largest Jewish city of New York, in those same years, other nature-made fungoid growths were blessing the world with the life-giving gift of penicillin.

Now that's something that is almost poetic in this symmetry .....

Martin Henry Dawson : the "Roogy Batoon" of Antibiotics AND HGT Antibiotics Resistance

As a kid in the late 1950s I just loved the book entitled The Incompleat Pogo.

Particularly the chapter that involving a pelican called Roogy Batoon successfully peddling his cure for snake bites in a snake-free swamp ("Fortunately for you, I also brought some snakes").

That riposte, along with Harold Wilson's "a week's a long time --- in politics " appealed to the cynical side of my personality.

I didn't really expect to ever come across someone real with that much chutzpah but unexpectedly, I did.

And a nicer human being you could never meet.

Hitler's "Symmetry of Progress" : good Aryans at the top triumph only if evil Jews baccilli at bottom are defeated

One wonders if Hitler's Nazis had succeeded and had eliminated every last Jewish-communist-international banker on Earth, just who then would they blame for their problems ?

The Nazis would have kept on killing the 'unfit' until the end of time, but they never credited any of the 'unfit' with being the invisible and super-smart enemy that so hobbled the Aryan Race.

The defectives were just inept and so life unworthy of life --- the Jews were only life unworthy of life because they were so adept at exercising pure evil.

Like Man-oriented Progress in general, with its real life microbes at the bottom of life, Hitler's Hyped-up idea of Progress desperately needed something totally bad and useless at the bottom to contrast with (and hence confirm) the relative good and useless humans at the top.

This ultra high valuation of math-based concepts of symmetry over the joyous yet messy diversity of actual reality is yet another evil sin Hitler got from the theoretical physicists ---- the reason why he and Einstein had much more in common than either was willing to admit...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hitler's Dilemma : If we liquidate all the "Primitive" how can we tell that we are the "Advanced" ?

Until the advent of fossil fuel based energy slaves, the rich and powerful needed the poor and powerless to do all the hard unpleasant jobs.

In the1860s, (interestingly parallel with the growing popular elite acclaim for Darwin's and Spencer's theories of the survival of the fittest), elites began seeing that fossil-fuel 'energy slaves' were far cheaper, far more tractable and far more moral than employing human slaves.

Perhaps, said these early utilitarian proponents of the much later Aktion T4, Eastern Hunger Plan and the Holocaust, the poor need no longer be "aways with us".

But if the Nazis and their earlier ilk all around the world had succeeded in liquidating all the weak and the poor, the defective and the asocial, how then would one be able to tell - for certain - that the healthy and the wealthy were truly so ?

For, to give but one example, the idea of 'the wealthy' can be easily shown to be a relative term, not an absolute term.

A working class European family of this the early 21st century is far far wealthier, in terms of access to (energy) slaves, money and sheer comfort, than any of the top nobility families of the 13th century.

They only seem poor, only feel poor, when they compare themselves to the families of today's top 1%.

Similarly, the most advanced human civilizations circa 1940 had so many visible shortfalls from what their members hoped and thought they were capable of, that people at this imagined top could only console themselves by saying "at least we are more civilized than X, Y, or Z" down at the bottom tiers of Life.

X, Y and Z being perhaps Australian aboriginals, slime molds and the anthrax bacteria.

Civilized and advanced are relational concepts and only make sense when matched in opposing symmetry with the uncivilized and primitive.

Destroy the bottom and where then is the top ?

But as it happens, the Nazis and other Social Darwinists never got that far.

Instead Progress's symmetry of an advanced top and a backward bottom simply collapsed when assailed from top and bottom.

In WWII, the top proved to have so many moral failings (mass bombing and gassing of the innocent) at a time when the bottom proved to have so many technical advantages (natural penicillin from the penicillium slime) that the delicate balance of the symmetry of opposites couldn't hold anymore.

So, today, it is a commonplace to say that this planet was made and sustained for the tens of thousands of ancient species of microbe and the relatively recent and single human species is but a short term parasite "just visiting" planet Earth ---- a commonplace unlike to be uttered or believed in 1940 .....

Hard Science consists of men interrogating soft Mother Nature over and over : " Have you stopped beating your humanity ? Quick, answer yes or no !"

And they refuse to let Mother Nature answer that 'she has not yet started beating humanity' - for that is indeterminacy.

And indeterminacy is never ever a hard (elegant, beautiful, symmetrical) scientific option...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hitler & Einstein Agreeing

Einstein, like most theoretical physicists throughout history, wanted everything in the Universe to 'fit in', their utopia being a simple unalterable Theory of Everything.

Much more modest, but inspired by the physicists, Hitler saw Germany - and perhaps eventually the world - as a sort of utopian High School where everybody 'fit in'.

Their shared world had no place for the uncool and awkward datum or being .....

Progress's ultimate goal was a sort of utopian High School

Small, of course : quite select.

Where all the kids would be 'popular', 'cool', would 'fit in' and all would be part of the 'in crowd' ....

Sunday, August 16, 2015

WWII : an old way of thinking busy dying, a new way of thinking busy being born

My WWII book isn't really about the big highly visible military conflict, a conflict that ended in a century old way of thinking tearing itself apart.

A zillion books have already been written (almost all by men) on that military conflict, with some giving a nod to an old way of life dying but almost none seeing a new way being born during the war.

My interest instead is in a tiny, almost invisible, new way of thinking that was busy being born upon the moral ruins of the old.

I fully expect my book to be far more popular among women than among men.

That's the male gender's loss.

Progress, Modernity, The Enlightenment - what ever ! - was hit during WWII by a moral double whammy - boxed in from both sides.

Civilization never acted so despicable, never was more fully devoted to life-taking among the innocent, as it did during WWII.

A huge world war, yet a war where most people who died, died non-combat deaths - either as civilians or as military personnel dying like civilians.

The millions of Soviet prisoners murdered by bullet or starvation in Nazi POW camps, alone, all by themselves outnumber the combat deaths of any combatant nation but the Russians themselves.

And the primitive and simple, supposedly only fit to kill and decay life, to do evil, never acted more admirably than when the penicillium naturally produced all the war's lifesaving penicillin (and is still naturally producing the base of almost all our antibiotics).

Its a dramatic story, a heart warming story, a three hankie story - a Good News Story.

From the truly awful Bad News War....

Koch Bros : Robert and Adolf

Dr Robert Koch became the famous Robert Koch of Medicine - the man who almost singlehandedly brought the field of bacteriology into existence by pledging to begin to rid the human body of fearsome diseases caused by microbial pathogens.

Adolf Hitler loved to claim he was the Robert Koch of Politics, determined, likewise, to rid the human societal body from the threat of fatal disease caused by the Jewish bacillus.

But these Koch Bros, from Berlin, are long since dead.

And we're not in Kansas anymore ....

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Modern Progress's symmetry of opposing binaries

The best way, it must have seemed at the time, to affirm that human civilization, circa 1940, was indeed 'civilized' as it claimed was to contrast it in every possible way with its polar opposite.

By setting up Progress itself as a sort of Janus-faced ladder.

For to the Modern mind, the very concept of a continuum was a dusty foreign country and the Moderns did so love their clearcut and opposing binaries & dualities.

So, at the top of the Ladder of Progress, human civilization was the newest, the biggest, the most complex, the swiftest, form of life.

And the kindest and the most civilized in behavior of all lifeforms.

Conversely, at the bottom, the germs were the oldest forms of life, the most simple, the smallest, the least mobile.

And they were all intent on killing all humans, all the time.

Pure evil.

The reason why the supposed archenemy of the Aryans, the Jews, were always described as 'bacillus'.

But not everyone back then agreed with this supposed dichotomy.

In particular, Dr Martin Henry Dawson set out to break this imaginary symmetry by attempting, late in that same year, to show that the germs and microbes were nowhere as simple or as evil as claimed.

And this being WWII, he hardly had to bolster his case by pointing to the current visible shortfalls of kindly complex Civilization....

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Philip Bardwell Hadley urges Henry Dawson to be more 'forward'

In 1933, just before he himself abruptly left a wonderful research job at the University of Michigan for a much more humdrum job as a bacteriologist at Pittsburgh's Western Pennsylvania Hospital, Professor Philip Hadley wrote a long letter to Dr Martin Henry Dawson.

We know about this letter (a very rare letter that we know about that involves Dr Dawson in any form) because it was published more or less in full by Dr Benjamin White in his authoritative 1937 book on The Pneumococcus.

(The book, ironically, despite being nominally written by White, is probably the fullest account of Dawson's thinking about his life long passion, bacterial variation !)

Space Porn : why no one has ever died from being on the wrong side of a debate in physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, mathematics

If a simply massive scientific paradigm shift happens and not one creature in the forest, other than scientists and science journalists, gives a frack  -----  did it actually really happen ?

Why is it that the Life Sciences are the only sciences throughout humanity's long long history where tens of millions have died from being from simply being on the wrong side of a scientific dispute ?

The horizontal six creation days of Genesis ?

A timeless problem for those who claim that the six creation days of Genesis all ascend relentlessly towards the creation of Man is the problem of premature human deaths from random acts of Nature.

Why does a caring God permit good innocent babies to die so young from pandemics, floods, wild animal attacks, starvation, volcanoes etc ?

And why was God so pleased when his imagined creations of stars and lights, night and day, earth and sea, plants and animals came forth ?

We might start by acknowledging that the Universe and everything in it will die someday - not just its living beings.

Even the seemingly elemental atoms 'die' (we call this "natural radioactivity").

Half Life estimates of just when half of the sodium atoms may break up are just averages - the individual atoms can die far later than their estimated past due date ----- or far earlier.

Rather like humans, really.

Ditto for estimates of just when earthquakes should shake or volcanoes should explode ----- versus when most actually do.

Or when Stars might collapse or when planets might get walloped by huge pieces of space debris.

Our whole Universe, whether created by a personal God or by forces of Nature was built from the start in an asymmetrical, hence dynamically active, way.

It has a birthing past and a dying future, not just an eternal present so as to act as a neutral, harmless, backdrop to the human drama played out at the front of the stage.

It decays, it cools, it heats up, it careens, it staggers, it bumps and bruises, it ricochets.

It acts rather Life-like indeed and it seems to exhibit something, that to untrained human minds at least, seems to be almost like Free Will.

Most of what makes us humans truly human is our need to survive on a stage where the scenery - quite literally - is intent on eating the actors.

If there is a personal God, perhaps God is enjoying all of this resulting kaleidoscope of reality and doesn't really place the creation of humanity on that much more of an exalted plane than the rest of the six days of creation.

So perhaps, just six horizontal days of joyous labour - not six days spent "Building a Stairway to Man" ....

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Theory explaining inexact weather predicting is salient : theory explaining dual slit particle-wave experiment is not

It is quite easy to spot the difference between "political scientists" and "scientists".

The Poli Sci types are always on about saliency or lack thereof --- the boffins never ever are.

Never never never never ever are.

Any theory that claims that the stock market or the economy or the weather is virtually impossible to predict accurately can be tested - for free - by the seven or eight billion of us.

The results affect all of us - daily - and we ourselves can conduct the experiment.

But most of the supposedly epoch breaking experiments, the type that scientists love to bang on about, we can only take on the word of well educated journalists making sense of long articles in journals like Nature or Science.

We can't even follow the logic of a written report on a written report of an experiment, let alone conduct the experiment ourselves and besides nothing it claims to report seems to make a bit of difference to our lives.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bakhtin's Carnivalesque : 'Slime Piss' still saving more kiddies annually than Advanced Civilization ever killed

Without today's antibiotics, the dangerous bacterial infections that currently afflict only a child here and a child there would rage freely as epidemics or pandemics, killing millions upon millions of kids.

And when we say 'antibiotics' we basically mean the beta lactams antibiotics - the huge and highly effective family of the penicillin-like antibiotics.

The human use of penicillin (Penicillin G) to save lives is almost ninety years old and yet it is still in every hospital's pharmacy, albeit relatively rarely used.

However, as the starting base to make most all of our other antibiotics, penicillin g is still produced in the tens of thousands of tons.

And still made as it always was - made in incredibly tiny ---natural--- fungus factories invisible to the naked eye.

It is a mere 'secondary' metabolite of the penicillium slime - and for long time the secondary metabolites were considered to be just 'metabolic waste', a fancy grown-up's word for poo and pee.

Considering its liquid nature and its bright yellow color (leaving aside its strong acrid smell for a moment) , the scientists of yesteryear considered it to be nothing more than 'slime piss'.

It took a brave doctor indeed (Martin Henry Dawson) to first inject that foul stuff - raw - into a the bloodstream of a young male, in an attempt to save his life.

But the patient (Charles Aronson) lived and so our Age of Antibiotics began, on Ward G-East, at NYC's Columbia Presbyterian Medical Centre ----- seventy five years ago this October 16th 2015.

In WWII's brutal war of high tech science, this was low tech life saving at its very finest.

A stinging rebuke then, to Scientism at its very apogee of hubris, delivered by the lowest of the low, delivered by slime piss.

So be sure to tell Mikhail Bakhtin (wherever he might be) that it just can't get anymore carnivalesque than that...

Monday, August 10, 2015

Highest human activity (saving life of a child) married to the lowest of the low : poop from basement slime

One needn't be fans of Bakhtin and Rabelais, of Boy Bishops, Feasts of the Fools and Feasts of the Ass, of the time when fishes flew and forests walked, to see just how un-Progress-ive, how un-Civilized, how un-Modernity, how upside-down was the unlikely wartime success of primitive natural penicillin at a time when the chemists of advanced civilization and man-made synthetics were exalted above all else.

The foul smelling poo of basement slime saving the lives of innocent kiddies when the best of civilization (otherwise fully engaged in gassing or bombing kiddies) wasn't up to the task.

Let us recall, as well, the wirephoto images of precious penicillin ampules hiked up the mountains of Italy on the backs of balky mules and donkeys to save the lives of frontline soldiers and frontline civilians --- just to complete the picture.

Add the sight and smell of palm leaves, to taste, if required.....

Secondary metabolites : yesterday's microbial poo and pee, today's lifesaving antibiotics

We can't fairly  or accurately write a history of the earliest reception to the news that penicillium excrement might save human lives, if we credit the scientists of the 1920s and 1930s with all the hindsights that scientists and the public hold today about the best place to find new antibiotics.

Because in those heady early days of the discovery that metabolic activities can be usefully divided into essential-to-life primary metabolic activity and unknown-uses secondary metabolic activity, the metaphor most scientists reached for to explain the secondary metabolites of the lower fungus was of the well known plant and animal need to excrete unneeded and potentially deadly 'metabolic waste'.

Poo and pee and go-go and caca in daycare talk.

Would you, even today, instantly let your doctor to inject poo and pee into your blood stream when asked, without hesitation and discomfort ?

Let alone way back in the Era of (Man-centred) Progress, where it seemed impossible to believe anything a stupid simple little fungi cell could do might be superior to what advanced civilization's best chemical laboratories could invent.

Progress 1945 (upended) : primitive penicillium poo saving more kids than advanced civilization could bomb or gas.....

Sunday, August 9, 2015

HP Lovecraft's "helpful monsters" : how the Slime saved more kids than Civilization bombed or gassed

In 1937, the world's most honoured cultural hero was invariably some sort of a medical researcher.

Probably someone with a German accent, gained from years of study at the world's best research universities ---- someone who researched on children's illnesses, someone invariably photographed giving candy to kiddies.

Someone rather like Dr Josef Mengele in fact.

In that same year, the world's scariest monster was usually a foul smelling shapeless giant blob of slime, terror on the the classic HP Lovecraft model.

A blob that was always less than a real object than rather a metaphor representing the horrific dissolving of Progress's reassuring certitudes ("science's terrible simplicities").

Certitudes that a huge number of us need to daily get through a messy actual world of instability, uncertainty and change.

(Insert here links to research on the 'conservative brain'.)

Yet by 1946 and The Doctors' Trial, Dr Mengele's medical research on children had become the last word in evil and horror.

And the child-saving albeit foul smelly penicillium slime was the surprise medical hero of the hour, the only truly Good News Story to ever come out of WWII's Bad News War.

HP himself had died back in 1937 and so never got to live long enough to see his expectations confounded.

And upended...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Eugenics' biggest failure

By the start of WWII, the Nazis, guided by the best eugenic advice in the world, had unerringly separated the great Germanic civilizations into the wheat and the chaff ---- and by then either forced the chaff into exile or had had them murdered.

And in the seventy five years since, what have these former great civilizations ever produced - besides the cuckoo clock ?

The human ability to accurately predict winners and determine the universally and eternally 'right' answers is very limited.

Be the predictors being yesterday's Himmler or today's hot new geneticist.

For untutored geniuses emerging from the ranks of oppressed minorities are pretty much as common as universities having to baby sit the untalented offspring of first rate geniuses.

What the Nazis had actually exiled or murdered were all the various sorts of Germans who had shown a willingness to stir up the pot, for good or bad.

What was left behind was not just that pot - it was also seventy five million people as inert as that pot.

Luckily their postwar children and grandchildren are all over the map - smart, dumb and everything in between .

Life can resume in the new Germany with the full breath of humanity's wide diversity of beings  and so we might once again see world culture and science enriched by contributions from the Germanic lands ...

Monday, August 3, 2015

October 16 1940 : upending the team's protocol

To put it bluntly, twice-wounded Lieutenant Dr Martin Henry Dawson (MC with citation for bravery) was very far from being given to routinely performing bold, brave and lonely gestures.

This despite the fact that he performed some very brave actions indeed on at least a half dozen times during his shortened life.

Beside his wartime actions, those brave acts include his June 1928 sacrificing of the start of a wonderful research career at the then citadel of medical research - the Rockefeller Institute.

All to stand up for what this very junior pro tem researcher believed in scientifically, against his all powerful and very senior lab chief (and fellow Nova Scotian) Oswald Avery on the matter of the importance of bacteria transformed with DNA.

Or consider his December 1940 decision to sacrifice his own life, if need be, (against the wishes of his wife and doctors) to try and save the lives of others (the world's patients with deadly SBE) with his pioneering penicillin.

And his well known November 1942 decision to 'steal' (according to his hostile opponents) scarce government penicillin - during wartime ! - all to further his success in finally saving SBEs with penicillin, set against deliberate government 'indifference' to their dire fate - success with penicillin or not.

But my vote for his bravest, his boldest, his most lonely gesture was that which occurred on October 16th 1940.

Hitler searched for "THE" human genome

Remember the delusion behind the search for the essence of the human genome ?

The delusion that there was in fact just ONE human genome ?

Allowing, of course, for a few deviants and defectives and deficients ---that advanced (eu) genetic engineering would quickly excise away, once and for all time.

(Another delusion by the way.)

The fact is, just as ancient religious texts always proclaimed and mothers have always noted, we are all different, all unique individuals.

Even in vastness of the three billion year old world of the bacteria, there has never been two exact clones.

We are all different - albeit often in too subtle ways to be noted by very important men (James Watson ?) cursively glancing at us from the Olympian heights of Vienna's Riesenrad Ferris Wheel, as if we were just a lot of similar 'dots' on the ground.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ending the Enlightenment Project with deeds, not words

There are two academic puzzles in dating the ending of the Enlightenment Project precisely to 1945.

One was that 1945 was supposed to be year of the Enlightenment's greatest success, not failure --- you remember, beating back the Nazi forces of darkness and barbarism etc.

The other was that 1945 had no great book and no great thinker proclaiming the end of one intellectual age and the birth of another.

No opus from no new Hume, Kant, Hegel or Newton, Galileo and Darwin.

Instead we had doctors Mengele and Dawson, operating from the opposite ends of the moral spectrum, putting the post into modernity.

Both men of deeds, not of words.

Doers - not thinkers - doing in the thinkers' Enlightenment Project : I kinda like that....

Why was Marie Barker's actual death sentence praised while Harry Lime's fictional murders so condemned : a story of two Teddy Bears ...

The 1943 real life Allied decision to deny penicillin to Marie Barker (the only medicine that could save the life of this young teenager and SBE patient) on the (unstated) grounds that her disease was 'not a military priority', has generally been praised by historians of science - then and now.

It was also acquiesced in - at the very least - by most lay people back then.

Even when that public saw newspaper photos of still just a teenager Marie breaking into a smile of delight at the sight of one of her 'stuffies' (a teddy bear) that her Canadian-born mother Hermance had brought to her bedside.

By contrast the needless, painful but fictional deaths caused by Harry Lime denying penicillin to children in 1949 Vienna only six years later has been strongly condemned by most of those same academics and by the public generally.

Okay ---- perhaps the professors did not condemn it in actual peer reviewed articles, but almost certainly, like the public, they did so in casual water cooler talk and during post-movie-watching 'pillow talk' between spouses.

I can claim this with some certainty because it is known that countless audience members discussing the moral issues raised by Harry Lime's unspeakable actions around helpless children and penicillin was what helped lift THE THIRD MAN from being just another run of the mill B&W 'quota flick' to among the top films of all time.

How the casual upending of a child's teddy bear helped change us for good

In just six short years, we went from praising the decision to cold bloodedly and publicly kill Marie Barker & her teddy bear by baneful neglect ------- to blanching at the mere fleeting sight of a nurse silently putting the teddy bear of of one of Harry Lime's victims upside down on a waste basin.

I hold that to be a hugely momentous moral upending, as dramatic in its own way as was the totally unexpected upending of the best in civilized technology by primitive penicillin...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

WWII upending the Ladder of Progress : moral and technological failures at the top, moral and technological successes at the bottom

Lost beneath all the signal moral failures of WWII's top civilizations (Auschwitz et al) was the many technological failures thrown up by the top human civilizations.

On all sides, all through that six year long war, their citizens were promised ultra quick successes, due to their side's superior technology.

(The Maginot Line - the Bomber Always gets Through, the Six Week Blitzkrieg against the Russians, and on and on.)

Technological failure at the top, over and over.

At the bottom, there was the unexpected technological triumph of primitive microbe-made penicillin winning against diseases the best human synthetics (the Sulfas and the never to be synthetized penicillin) couldn't hope to cure.

Also at the bottom,the even more unexpected success of Henry Dawson, Dante Colitti, John l Smith and Larry Elder, who together forced the Allies to stop using penicillin as an exclusive weapon of war and made wartime penicillin-for-all instead into the one moral triumph of WWII....

"multi stage rocket" Evolution versus Evolution "in situ"

I was raised on the multi-stage rocket form of Evolution--- you probably were too.

You all know the drill : the lowly bacteria climbed out of the primordial slime, evolved into slightly large microbes and then froze evolution-wise, preserved as in aspic, unchanged, for the next 3.5 billion years.

The microbes evolved into slightly larger amoebas and froze evolutionarily as well.

And so on and so on, ever so slowly up the evolutionary ladder of increasing size and complexity culminating in Civilized Man in the top capsule.

Leaving behind down below ,to float about forever like space junk, countless earlier stages of life.

But as Dr Martin Henry Dawson early demonstrated - the bacteria never actually stopped evolving and are evolving still.

They didn't evolved into something else and then hung about as living fossils - they continued to evolve, as all lifeforms do, 'in situ'.

Sometimes evolving into becoming more complex with bigger active genetic codes, sometimes dropping bits of their genetic code to become less complex ---- and more parasitic.

Rather like us, in fact.

For the ancestors of humans once used to make their own Vitamin C, like almost all other lifeforms still do - but then we dropped that ability - became less, not more complex - and now get our life-supporting Vitamin C by living off the avails of others.

Prostitution - the world's third oldest profession ...

Microbes evolve into civilized Man, uncontroversial --- Microbes evolve while remaining microbes, heresy

In 1940, Dr Martin Henry Dawson was a scientific heretic.

His heresy was in focusing upon (and endlessly talking up) various discomforting forms of microbial evolution.

In 1940, microbes weren't supposed to evolve - I mean not after Day One.

Today we encounter all these forms of microbial evolution in our very first lectures in Microbiology 101 - they are essential learning.

Let's begin with all the wonderful lifesaving beta lactam antibiotics, starting of course with Dawson's natural penicillin. And how these amazing medicines work their non-toxic magic by breaking up molecules essential to other life forms but not to us humans.

But then how these antibiotic molecules, in turn, are liable to be broken up by other chemicals from the microbes under attack. And so it goes, on and on and back and forth.

How the bacteria and other microbes survive and flourish against all the best defence systems that the human body and human doctors can throw up against them.

Their sophisticated abilities in areas like Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT), quorum sensing and molecular mimicry, as 'lie low persisters', their various goo capsules, the daringly wall-less L-Form bacteria, their communal biofilms, all helping the microbe to survive inside us.

Then their dangerously effective chemicals like the flesh eating 'spreading factor' (hyaluronidase) that so helps them to flourish against us.

All subjects of scientific papers - often pioneering papers - from Dawson between 1925 and 1945 --- and still cutting edge science even today.

In 1940, the scientific consensus was that the 'essence' of all the microbes at the lower left of the ever upward arrow of progress was to be eternally stupid and weak ---- and to remain eternally unchanging.

Except that the primitive microbes were permitted to mark the very primitive beginnings of the long slow process of evolution ever upwards that ended in the brilliant changeability that is Civilized Man, at the upper right of the arrow of progress.

Dawson never denied that there were some things we humans do very well and the microbes do very badly.

He said only that that the converse was equally true : abilities and defects (physical and moral) were well and truly mixed throughout all the lifeforms, not exclusively separated into stupid and bad at the bottom and good and smart at the top.

Now exalting the concepts of mixing and mixtures is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the intellectual life of our present post-1945 age.

Whether you call it the post modern age or the post progress age, its all the same.

It is interesting to ask, therefore, what part did the popular journalism of wartime penicillin play in ending "The Progress Project" so abruptly in 1945 ?

Because try as the 1945 scientific/government/commercial elite might, they could never get the ordinary uneducated public (as opposed to say educated historians) to buy into the explanation that penicillin came from highly expensive, highly complicated, highly sophisticated chemical "deep tank" factories.

The popular journalism penicillin stories always seem to be what journalists call 'brites'.

You know : cute stories of dogs walking on back legs, cats smoking cigars and ordinary bread mold grown in ordinary bottles on ordinary kitchen tables saving lives when the most expensive drugs of the sophisticated corporate chemists couldn't.

I am not denying Auschwitz and the Atomic Bomb's hearty roles in the demise of "Progress".

But I have also come to believe that all these mass media "Ripley's Believe it or Not" flavoured tales of clever primitive microbes and stupid civilized chemists were as devastating, in their slow cumulative way, to The Progress Project as anything the then obscure Adorno and Horkheimer ever wrote ...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Primitive lifesaving penicillium and Advanced Auschwitz lifetaking put the Post into Progress

I suggest we replace the widely used term 'Post Modernity' with 'Post Progress' because it is both much more descriptive of what is actually going on and much more easily understood by the majority of the population who live outside academia.

I hope we all can at least agree on the second point : that far more people understand the term Era of Progress, 1875-1965 than do they the term Era of Modernity 1875-1965.

Now onto the first point.

All the many and varied postmodern -isms have at least one key element in common : they involve hitherto verboten mixing.

Be it of high and low (say in art) or normal and abnormal (say in sexual cum civil rights) or central/official/dominant or local/periphery/subculture (as in imperial/hegemony relationships).

I used high and low as my first example deliberately because the Era of Modernity was also the era of Social Darwin defined Progress.

Deductive Progress : absolute universals in an absolutely closed universe yielded absolutely correct results 

Everything and everyone was slotted in one universal and eternal vertical hierarchy.

In/out, normal/abnormal etc were really just variants of the all important high/low distinction in worth.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Inductive field-historians cum philosophers versus Deductive reductive lab philosophers

The era of Modernity and Progress was a deductive era, seeking the one and only absolutely correct and complete answer to every question ---- a great time to be a determinist, reductionist 'scientist'.

And thus a terribly bad era for historians, be they historians of nature (naturalists) or of humanity. Or indeed, if they are frontline medical clinicians like Dr Martin Henry Dawson, writing up a patient's history in a hospital setting.

Not a time then for them to be offering up an ever growing number of probable reasons possibly contributing to a given situation.

For Modernity and Progress hated diversity or plentitude, only hating probabilities and possibilities even worse : as Einstein opined, "(My) God does not play dice."

Einstein's era was a gassy Era (Zyklon B, if you have it, please), an era of "Terrible Simplicities", certainties, certitudes, normalcy.

Yet to the inductive natural historian (naturalist), out in the field, ever more possibilities and plentitude was their ticket to fame.

Oh to find a yet another tit mouse species (purple-colored even !) when the experts had claimed all tit mouses had been found and all were brown or gray !

Meanwhile the only philosopher type the majority of other philosophers recognized as truly being a philosopher, was sitting behind a desk in the lab.

Hard at work, trying to become famous in their branch of intellectual activity, trying to plenticide all this new plentitude as fast as it was being created.

Ignoring the warning of King Canute.

Seeking to reduce all of Reality down to a single paragraph long "Law of Everything".

Finally explaining the redheaded waitress's elliptic smile yesterday as being the result of the mechanical motion of a certain tiny sub atomic particle, in a distant part of the universe, eleven billion years earlier.

But historians are also fully philosophers : albeit philosophers who 'explain' but do not 'explain and predict specific actions'.

A natural historian will 'explain' why a very modern jet unexpectedly crashed in a lightning storm in a remote jungle airstrip by explaining that the weather is terrible hard to predict very accurately ----- even in big urban centres where expensive weather staff are plentiful, let alone in remote and poor parts of the world.

Most of us, still brainwashed from school, will argue that really is no explanation at all.

But the inductive historians' philosophy does fully explains Reality, as something simply being too vast and too complicated to ever be fully predictable for humanity.

They differ from the deductive philosophers only in not following up their explanations with specific predictions.

They thus fail to the test of being 'scientific' and
philosophers', at least in the self definition of those two as given by the lab-bound deducers.

But being economists in the way that few deductive scientists and philosophers are capable of being, the inducers hold fast to their view.

They insist the evidence shows that predicting future Reality accurately is simply far too expensive.

At least when set against the large amount of our limited waking hours and limited earthly resources (aka limited "money") we must devote to merely staying alive and warm.

By contrast, most our deductive philosophies still predict we will eventually make accurate and yet cheap predictions, if only we keep searching for the ultimate and absolute baseline truths that negate the need for all of today's topline expensive fact gathering and calculating.

(Translation of 'search' : you taxpayers continue to fund me doodling around in my lab.)

That Reality is ultimately 'knowable' in the sense of being predictable is not a fact though --- merely an opinion - and the opinion that predicting Reality is beyond our price range is another.

So we end up with a plentitude of opinions - and in the plenticidal era of Progress and Modernity, one had to be squashed - like a bug....

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A perfect Zionist utopia ---- that most European Jews would never get to live in, with or without Hitler

There were to be no Fiddlers on no Roofs in the original Zionist paradise.

That is what I take away from David S Wyman and Rafael Medoff's book "A Race Against Death".

It is a collection of postwar interviews with key members of the still unknown Peter Bergson group (a medium sized organization run by Jews but including many Non-Jewish Americans) ---- and the only Jewish-run organization in North America who did anything effective to help, not hurt, the wartime Jews of Europe.

The reason you likely don't know any of this is because, the old adage to the contrary, until very recently the moral losers among North America's Jews wrote all the history books.

These moral losers were gradualist Zionists, Jews who believed that the solution to all the slights Jews got in the western European world and all the deadly pogroms that received in the eastern European world was a particular form of an sovereign Jewish nation in Palestine.

They did not believe in bold dramatic public actions to win Palestine by military force or by swaying world public opinion.

Instead as the Bergson Group's second in command, Samuel Merlin explains in the book, they thought a slow but steady stream of elite Jews --- young, fit, healthy, courageous, dedicated, entrepreneurial, socialist --- would gradually build up an economical vibrant Jewish community in British run but Arab majority populated Palestine and so control it in de facto fashion.

Chaim Weizmann, the head of the worldwide Zionists, told the British Peel commission in 1936 that he certainly didn't want six million Jews coming to Palestine all at once.

No, 'the old ones will pass, dust in a cruel world ---- only a branch will survive'.

This echoed Weizmann's earlier view of 1918 that if war forced all the miserable refugee Jews out of Eastern Europe and into Palestine,the Zion would be paradise will be swamped and the gradualist reformists could never set up a community worth having.

Eugenics , here code-named "selective immigration" by the socialist gradualist Zionists, was the key to understanding the minds of Weizmann and his American counterpart Samuel Wise and all of their generation born circa 1885.

They were well-off, westernized, secularized, Germany-oriented Jews.

The rural small town Jews of Eastern Europe, all those beards and Orthodox rituals, their determinedly backward ways, their poverty - they repulsed these gradualist Zionists, not as intensely as it did most Gentiles (let alone most anti-semites) but certainly a great deal.

Rescuing only 'the best' of them was always the gradualist Zionists' pre-war and wartime aim.

Bergson and his crew were Zionists too, but willing to put that dream on the far far backburner when it became clear that Hitler was determined to kill all the Jews in Europe - starting with those backward East Europeans.

Bergson saw them all as individuals, as fellow humans, all worth saving, a concern to all humanity - Christian, agnostic and Jewish alike.

Bergson didn't want to rescue any of these Jews "to" (Zion or the West) he wanted to rescue them "from" Nazi death, leaving them to remain in situ in Eastern Europe.

He wanted the Allies to publicly warn the German public they'd mass gas bomb Germany if it didn't immediately stop mass gassing the Jews.

Berg pointedly asked why focus wartime Jewish efforts on a wonderful future postwar Zion when the Jews in the 1940s most interested in living there (the Jews of Eastern Europe) would all be dead ?

For me, Bergson's heroic motives and fevered actions were the actions of a man who grasped the full moral dimensions of all the pious western liberal democracy talk of "winning the war first".

Recall the western liberal democracies were - in the same breath - also refusing to put in a Second Front, at least not until the Nazis and Communists had warred each other to a pulp and the Nazis had solved the West's Eastern European Jewish Problem.

The mainstream Jewish organizations, led by Weizmann and Samuel Wise, bought into this scam - that was their number one sin.

But their number two sin was forgetting the millions dying overseas in their petty jealous anger over the (new) (poor) (small) foreign-led Bergson Group besting the moral worth of the rich big and well established American led Zionist organizations.

In all of this, Peter Bergson reminds me so much of Henry Dawson.

Dawson had never been involved in the researching the cure for invariably fatal SBE, the disease that made Rheumatic Fever the deadliest disease for school age kids in those days.

He had 'no skins in the game'.

But when he saw that penicillin had two unique attributes that made it likely to finally defeat SBE and suddenly leaped in with both feet, his early successes made the oldtimers in the SBE research field (Chester Keefer above all others) insanely jealous.

The response of Dr Keefer (the Samuel Wise of wartime penicillin) and others was to say that SBE was not a war priority and the penicillin for its patients would have to await the perfect world coming after the war was won first.

Knowing full well - just like Samuel Wise, FDR and Churchill had known about Europe's Jews - that the SBEs (like American Jew Charles Aronson) would be long dead before that wonderful day.

Jam Tomorrow for the dead Jews but never Jam Today for living Jews.

Bergson bucked them with all his might for three years - Dawson ditto for four years  until he died worn out by his efforts.

Bergson lived  a long filling life but the East European Jews died despite his all out efforts - Dawson died young but the SBEs lived thanks to his all out efforts.

I don't doubt Bergson would have readily exchanged his long life for Dawson's shorter life - if only he could see some of Dawson's success....

The Starvation Holocaust of 1939 -1945

The far too well known form of the Holocaust (insert here stock images of Hungarian Jews being selected for the gas chamber at Auschwitz in late 1944) need never of happened and yet most of Europe's Jews would still have died.

The time to stop the second (open air public mass shootings late 1941, early 1942) and third Jewish Holocausts (secretive mass gassings 1942-1945) from ever occurring was in late 1939 and early 1940.

That is, before the successful conquest of France changed the war dynamics totally and at the moment when the mechanics of the initial Jewish Holocaust were first made public by the Nazis.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A 'second rate' doctor (Dawson) treating 'second rate' wartime patients (the SBEs) with medicine from a 'second rate' drug producer (the penicillium slime) and in the process, upending simplistic notions of linear Progress

When Jesus talked of "the first being last and the last being first", this sort of 'upending' talk was really one more of his famous hard sayings, designed usually to abruptly awake the intellectually smug and sleepy, rather than being offered as a serious description of His Father's world.

Equally, any idea that simply upending the current state of affairs in industry by replacing capitalist factory bosses with worker factory bosses would really improve things on the shop floor has been revealed to be, over and over, mere eyewash.

The hungriest of workers are just as capable of deceit and greed directed against others as the fattest of fat cats.

A more subtle and yet more probing claim is to insist that the smart aren't always smart and the dumb aren't always dump - that we all have qualities and weaknesses.

To accept all the assumptions of the usually smart without question is as dangerous as quickly dismissing all the qualities of the usually dumb as useless, without examining them all more carefully.

This was the implicit claim of a scientist from the second tier (Martin Henry Dawson) who lacked either the ability or the urge to talk scientific rhetoric about his insights - who preferred muchly to show, rather than to simply tell ...

The means is part of the message : Henry Dawson was not a Clark Kent-like nebbish, revealed as really Superman, but rather a 'heroic nebbish'...

Dr Martin Henry Dawson had basically but one single message to the wartime world of 1940 -1944.

It was that that a well known third or fourth rater (the penicillium slime found on our dank basement walls) nevertheless had at least one incredibly valuable capability.

For the despised penicillium fungus could make life-saving penicillin far, far, far better than the all the best human chemists in the world put together.

The means by which this message was revealed to the world was itself a subtle form of that same message.

This was because Dawson was himself a third or fourth rater as far as conventional human heroes go --- being far too diffident and deferential to his bosses, for just one thing.

But while Dawson would too easily bend and retreat, he also never really gave up, feeling himself duty bound to push forward - however ineptly - the world-changing insights his far-seeing eyes revealed.

Yes, his manner was alway timid but his thesis were often bold, often bold beyond measure.

That fact, coupled with his stolid determination to do what he felt was right, gave this nebbish doctor truly heroic qualities.

Without, at the same time, ever stop him from being well and truly nebbish.

A case of 'Clark Kent the hero' - not 'Superman the hero'...

Making penicillin is not brain surgery or rocket science --- its harder !

Humans still can't make penicillin or most other beta lactam antibiotics.

At least, we can't make them anywhere as cheaply and as environmentally friendly as can the small, weak, under-rated (and frankly second or third rate) penicillium slime.

This is something worth remembering when we explore why Dr Martin Henry Dawson did not have a preferential option towards the poor, weak and small ---- all impressions garnered during WWII to the contrary.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

WWII : High School, with machine guns, writ large

Years and years of the preppie jocks (the somebodies) dropping bombs on the losers, misfits, dorks and nobodies after class in the school yard, while most of the rest of us just looked on, bystanders ...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

'Divided Self' No More : uniting Dr Martin Henry Dawson's preferential option towards the overlooked, the under-estimated and the unappreciated in the human AND natural world

The beta lactam antibiotics, still the front line in our defence against bacterial infections, were hidden - for several billion years - In Plain Sight - literally right beneath our feet.

They come from soil mold - not mold in today's scientific sense of all being fungus - but mold as understood by today's laypeople and yesteryear's scientists (and maybe tomorrow's scientists too).

The soil molds that give us most of our beta lactam antibiotics are actually bacteria that so resemble the white thread-like fungus mold in appearance and habits that they seem kissing cousins.

And several hundred million years some of those kisses exchanged must have included enough initimate bodily fluids that at few fungus species picked up the DNA genes that make beta lactams.

The best known result is The Big Dog of all antibiotics : Penicillin itself.

The process is called HGT (horizontal gene transfer) - and it was Dr Martin Henry Dawson's hard slug effort in keeping this new concept before a bored and doubting scientific community that is Dawson's main claim to fame today.

No such fame for his equally hard slog to defend, before a hostile and doubting wartime scientific community, of the full worthiness of primitive penicillin made by the primitive penicillium.

His efforts, supported at crucial junctions by Dante Colitti and the Hearst media chain, by the WPB and by Pfizer, gave us all of our wartime penicillin and still provides us with almost all of our antibiotics, 75 years later.

But since Dawson's support for the overlooked, the under estimated, the unappreciated was life long affair, all of one piece, this perhaps appropriate.

In September 1940 ,Dawson's fifteen year interest in the under estimated survival abilities of avirulent microbes seemed totally unconnected to to his ten years commitment to the betterment of the unappreciated chronic ill poor in the big city holding tanks cum hospitals.

But on October 16th 1940, his 'Divided Self', to recall William James' famous phrase, finally fused.

Primitive Penicillium's 'burning and shining light'

For on that day, he injected primitive penicillin from those unappreciated microbe chemists the penicillium into humanity's lowest of the low, a black and a Jew dying from a disease judged of no military significance, the Polio of the Poor, SBE - subacute bacterial endocarditis.

And like that other diffident Henry from Nova Scotia (Henry Alline) he was now 'a man on a mission', for his few years left on Earth ....

Murderous Enlightenment Project sought to reduce all Reality to a 'clearcut' list of the things worthy and unworthy of continued existence

If we ever did succeed in 'cleansing' the ocean of all of its germs (either by a deliberate Mikrobefrei Aktion or simply by continuing our limitless consumption of most of the world's resources) the atmosphere would fairly quickly lose half of its oxygen and humanity would rapidly die out.

This fact still isn't widely known by laypeople today - nor was it known by many scientists back in 1940.

I mention this only because the world in 1940 was as consumed with killing off all the germs in general, including those found in sea water, as the Nazis were about killing of all the Jewish 'germs' in particular.

The civilized world in 1940 widely supported the effort to greatly reduce biological diversity by ridding the world of all kinds of "pests", an idea that spilled over into the minds of the ordinary Nazi (and their ordinary/silent tolerators) when thinking about a possible solution for the 'problem' of the Jews.

The Sixth Extinction linked to the Sixth Genocide

Monday, July 20, 2015

Admiral Halsey proposes an American Final Solution to rid the Earth of 'Japs'

"Burn 'em ,drown 'em" and even ----- "kick pregnant Japanese women in the belly" to more directly kill the little "bestial beasts".

Admiral Halsey's hate-filled comments - coming from one America's most famous and honoured WWII heroes - helps explain how some other humans (in the Eastern Europe part of that war) could come to personally kill thousands of little babies and still feel good about it ---- think they were merely solving a 'problem' forever.

And it reminds us that by dropping fire bombs on paper and wood cities, the Americans actually did kill tens of thousands of Japanese babies, albeit indirectly - the 'out of sight and out of mind' form of mass murder...

"Save the Poles, Save the Poles !!"

In early 1940, German propaganda films about their brutal invasion of Poland were still freely making the rounds of the cinemas of Neutral America.

Poet W.H. Auden, an Englishman Overseas at a time his home was at war, had ventured in one New York movie theatre to see the blond beast close up and personal.

But what really struck him was not the film itself but how the audience - mostly German-Americans - spontaneously began shouting out "Kill the Poles, Kill the Poles !!".

What might have been truly remarkable though would have been to hear ordinary Americans (fore-bearers from any country of origin) spontaneously shout out "Save the Poles, Save the Poles !!".

This was because forty years into the new Century, Victorian notions of charity, sympathy, empathy, chivalry and gallantry were pretty well gone, save only for employing vicariously at fictional films in the cinema.

In 1940 America, cheering the fictional underdog was alright ; fighting overseas to save real life underdogs was decidedly not.

Walter Mitty, I think it is only fair to say, was an avid Isolationist in his public politics, a brave Interventionist only in his wildest daydreams....

WWII but a significant 'blip' in the eternal war between natural historians and natural philosophers

From their lofty olympian heights in front of their chalkboards and computer screens, or up in their labs, the coin of the realm for the natural philosopher is always plenticide .

These scientists secure their fame within their tribe by reducing the plentitude of say the 150,000 very diverse species of beetles (God's favourite being) down to a few neat columns in a textbook.

So the tiger beetle : Domain Eukarya. Kingdom Animalia. Phylum Arthropoda. Class Insecta. Order Coleoptera. Family Carabidae. Genus Cicindela. Species tranquebarica.

The natural historian out in the field or down on the ward floor as a frontline clinician has their own coin of the realm, their own passport to fame within their tribe.

But it is the directly opposite objective.

Fame comes to them when they bring home a new and highly unusual beetle specimen that seems to burst through these rigid categories and fit exactly no pigeonhole : something that only adds to, rather than diminishes Nature's plentitude.

To the reductionist oriented theoretical or lab scientist, in some very real sense, the one billion Chinese literally do look "all alike".

While to the ever more plentitude seeking naturalist, even their own children all look and act totally different.

It would be very nice to report that the natural philosopher, as a result of their tendency to see the commonalities in diverse beings, are leaders in seeing the common humanity in all nations of the world.

But on the evidence, that doesn't seem to have been the case very often.

They put everything on separate boxes - and then too easily chose to arrange those boxes in a vertical and unequal hierarchy of worthiness.

On the evidence, the natural historian's tendency to see the diversity of life has had a better record at seeing the hidden qualities in beings too often overlooked in a vertical hierarchy of life.

"Love your neighbour - no matter how scary or slimy or smelly - as you love yourself" - the naturalists' credo

During WWII, too many scientists saw all life as but consisting of nothing more than a common collection of a handful of elements that civilized man hoped to make and re-make artificially in his own labs, far above and away from the rest of Nature.

Very few WWII scientists were like Dr Martin Henry Dawson, who was always popping up from the eyepiece of his microscope to tell his bored colleagues about newly discovered amazing and under-appreciated qualities he had just found in the easily overlooked tiny microbes.

They were probably just as bored when he returned from his rounds as the Goldwater Hospital for the chronically ill poor of New York, to report much the same about these overlooked and under-appreciated segments of our common humanity.

I don't think his colleagues ever really 'got it', but later in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as postwar "Penicillium Kids", my fellow boomers and I fully got it ....

Why Adorno and Horkheimer got it partly wrong

I believe that Adorno and Horkheimer only got part of the correct explanation for why the Modernity Project so abruptly started dying in 1945, supposedly the moment of its greatest triumph.

Not because they were Central European Jews - it was right for them to intellectually fixate on the Nazis' industrial mass murdering of an entire people - because at the time no one else really was.

Their failure lay, I believe, in being old.

Old, at least relative to school age children.

For Adorno and Horkheimer was only in their forties when they were writing and revising their Dialectic of the Enlightenment, the first book to recognize the death of modernity.

In the 1950s (and for centuries earlier) early and middle adulthood was a relatively healthy time - violent deaths from accidents, wars and suicides aside.

It was actually in early childhood that lay the huge number of deaths from infectious disease that so skewed the entire life expectancy statistics downward.

At my schools, I knew kids whose older siblings had died from polio and kids who went away and never came back , because of 'leukemia'.

And in my family alone, we had already had scarlet fever and rheumatic fever together with measles and chicken pox.

I could tell by the response of our elderly neighbours they were very frightening diseases -at least when they were young mothers.

My mother, a former medical lab tech, rushed to reassure me that, thanks to penicillium fungus and other microbes, these diseases were far less fearsome 'Since the War'.

From all the late night war movies I had watched with my parents since the age of six, I hadn't seen much evidence that the second world war had brought anything but tragic deaths and tears.

That the war had also brought us child's life saving antibiotics made a terrible big impression on this particular small child.

Perhaps if Adorno and Horkheimer had been young mothers (or even today's young fathers) while they were writing their masterwork, they might have seen that badness of Auschwitz alone couldn't kill the delusion of endlessly upward human Progress. in the minds of most humanity.

Because before we can dismiss a bad idea, we need a good idea to replace it.

Antibiotics, coming as they did from the despised fungus and microbes in the constantly overlooked soil right beneath our feet, was just that symbol of a hope-filled alternative way of looking at our fellow humans and the world.

Because the adults, like Adorno and Horkheimer, didn't really see this, everything had to wait until we 1950s kids got older.

The "Penicillium Kids"

When we did, in the mid and late 1960s, it was us postwar "Penicillium Kids" who started the postmodern recognition of rights for all types of people and beings that had been as traditionally overlooked as the soil microbes had once been ...