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 ...

Did I really get it that far wrong ?

As a religiously devote child in the Fifties, I somehow got the impression that WWII only ended because the penicillium fungus (David) was saving more kids than Civilization (Goliath) was capable of gassing or bombing.

As an adult, I realize now that I was not far wrong.

From opposing moral positions, Dr Henry Dawson's primitive penicillium and the advanced Auschwitz doctors, together, put the fatal 'post' into modernity.

And so, gradually, we collectively changed our minds. No longer did we believe biological progress to be linear --- and exclusively directed towards human 'civilization'. Instead it involved all creatures and proceeded in all directions.

But it seems that not everyone got the memo. Old guard believers in "man-centred" Progress are still around and still destroying this planet.

I believe my book about the Dawsonian revolution, about the 'other' Manhattan Project, is that true rarity : a page-turning Good News Story from that Bad News War.

And if re-telling it helps in any small way to forestall the rush to destroy this planet in the Sixth Extinction, so much the better...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lindbergh's "Wave of the Future" and Prell's "Underdogma" : plus ca change, plus c'est meme chose ...

As 'literature', there isn't much in common between Anne Morrow Lindbergh's airy if wooly personal essay style 1940 "Wave of the Future" and Michael Prell's 2013 dense cut-and-paste thesis "Underdogma".

But in terms of actual intent, there is surprisingly little difference between the pair.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dawson was, in fact, the THIRD (reluctant but duty bound) leader of the tiny Manhattan penicillin Project

In September 1940, fearing the internment of German Jewish refugee scientists - even possibly those with recent American citizenship - was bound to follow the panicky British Empire decision to most of its German refugees from Hitler, biochemist Dr Karl Meyer became the first leader of what was to become the four year long Manhattan penicillin Project.

Dr Meyer was determined to find some sort of way to prove to the American war machine that he was too valuable to intern.

And finally purifying a drug that could kill the few militarily important pathogen bacteria that the hot new Sulfa drugs could not, would do just that.

Purifying a natural substance is sometimes by far the most difficult step on the road to then synthetizing and patenting it.

Any clinical testing could wait until the substance was safely purified.

For now, what Meyer and his assistant Eleanor Chaffee needed most from their two microbiologists (doctors Dawson and Hobby) was their highly practised skills in growing microbes.

And then later, their other well honed skill in measuring the bacteria-killing powers of any substances Meyer's chemical skills threw up.

But all that changed in early October 1940, when new patient A. (Leroy) Alston heard of the project and in a very real sense, hijacked the leadership of the project.

The twenty year old effort to 'civilize' penicillin was well funded, well studied, well honoured (and a big failure ...)

By contrast, the tiny and relatively brief (less than four years) effort to win (grudging) acceptance for 'primitive' penicillin was unfunded and unsupported, received no scholarly study or public honours ---- and was a huge, world-changing, success.

Seventy five years later, annually thousands of tons of 'Primitive' penicillin are still made the good old primeval way - by incredibly tiny fungal factories - and still form the basis for almost all of our life-saving antibiotics.

"Upending" - the blog, the musical and backstory non-fiction book - tries to make amends.

For "Upending" is based around the proposition that massive success usually deserves more attention than failure, even if (particularly if ?) that failure was supported by all the Smartest Men in the Universe...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Antibiotic found in the mud at a Biological Weapons plant saved more lives than the anthrax and botulism to be made there ever killed

Academics are always claiming that America simply couldn't have afforded to build a bunch of cheap bottle penicillin plants in surplus milk plants, not in the early years of the war anyway.

And whenever I read this, I always think about the billions (in 1940 dollars too !) wasted on the excess number of huge munitions plant built in those same years.

But one example - the munitions facility built at Vigo, Terre Haute.

It was quickly built, produced a few bombs and then quickly shut down.

Until Churchill asked FDR to rush the manufacture of tons of anthrax needed to fill a half million British bombs (and that's just a starting order, he said).

The whole biological warfare program was run by the owner of Merck ---- and this George W had even more political connections than his Bush counterpart.

So the war machine quickly found much more money to make deadly bacteria than it ever found to stop deadly bacteria from killing people in the first place.

And the place they choose to do it all in was the Vigo plant.

The war ended before any anthrax germ bombs were filled (or dropped).

Merck ,the company and the owner, totally missed the boat on natural penicillin and fell on hard times, so they never bought the Vigo plant when it became surplus.

But the surprise winner in the wartime race to first make billions of units of penicillin - and hence Merck's most hated commercial opponent, Pfizer - did.

Ironically from some dirty mud at the Vigo plant, Pfizer found its own very first antibiotic, Terramycin.

For many years now, it and a related analogue have saved lives or reduced the period of suffering from a very very wide spectrum of microbial attacks.

I think there is a moral in there somewhere ....

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Posts factual backstory to a fictionalized ("based on actual events ") libretto

I well recall the very first time I first read, in the book "YELLOW MAGIC", how five gallon carboys of incredibly delicate penicillium slime effluent were daily - and carefully - taxied through NYC's hellish traffic all the way from Brooklyn to a hospital at the top of Manhattan.

All in a desperate effort to save lives and how, despite best efforts, the material often arrived destroyed and perhaps another life lost as a result.

At that moment, I shouted out to Rebecca : "MOVIE, MOVIE, MOVIE - finally a science story just made for the Big Screen !".

Too often a movie about an incredibly important science breakthrough has to compress time and 'gussy-up' the long drawn out and usually boring activities to make it dramatic enough for the camera.

But Dr Martin Henry Dawson's little Manhattan Project was a story so incredibly cinematic they would actually have to tone it down to make it seem creditable.

Others, I am sure, will make movies of Dawson's efforts (lots of movies because my writing has all been assigned to the Public Domain).

But I won't take any part in it : why set my sights so low ?

I began to see that Dawson's tale was really the tip of a much bigger story and that cinema's commitment to realism would only graze the surface of its emotional core.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Postwar science as TV High School : a-bomb 'jocks' vs penicillium slime 'losers'

When I was very little (and very little for my age) I was always the new kid kid in town.

'Cause we moved around a lot, back then in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Bullied a bit.

For perhaps these reasons, I found the science talk of that time always left me very puzzled.

I don't just mean science talk in school, I mean science talk everywhere --- ads, news, literally everywhere - including science fiction books and sci fi movies as well.

Mostly science talk was was all about the big and about Man - big science run by big important men in big governments and big armies and big factories in big important countries.

Science as the topdog and Science as the TV high school jock set among nations, institutions and individuals.

But when it came to life-saving antibiotics for disease-prone little kids (a subject obviously hitting close to home for me) science was always about digging up dark jungle mud, scrapping smelly slime off basement walls or dipping into the effluent laden water at the mouth of sewer outfalls.

Antibiotics, we were told, were not man-made, not synthetic, but made by tiny invisible little microbes.

And judging by where these microbes hung out, I could clearly see even then that these marvellous lifesavers were from the TV high schools' loser side of the tracks - greasers and trailer trash.

There was one more puzzling thing about these antibiotics - they all came out of the Second World War and as far as I could see, were about the old good thing to ever come out of the awful war.

We didn't talk much back then - none of us - about the advanced civilization that produced the Auschwitz medical experiments, but we had all heard and seen - in TV sci fi serials and movies, if nowhere else - what the A-bomb could do to the human body.

And we all much preferred antibiotics like penicillin, big needle and all, to the A-bomb.

And we found it hard to marry together just how any civilization could produce both such a killer bomb and such a lifesaver pill, all out of the same horrible war ....

Still gassing right up to the end : Ravensbruck

Since the Russians were hard into eastern Poland by the end of 1944, it has always seemed believable to most people that Himmler himself ordering the gas chambers to stop working as of November 1944 and for the SS to destroy all evidence of their existence.

No evidence of this 'order' has ever come to light, but clearly with the Russian front lines only a few dozen kilometres away, the local camp commanders and SS staff knew they had to stop, quickly destroy all the chambers (and the remaining prisoners) and then move back West pronto.

But forgotten in all this was the fact that there were still many many concentration (cum work cum elimination) camps still in Germany itself.

(Because only a handful camps were entirely about the quick elimination of as many Jews as possible - most freely mixed their activities up).

Ravensbruck was Hitler's only all women concentration camp ,home to women from two dozen nations and where at least 50,000 died.

(Lots of children and babies died there too - usually by being quickly deliberately murdered rather than by being worked to death like their mothers.)

Most women died by overwork and underfeeding -  but many also by executions for any small or imaginary infraction ---- or in ghastly medical experiments.

And after November 1944, death came in a new form - via a brand new gas chamber.

It ran on and on and on until just before the camp was overrun near the very end of the war.

For some reason, any mention of Ravensbruck and its gas chamber (maybe due to its extremely late start up date, who knows?) brings the Holocaust deniers out of the woodwork, as any Google search on the two words will reveal.

But the story of Ravensbruck is real and it needs to be much better known : and I think Sarah Helm has done it, in her book "If this were a Woman".....

Jocks become society presidents, Swots become society secretaries

The topdog Jock/Football Captain/Rowing Blue/BMOC - they've always been around, even in Martin Henry Dawson's time in university a hundred years ago.

Similarly, the underdog Swot/Square/Boffin/Nerd/Geek .

They were certain to be members of the chess club back then as now (as Dawson certainly was).

They actually liked philosophy class and the classically dead languages (Dawson again).

They dutifully and cheerfully always passed their essays in on time, never skipped class, and when not in the library ( researching, not flirting) were in the high school band or orchestra, no doubt playing like the oboe or something equally, well, nerdy.

The socially adept jocks became natural up front politicians, running first for high school president and then American President.

Meanwhile the more studious, honest and charisma-challenged types were 'urged' to fill the tiring, detail-filled backroom jobs because someone has to step into the breech and it might as well be you - again.

It is hard today to imagine the pocket-protecting chemist ever being seen as the jock and the topdog, but between the wars this was so - chemistry was just so cool, so powerful.

A Swot's revenge indeed when the ultimate underdogs, basement penicillium slime and working class SBEs, turned tables on the topdog jock chemists near the end of WWII...

Did call of Great War end 'Henry Dawson the Philosopher' ?

After enrolling in a four year BA at Dalhousie University in the Fall of 1913, Martin Henry Dawson joined the Great War in the Fall of 1915 - and yet he graduated* with a BA granted in absentia in the Spring of 1916.

Martin Henry's selection of courses at Dal hadn't exhibited any inclination to a career in science or medicine - he had taken only the required basic chemistry class and one elective in basic biology.

He did have very good Maths, German and Latin which (albeit indirectly) would only help a future would be med student.

In his first two years at Dal (his only two years at Dal), he naturally couldn't have taken too many electives or advanced level courses.

The only elective he took two courses in - and one at the highest level (6) that he got to, before war called, was --- wait for it ----- philosophy !

Could it be that a career as a philosopher and a thinker lay before him ?

Interestingly, his marks were unusual poor in these philosophy courses - why he continued to take them then is an interesting mystery.

(On a personal note, my father was also embarked on a career as a philosopher before the Korean War suddenly called - he didn't resume that career until a decade later.)

In the Fall of 1919, Dawson enters McGill's med program.

By the time of the 1920-1921 calendar, he is indicated as a third year student in medicine - which would seem remarkable progress for someone with half a BA and with very little science.

It is true he was smart and hardworking.

And he was a genuine young hero to the grateful adults running McGill : winning an MC with citation for bravery during the war.

Perhaps more importantly he had spent a year at a very busy wartime base hospital as a private/orderly and his two wartime wounds had also meant he had spent two years in and out of hospitals and convalescent homes and before endless medical boards.

Dawson had gotten his medical acculturation, like most everything he ever got in life , 'the hard way' ....


*His older brother Howard has also entered Dalhousie the same year and at the same academic level as Martin Henry.

But despite finishing a good deal more courses than Martin (Howard had enrolled both in first year pre-Engineering and then first year pre Law) never got his BA when he left for the war about the same time.

Howard died fighting for his country's and university's values in that war.

Not granting him a BA before he went was really a small-minded mistake.

It could still be rectified by Dal, as we mark both one hundred years since the Great War and the 200th anniversary of the university itself...

"Hitler's Furies" and "Hitler's Beneficiaries"

German women, at the very least, allowed the Holocaust, Aktion T4 and other horrors of the Nazi era to go ahead.

Conversely, their wholesale public revulsion would have at least slowed it down.

The Nazi leadership never forgot the widespread protest of hungry housewives that hastened the surrender of Germany in WWI and greatly feared it repetition.

So much so that it is now a commonplace among a new generation of historians to argue that keeping the German family well fed during wartime no matter what led to the worst actions of the Nazis in the occupied lands.

In Simple Wiki speak : bad harvests back home led to wars and lead them to kill millions and millions people, simply to steal their food.

Very few of us have ever heard that least a half million women served Hitler's evil ways in the occupied lands - let alone what they did there.

Mostly very young, these German women in the occupied territories did everything, from typing the paperwork for the transport trains to the death camps, to bookkeepers counting the stolen loot.

Right up to the nurses and guards who gave the fatal needles or shot children in the face after hands-on torturing them.

Of course most German women stayed home.

But they were hardly guilt free : these women also silently accepted the daily mistreatment of enslaved peoples - all the millions of enslaved workers clearly being mistreated at their factory or farm.

Silently accepting as well, all the new apartments and new belongings made available when their Jewish neighbours 'disappeared' to the Eastern death camps, whose existence was known by virtually all, even if only as a whispered rumour.

Millions of German housewives saw that their families remained very well fed up to the last days of the war, while they knew families in the occupied lands were starving.

That was a big difference from the extremely harsh Great War food conditions which almost all these women directly remembered as a housewife or as a child.

Yet Germany wasn't producing any more food now in this war than in the last --- so they had to know where all the extra - and clearly foreign - food was coming from and how it was obtained.

Because their husbands and boyfriends told them.

How, despite the occupied lands being grossly starved, their foodstuffs remained miraculously widely available to Germans at ridiculously low prices.

That sort of 'good luck' for the Germans and 'bad luck' for the occupied people just couldn't have happened by accident.

Despite all this, literally only a handful of the tens of millions of guilty German women were tried, convicted and their sentence carried out fully.

A very few feminist historians have had the courage to address why women have been written out of the Nazi story (except as victims).

Wendy Lower's Hitler's Furies is one of the best.

In a few places, it is very hard to read, at least for the almost all of us who hold a special place in our hearts for children and still naively believe that all women feel the same.

However, it is unique in also examining in detail the lives of the more ordinary German women working in the occupied lands and hence allows one to begin to get inside the heads of those half million female Nazi assistants.

Lower's is one of the best books on this subject and rightly one of the best known too.

But I also want to add a male feminist to the list : Gotz Aly.

He is always provocative (and that rare non-tenured historian who tenured historians read and respond to in a professional manner.)

His "Hitler's Beneficiaries" is a successful attempt to show how every single (non-imprisoned) German benefited from stolen loot and from food stolen from the starving - and how every adult knew well how it came in their hands.

And in war, the majority of those stay-at-home loot profiteers were inevitably women.

It is troubling that these historians have been so alone in all of this .

Their published efforts, involving as they do the moral behavior of the majority of humanity (women), while hardly ignored by professional historians, haven't really become popular discussion books among ordinary people.

Above all, among ordinary feminists....

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Henry Dawson: nerd, geek, swot --- and secretary of the Dalhousie University chess club

We already have a pretty clear (albeit highly stereotyped) image of the sort of people who join college chess clubs, as opposed to say ending up captaining the football team.

Equally, we know the type of person who always agree to 'help out a good cause' by ending up on the executives of clubs and societies.

But always they are consigned to the dogsbody recording secretary role in the background ----- never the glamorous upfront president.

And we know the difference between those natural leaders of every classroom (the students who can charm teacher or pupils alike without ever reading the course materials) and their opposites : the charisma-less swots with their heads in the books who always get the best marks.

Martin Henry Dawson's older brothers were more in the charming and natural leader category, while he was 100% full swot.

And yet, a clue as to how he 'led without being a natural leader' might lie in his strong sense of justice and instinctive support for the underdog.

Right up to his dying day, for a good cause, Henry Dawson never could say no.

And in his own modest way: once onboard, he wouldn't let go either.

All in all, a man very easy to badly underestimate....


So far, I have found him as business manager for his high school annual yearbook cum newspaper, secretary (treasurer) of his university chess club and of his undergraduate medical student society.

He was secretary of innumerable organizations over his entire life.

Someone willing to step into the breech, hardworking reliable, honest but not a dynamic or aggressive leader.

And he was also 'one council rep among many' on numerous occasions.

But for the very few times he headed up ending any organization, I think only special circumstances (no other candidate?) put him there.

It seemed he was never the natural choice of the membership considering who to vote for to represent their organization.

Dr Martin Henry Dawson, MD , LLB (Hon) : always about defending the underdog ?

From would-be lawyer (destined to defend the underdog) to a doctor and scientist defending the underdog ?

With no private papers available, it is hard to know for sure what really motivated pioneering medical scientist Dr (Martin) Henry Dawson, the first person to ever put DNA to work in a test tube and the first to ever inject an antibiotic (Penicillin) into a patient.

Dr Dawson, MD was actually enrolled in Arts at Dalhousie University, before the Great War changed everything.

But, from what we know of his adult personality and from his best marks in university, I would see him, if the war hadn't intervened, more as a university teacher - perhaps in history or perhaps teaching theory in law school.

Unusually for a scientist, he took no sciences courses as an undergraduate - except one in biology (where he topped his class).

His skill in German turned out to be very helpful - no great scientist before 1945 could really succeed if they couldn't read scientific German with smooth facility.

But his best courses are in areas like history, economics and philosophy.

It is important to recall he got his wartime BA degree after attending relatively few classes because he had such good marks in the few courses he did complete, before he left for the effort overseas.

Henry Dawson was far too studious to ever stop at a mere BA and then go on to teach high school - yet he never (so far as we can tell) formally enrolled in the pre-law, pre-engineering or pre-med options at Dal.

But ever loyal to his slightly older brother Howard, he might have joined him at law school but for the war.

Yet he didn't seem to have the commanding personality needed to be a successful courtroom lawyer defending the underdog.

And he certainly never ever wanted to be well off, let alone rich, as in 'rich corporate lawyer'.

But while at Dal, Dawson was busy helping teaching English to various foreign seamen at the YMCA mission to seamen, perhaps parallel to his brother Howard's similar involvement in evangelical good works.

And for what it is worth, his older brother Frank, while an engineering Dean in the American Mid West, so impressed a pioneering black engineering student with his non-prejudiced kindnesses, that the man fulsomely remembered Frank Dawson years later in his autobiography.

The entire family was not military minded but when they were needed - when poor little bleeding Belgium was betrayed by the Hun - all five boys stepped into the breach.

Belgium - again an underdog.

Henry was a (medically untrained) private in a university organized overseas military hospital at first.

Later Dawson was made an officer in the infantry and while badly wounded in the foot, still gave up his place in a stretcher for another much more wounded ordinary soldier, (an underdog) this after solving a battlefield crisis by running about on his wounded foot for ten hours.

His foot never really recovered as a result, but he received the Military Cross with citation for this selfless act.

Then at the very end of his wartime service and wounded yet again, Dawson changed his peacetime occupation from just "student" to "medical student".

His career changed - but I argue - not his urge to helping the underdog.

His lifelong concerns, as a ward doctor, were the chronically ill poor - then as now a low priority in high prestige teaching hospitals.

Underdogs of the medical world.

As a medical scientist, his interest was in the underdogs of the underdog microbes - then universally seen as primitive, primeval, weak, simple, small --- the ultimate in the living fossils.

So why then were they still here ?

If evolutionary theory was correct, Dawson wondered, shouldn't the weak and the small have long ago been vanquished by the big and the brutal ?

The microbes were once again the underdogs, the Rodney Dangerfields, of the Living World.

As a medical scientist, Dawson was particularly concerned about the harmless - hence uninteresting to other medical scientists - avirulent commensal bacteria.

Avirulent versions of 'normally' pathogenic bacteria were considered to be defective versions (of a lifeform already -see above - considered to be a living fossil).

So why then ,asked Dawson, were they still here inside us, often inside us for perhaps our entire lives -- undestroyed ?

Here is the contemporary explanation that Dawson objected to - see if you too can see its flaws in basic logic :

(1) The pneumonia bacteria can only survive in or on us - we are its only home.

(2) The normal variant of the bacteria that causes lung pneumonia and blood poisoning is deadly virulent and lives alone, floating in the blood and human intercell liquids, usually killing us (and them) in a week or two.

(3) The disease of lung pneumonia is not really contagious -- we can't really catch it from the coughing of a dying man -and remember with his death, so to die the bacteria (see #1 above).

(4) The abnormal, defective, avirulent, version harmlessly exists in tight massive colonies on the inner surfaces of our nose and throat - sometimes for our whole lives, without ever making us sick.

(5) We all have these harmless pneumonia bugs in our noses some of the time -  some of us all our lives - and when we have them, we are known as 'carriers' of these harmless commensal pneumonia bacteria.

Dawson wondered how a short life of a week or two in the lungs or blood streams of just a few of us (for even before penicillin, pneumonia bugs only killed perhaps 8% of us) could qualify as the normal form of existence for this bug.

All this, when 100% of us had the abnormal quote unquote bug in our noses for periods ranging from months and months to decades and decades ?

Haven't the normal definitions of usual and unusual been deliberately up-ended to suit an universally accepted but ultimately bizarre medical theory ?

Dawson's alternative explanation was that whether floating about alone in liquid or clinging in masses to walls, these were just normal evolutionary responses to changed niches.

If bacteria do the shapeshifting so quickly, it is not really just that they are much more plastic in the forms that they can adopt than we are capable of - it is also the simple math that a new generation to them can mean 25 minutes later not 25 years later as with us.

As a result, evolutionary response to a new crisis can happen a million times faster with them than us.

If we are honest with ourselves, an evolutionary response time like that is a big advantage and a big reason why these living fossils are still around.

Dawson spent his life tracking down the variants of bacteria that he believed demonstrated why these supposed underdogs were really Life's evolutionary topdogs.

He was the first, or among the first, to look at things like DNA-HGT,quorum sensing, molecular mimicry, CWD bacteria, biofilms and persisters.

Three quarters of a century or more later, those are still cutting edge scientific topics.

In 1940, scientific opinion was again convinced the underdog fungal slimes were incapable of making penicillin as efficiently and as cheaply as the topdog chemists of advanced human civilizations could.

Dawson disagreed - pioneering the Antibiotics Age - when he injected their 'primitive' penicillin into Aaron Alston and Charles Aronson on October 16 1940.

He was right - the topdog chemists failed totally and the underdog slime still makes all the basis of our lifesaving beta-lactam antibiotics to this very day.

When the Allied medical-political elite agreed that wartime penicillin would only go to the topdog frontline troops, Dawson characteristically objected and said all of us, dying for lack of penicillin, should receive it, war or not.

Dawson was himself dying but he gave up his life to - once again - fight for the underdog.

A life full of variations but always with that same consistency of conduct ....

Monday, July 13, 2015

Eugenics no more a "pseudo" Science than bacteria are living "fossils"

We don't permit history profs - on their way to granting our kid an expensive university degree - to teach only the successes of the Nazis and never their failures.

So why in the name of truth and beauty do we permit science profs to do just that about science's many failures ?

Why do we let them get away with the nonsense that eugenics was only a pseudo science and never a real science - when we know it was taught in thousands of universities and colleges around the world for over half a century ?

In 1940, far more people around the world had earned their way into professional status in part by passing such eugenics courses than had by passing courses in sub pseudo-atomic physics.

Orwell would have learned much more about doublespeak by ignoring Hitler and Stalin and devoting himself to the tabletalk of any number of Nobel Prize winning scientists.

Consider the powerful if deadly poetic phrase 'living fossil' : how on earth could something be both living and lost since dead ?

The Romas were considered thus - along with any number of other 'primitive' tribes also destined for the SS bath facilities in the event of total victory.

The term 'living fossils' was actually just a clever way to evade Dr Dawson's probing question : if the bacteria actually are that stupid and weak and simple and primitively primeval - why in the name of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer are they still here ?

Or could it be that about the only thing a lab scientist won't reduce down to its basic basics in his beakers and burners is his own profession's mis-practises ??

De-colonization inevitable the minute the primitive and dark green fungus could make lifesaving penicillin - and the best of lilly white western civilization's chemists couldn't

Nothing ventured, nothing gained right ?

So let me go out on a long long long intellectual limb and tie the postwar white world's reluctant de-colonization of Africa and Asia to the wartime success of primitive penicillin.

By 1945, the religious element justifying the imperialist dominance over supposedly lesser beings was nearly moribund, long since replaced by the claims of the 'clearcut' scientific superiority of whites over darkies (and by implication, dark fungus as well).

We weren't enslaving Africa - oh no, we were bringing it the boon of advanced European medicine.

But in 1945, advanced European medicine actually meant the horrific medical experiments of Auschwitz scientists while it was left to the supposedly impossibly primitive fungus slime to bring the real boon of lifesaving penicillin to Africa and the world.

And if you could make primitive but effective penicillin in any jungle hospital lab, Africa no longer needed their European overlords to lead them around like blind children.....

WWII : diverse Ideologies of "Ends" but a single Methodology of "Means"

Traditionally, immense philosophical differences between three "clusterings of ideologies" are said to be the reason for the intensity of violence that was WWII.

So one clustering group, for example, claimed to be benevolent-to-their-own-race racists.

The Germans claimed to be protecting the white race and the Japanese claiming to protect the yellow (or even all colored races).

Perhaps fortunately for the entire world, this was doubletalk.

The two were actually only nationalists cum imperialists : the Germans treated most other whites almost as badly as they hoped to mistreat the coloreds, just as the Japanese treated fellow yellow races at least as badly as they mistreated whites.

This narrow nationalism destroyed both nations' ability to unite the wide and strong coalitions needed to defeat their many opponents.

The various kinds of Marxists and Communists all started out claiming they intended to take everything from the world's middle class and give it all to the world's working class.

And after an initial violent overthrow of the existing system, they promised to end state executions.

And indeed they did start out by taking from the rich and giving to the poor - if the poor is defined as the upwardly mobile urban industrial working class.

But soon they all began to take from everybody and give it mostly to massive military buildups against imaginary enemies, so somewhat continuing to benefit the industrial worker, but also ensuring that the working class didn't get too much of the nation's new wealth and start feeling frisky.

In addition, a very generous share went to an entirely new middle class cum ruling-forever class made up from some of the smarter, more ambitious and more ruthless children of the working class.

Even more depressingly, the communists in all the various nations in which they seized power soon acted exactly the same way against their minorities and neighbouring nations as the previous aristocratic and capitalist rulers had done.

And to do so, they secretly murdered millions of all sorts of people over the decades, all the while publicly claiming to have ended capital punishment, except in cases of treason.

Once again deep rooted narrow nationalism cum imperialism seemed to have trumped the nominal world-wide official ideology.

And yes, doubletalk once again - though in this case, there seemed a widespread and genuine surprise among marxist & communist intellectuals that it all ended up this way.

The third clustering gathered the rest of the world's nations, be they dictatorships, monarchies or liberal democracies , united only around just one thing : the all out defence of well-off people's private property (and the nominal defence of the 'individual').

Once again doubletalk.

The defence of ill-gotten capital accumulation was sincere enough, but in practise most of the rewards and the protection of the law that was supposed to go to all individuals, instead went to native-born, educated, upper middle class, straight males of the dominant religious and ethnic group.

These nations might never declare formal military war against each other but they were always secretly at war against each other over matters of money.

In the form of nationalist trade wars, together with nationalist wars over intellectual property rights and nationalist wars over the flow of capital, labour and goods.

So once again, behind the smokescreen doubletalk of universal brotherhood of individual rights, nationalism trumps all.

One can only point to the immense secret efforts by both America and Britain, at the very depths of their Allied war against Hitler and Tojo, to beggar the other in postwar trade matters, to show how much greed is the real underlying ideology of many of our rulers.

And all three clusterings were united in giving unearned wealth to members of their privileged subgroups by taking from the weak.

The weak might be an internal group - their own majority ethnicity's poorest . Or it might be the more traditional form of imperialism - taking the natural resources and labour from ethnic and religious minorities inside the borders of their empire cum nation or from overseas 'colonies'.

So imperialism and nationalism actually united all three supposedly different ideological clusters.

But they then had to morally justify why it was so very morally wrong to steal private property of the strong but quite alright to steal the private and public property of the weak.

The traditional way was to claim that their nation-empire-civilization was the sole, best, bearer of the one true religion and that they weren't stealing at all - merely extracting a university tuition sized fee from the heathens in exchange for teaching them of this priceless boon.

But there were quite a number of one true and universal religions in the nineteenth century and this led to wars among them ---- as long as people still believed in religions.

But when people stopped believing that there was any real difference between Catholics and Protestants, indeed between Christians, Moslems and heathens, a new moral justification was required.

Now the true civilizations, those worthy enough to enslave other lesser beings and feel morally good about it, were the most scientific ones.

A peculiar form of science. mind you - one much beloved by Conservatives and Republicans of the day - because it said that Evolutionary success inevitably went to the big and ruthless over the small and weak.

Better science meant both better guns to put down the scientifically backward darkies and in feeling a warm moral glow while doing so.

Because if the darkies had fought back successfully, that would mean that they too are scientifically advanced and hence a worthy civilization, in evolutionary terms.

A clear example of this was how the West responded when Japan beat the Russians in the 1905 war.

But science is truly universal, at least in the big picture, so how then to justify why it was right for scientifically advanced England to invade backward China but not for scientifically advanced Japan to do the same ?

I have often thought the sudden rise of many new ideologies at the same time as the sudden rise of Scientism was somehow intimately connected.

I don't mean the people who founded these various -isms were insincere.

The Magnification of Small Differences

I just mean the success of these many brand new ideologies can be laid to the fact that they allowed 'moral' wars against each other among the world's powerful and ruthless, elites who were otherwise united in all worshipping at one new and universal religion - scientism and its offshoots : the new nationalism, the new imperialism, the new racism and the new social darwinism...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

WWII : a diversity of ideological rhetorics but a striking uniformity of methodology

There were only 2 billion people on Earth in 1940 but seemingly at least that many ideologies - every kind of -ism under the sun.

An -ism or ideology can be thought of as the governing presumptions of a Great Civilization or a potential Great Civilization.

(That last sentence was perhaps full of redundancies because as anyone ever heard of a small civilization ?)

In 1940, the most powerful of these -isms were actually scientism, nationalism, capitalism, racism, and imperialism.

But the most rhetorically warring ones , the ones with the most acknowledged supporters, were not them at all.

Rather they were ones called something like Liberalism,Conservatism, Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Democratic Socialism orJapanese Yamato-ism.

In rhetoric, this lot all seemed as different from each other as could possibly be.

However all these the ideologically warring Great Civilizations also saw that the same common international language (advanced modern era science) was the real key to achieving their rhetorically different aims.

So much so that the -ism of scientism ended up ensuring that the tails of these very different ideological dogs all wagged in the same direction.

Now early Modern Era science was not really very 'open-mindedly scientific'.

Scientists back then frequently set out to prove up unstated and largely unconscious assumptions that the scientists had already made about the basics of Reality : philosophy first, empiricism second.

At a time when the number of publishing research-oriented scientists were comparatively few and the history of such activity only a few decades old, it was easy for these pioneering scientists to unconsciously select various tiny aspects of the vast array that is Reality and present them as typical - and so 'proving up' their philosophic thesis.

Today we having millions of publishing scientists and a hundred and fifty years of scientists doing such activity. And now we have the Internet conveying all of this published research instantly and cheaply to all other scientists.

As a result, much more of the complexity of Reality has come to light and this very diversity and complexity, in of itself, has destroyed the belief that human science can quickly and confidently uncover the secrets of Nature.

But none of this was terribly evident in 1940 --- the ism of Scientism ruled , warmly supported by the Left or the Right, across the entire world of Civilizations.

In fact to be a Civilization was to be scientific and to be scientific was to be part of a Civilization.

Since Modern Era Civilization always consisted of imperial dominion over other ("lesser") human beings and since Modern Era Science always consisted of imperial dominion over ("lesser") Nature, the two provided a complete continuum of dominance over other beings and other things.

All the Great Civilizations agreed on the right and need to dominate lesser beings and things - they only differed in who this imperialism was supposed to benefit.

The middle class and deserving working class in democratic imperial civilizations, the working class in socialist and communist imperial civilizations, the Aryans, Romans or Yamato races in the German, Italian and Japanese imperial civilizations.

In all cases, a tiny elite at the top of each great Civilization benefitted the most and suffered the least under any reversals.

One billion people in the world during WWII experienced longterm severe shortages of food - but no member of any ruling class, regardless of the -ism they espoused - anywhere ever went to bed hungry.

Call this a young child's (profound) understanding of what all the -Isms and Great Civilizations and Scientism really meant ...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Fermi's Paradox ("Where are they?") meets Dawson's Paradox ("Why are they still here?")

Scientists who smallmindedly pursue only one scientific question their whole careers can still end up being regarded as 'great' scientists, if the question they ask (and the answer they provide) is big enough to matter deeply to all of us.

Dr Martin Henry Dawson basically spent his personal research career asking, if life truly was "the survival of the fittest", why it was that Life's most unfit lifeforms - the small, simple,primitive microbes - were also, far and away, its oldest and most successful survivors ?

Because in 1940, it was crystal clear to almost every human on Earth that we were Life's most successful species and that the small weak and primitive microbes were our very antithesis.

But Dawson tried to burst this bubble of hubris and group think , by daring to ask , "well then why are these manifestly unfit beings still around ---- and been around since Life began ?"

Dawson's Paradox was a counterpart to Fermi's Paradox

The famous atomic scientist Erico Fermi once famously asked, if the possibility of many lifeforms in the vast universe is so great, then "Where were they?"

Dawson similarly asked , if the microbes are so manifestly unfit,  then "Why are they still here?"

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dawsonian Revolution's twin triumphs : primitive penicillin and its 'primitive' distribution

The man at the top of the Anglo-American civilization (Winston Churchill) fully backed the Allied medical-scientific experts who insisted upon first civilizing and synthesizing (and patentizing) primitive penicillin before considering its civilized (hierarchical/restricted) distribution during WWII.

By contrast, Dr Martin Henry Dawson insisted from the start (October 1940) that primitive (fungus-made) penicillin was safe enough and efficiently enough produced to enable the world to start right now - today ! - saving those people dying of diseases penicillin could cure.

And he also demanded that his primitive made penicillin be distributed as a primitive society would distribute it - equally to all those in need, war or no war.

We really shouldn't be surprised by all this.

An essential characteristic of all 'civilizations', experts insist, is that it has a high measure of both social and geographic stratification - a hierarchy of inequality.

Those same experts say that 'primitive' and barbaric societies share a common egalitarian spirit of sharing equally.

True, in politicians' rhetoric, 'the civilized' show a great egalitarian spirit while 'the barbaric' have a hierarchy of cruel rulers and enslaved subjects.

Of course remember that $6 and politicians' rhetoric will get you a small cup of Starbucks, with any luck ....

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Auschwitz and Penicillin put the fatal post into Modernity

Who stuck the fatal post into Modernity ?

Was the doctors of Auschwitz alone, with their horrific experiments on living human guinea pigs, with all their fatal injections and monitoring of mass gassings ?

Not on the evidence.

The agreed Allied lie in 1945 was that the Nazis were an outlier, dedicated to destroying civilization and science and returning us all to a savage and more primitive age.

It sounded good - at least it sounded good to the people so far up the top of the Allied world that they had lost touch with the greater reality below.

But the billion or so ordinary people at the deeply suffering edge of WWII weren't so sure.

No, Auschwitz helped a lot - as did Naking, Hiroshima and the Katyn Forest killings.

But they altogether still weren't enough -  all dismissed as either horrors done by non-civilized evil-doers or regrettable actions done in the course of winning a great moral crusade.

What really put the fatal post into Modernity was the contrast provided by the fact that while the best of human civilization's chemists had totally failed to produce a lick of life-saving penicillin throughout the whole war, the much despised primitive basement slime produced scads of it - effortlessly.

Advanced German medicine - the best in the civilized world - gave us Auschwitz while the despised Lovecraftian slime gave us a priceless lifesaver.

Where on Earth was real Progress then to be found ?

'Advanced' Auschwitz doctors and 'Primitive' penicillium lifesavers exchange places as postmodernity replaces modernity

Progress 1945 : German medicine, long regarded as the most modern and advanced, gives us human guinea pigs dissected alive and the white coats who gave the lethal needles and monitored the fatal gas.

Non-Progress 1945 : the much despised primitive basement mold and slime, the ultimate horror in a modern Lovecraftian world, gives us the life-saving penicillium.

Me, a boomer kid and an elementary student in 1950s North America, trying hard to reconcile what my teachers and the media told me about progress versus slime ....

Auschwitz AND Penicillin created Post-Modernity

No matter how many scholars say it while dancing on the sharp point of a pin, it simply isn't true.

The horrors that Auschwitz came to represent simply weren't enough to break through human civilization's enormous hubris in the heady post-victory days of 1945.

In fact, the journalists had already all been squared and the agreed story was to be that the Nazis had long been openly at war, well before 1939, against the modern world.

That they were a throwback to our barbaric past, trying to destroy civilization.

But Modern Civilization had been stronger, with better, more modern science, and had so cast out this one bad apple from the European basket.

Primitive barbaric Nazi science had been bested.

And soon all would be once again bright and cheery in the broad uplands of this best of all possible current worlds.

(And please put your sunglasses on and hold onto your hats, because the Future's going to be so Bright, you gonna wanna wear shades !)

Yes, Modern Civilization had had one bad outlier, its tame apologists boldly admitted, but the structure itself was sound.

But in fact it was 'the best of Allied science' that had been bested - and not by some yet more advanced civilization - but rather by the most primitive and despicable creature imaginable : stinky smelly basement fungal slime.

All the Smartest Chemists in the Universe, from all civilizations in the world, working full out with unlimited funds, had failed to make penicillin - something the despised slime tossed off with the ease and grace of Nijinsky.

The 'primitive' slime was supposed to remain securely at the very bottom of the Ladder of Progress - with 'advanced' civilizations like Germany and America supposed to be secure at the very top.

When suffering humanity needed advanced civilization the most, it let them down - instead a despised being, a broken vessel, a stone all builders rejected, gave them life...

Now human hubris had a tough contrast to reconcile : all civilization (not just a nasty outlier of it) had failed to produce the priceless lifesaver penicillin - instead that was done - and worse, done easily and effortlessly - by the supposedly most primitive life form imaginable - a lower fungus.

What on Earth then was truly Progressive and what was truly Primitive ?

Monday, July 6, 2015

French civilization versus Swiss culture : imperialism is the missing ingredient

Ever hear anyone, anywhere, ever talk about 'small' civilizations ? Yeah, me neither. Civilizations are always coupled with "great" ---as in large. Not necessarily as in 'morally good, kind and caring'.

The word civilizations, used in the plural, actually implies, quite strongly, large imperial empires.Always has, always will.Its just a euphemism for imperialism, really.

For run of the mill commonplace acts of naked dominance against other humans and against Nature, but done this time large, on a grandest of scale.

Large expansionist empires divided geographically and ethnically, with a central core of privilege and an outer core of the not privileged.

And throughout the entire empire slash civilization an unequal social hierarchy of one powerful and well off class at the top and other poorer, less powerful classes way below.

At the start of WWI, the term 'civilizations' were mostly limited to places in Europe, with only Sweden and Switzerland among the fully sovereign countries without empires and hence not having a civilization to export to needy darkies.

Even more importantly,in this expanded sense of Europe, only Russia, the Ottomans and Austria-Hungary were empires without overseas possessions.

Even the regarded as not fully civilized Americans had overseas colonies.

Overseas colonies many many miles of ocean waters away satisfied the progressive Era mind.They liked a clear - if highly artificial - separation in every thing.A clear separation between the darkie subjects over there and the whitey rulers over here.

While in the older style of civilization cum empire, a subject could move more easily over land to the centre core with no realistic border barriers at ports of entry, and then hope to pass as a ruler.

Civilized behavior - courtly behavior - genteel - gentlemanly  : again all these words are but euphemisms for the fact that every civilization absolutely needed an aristocracy and a hierarchy of the privileged master top and the subjugated subject bottom to qualify as a civilization rather than just a nation or a culture.

It was absolutely true when Churchill said we were defending Western Civilization --- more's the pity ....

Remember this well whenever you hear WWII propaganda claiming the Allies were defending civilization.They were indeed --- but was that actually something to be proud of ?

Wouldn't defending democracy and civil rights be something more of what the world might actually rally around. Except of course then, defeating Germany's empire would mean also breaking up the British and French empires....

Humans an annual; bacteria a perennial

The single human species can be thought of as an showy but short lived annual with the hundreds of thousands of unspectacular bacteria species as the perennials of major lifeforms.

Today's typical born-in-North-America human reproducing unit consumes enough energy and materials over a typical 25 year generation period to reproduce about a billion trillion trillion of individually slightly different bacteria in the same period of time.

Humans need hundreds of energy slaves to maintain their life style and even then many couples have only one or none kids - kids that take 25 years for themselves to be able to reproduce.

And of course, it takes two adults to make a baby.

Bacteria need very little material and energy to reproduce, sometimes in as little as 25 minutes, not years, and don't need a mate either.

They operate collectively as a vast world wide quasi lending library of genes - every bacterial a potential lender or borrower of 'sometimes useful' unique genes.

This would be far too expensive a library, in metabolical terms, for all bacteria to make all these genes all the time.

But when bacteria somewhere on Earth suddenly need one of these rare genes, they quickly obtain it from other bacteria that hold that particular rare gene, via horizontal gene transfer, HGT.

So while somewhat simple individually, overall the bacteria family is complex enough to handle almost any curve ball the changing environment can throw at it.

But above all, bacteria have evolved downward in size and movement and reproductive choice ( cloning) as to need very little energy and matter to survive, endure and in better times, reproduce.

Put another way, bacteria are not just Life's fastest breeders - they are also its slowest.

Bacteria can survive a hundred and fifty years or more barely alive before they get enough energy and material to reproduce, allowing this form of life to survive on one billion trillion trillionth of what a human couple would need to survive upon.

Human civilization is all very elaborate and showy but without a massive steady flow of energy and material to sustain it will quickly collapse.

A few thousand humans could live on as hunter gatherers in a moderately impoverished world - below that level of subsistence, they do would die out and vanish for all time as a species.

Meanwhile, those barely mobile tortoises of Life/ those non-spectacular perennials of Life (the bacteria) end up finishing the race of Life well ahead of the more showy annuals and speedier hares.

And what we humans need to ask ourselves : is true 'Progress' better defined as a matter of shortlived Annuals or of long living perennials ?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Ladder of 'Progress' features primitive lifesaver at very bottom and advanced evil-doer at the very top ?

Imagine true Progress defined as a primitive basement slime saving millions of lives instead of being defined as an advanced civilization, Beethoven and Goethe to its past credit, coldblooded shooting thousands of babies in the face.

Pretty hard to imagine, isn't it ?

Much better we stick with tradition, tried and true : advanced Auschwitz at the very top versus primitive Penicillium at the very bottom.....

Why the world couldn't believe the wartime photographs of the Holocaust

'Civilized people simply don't exploit and murder other civilized people' is what everyone thought at the time.

And, by and large, this was true - in a sort of 'honour among thieves', civilizations tended not to exploit other civilizations - preferring to exploit the vast majority of the world, all those other people they deemed 'uncivilized' - in fact doing so was the very hallmark of being civilized.

To be civilized was to hold dominion over lesser 'others'.

So during WWII, civilized people in the world were greatly horrified to learn that the civilized Germans were forcing the civilized French to provide involuntary labour, 'just as if the French were but mere darkies in some overseas French colony'.

But since the Eastern Europeans weren't really civilized, well documented reports of them being murdered in the millions by the Germans - made public before the half way mark of the war had even been reached - caused almost no outcry, beyond a few exiled or immigrant Poles and Jews....

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Dawson's opponents, not Dawson, had special concern about SBE patients in September 1940

Pity the poor historian ( like me !) trying to recover the substance of the visual glances,the brief shoulder shrugs,  the sotto voce verbal hints and half finished sentences, all very typical of conversation within small cliques in a small staff room, when the group is divided up into various opposing factions of colleagues, who must still at least pretend to get along at work.

I believe that in September 1940, upon his return to medical school and hospital, Dr Martin Henry Dawson half overheard some conversations between members of a group of his colleagues who not well disposed to social medicine, even in peacetime.

The Fall of France had happened and many Americans believed the Fall of Britain was soon to follow.

The American medical elite, made up mostly of  conservatives not in favour of medical intervention towards the weak at home or abroad, were now all claiming to be preparing for a possible war.

Maybe they were - in part.

But for many of them, talk of war preparation allowed them to reduce the alarming amount of social medicine (treating the poor dying like the rich dying) being practised.

They insisted they were only seeking to reduce medical intervention among the domestic weak and small because all existing resources (and more) were needed for possible future medical intervention in support of Europe's weak and small nations.

Reducing domestic comfort and aid because of possible foreign intervention ---- which they were still strongly opposed to !

I call that classic 'Bad Faith' and template Orwellian Double Talk.

I think it was these colleagues who mentioned the SBE patients as the classic sort of 'bed waster' that a war medicine hospital could no longer afford.

We know there was already some existing consensus on ignoring the SBEs under war conditions because there was almost no resistance from doctors in America in the Fall of 1942, when the disease was declared by the NAS 'death panels' to be of no military value and so denied penicillin - the only medicine that could save its patients' lives.

This censenus was also found among doctors in Canada, the Uk and Australia as the NAS ban on the use of wartime penicillin for dying SBE patients was extended by the medical establishment in those countries again without almost any controversy.

But Dawson himself had never before spoken or written or researched on SBE and its patients.

His sudden concern in September 1940 to make the 4F SBEs the focus of his wartime natural penicillin crusade, I believe, came from him half overhearing his conservative colleagues dismissing them as worthy of equal treatment to the war wounded 1As.

Dawson's empathy for the unjustly neglected simply kicked in ....

A bad faith Charter 'written on the water', just off Newfoundland

All of India knew very well the saying that when you make a promise you don't intend ever to keep, you say you 'wrote it on the water'.

Since Winston Churchill had no intention of keeping the promises of self determination found in the Atlantic Charter he had signed with FDR in August 1941, the fact that this Charter was literally 'written on the water' off Argentina Newfoundland was a telling, even poetic, lapse in British spin-doctoring....

'Hitler treats white folks in Europe worse than a bunch of darkies in our overseas colonies' --- Allied world

The nerve of that man !

'There is a time and place for mistreating people ---- but today's Europe is not it - the Atlantic Charter is Britain and America's commitment that Europe will no longer be so mistreated....'

Parasitic progress versus Complexity progress : Humans & Vitamin C

"Complex Guys Finish Last" -- Leo Durocher.

During the Error of Anthropocentric Progress (1875-1965), it was an unconscious and assumed given that ever greater biological complexity was a direct proxy for ever greater biological progress.

Call it the Heath Robinson or Rube Goldberg Law of Eugenics.

Because it basically ignored totally the equally common - and perhaps even more successful - biological progress towards becoming less complex, to becoming a taker not a maker in Republican-Conservative speak, a parasite dependant in part on sponging off others' hard work for your basic survival.

It is truly rare in the big big world of Life to find beings who can't make their own Vitamin C.

We virtually all need it to survive - lots of it - and daily.

For safety's sake we mostly make it ourselves, out of that even more basic-to-all-Life substance called glucose.

But a few creatures - finned fish, bats, some birds, ape like beings, guinea pigs do not.

They let a gene needed to make the stuff mutate away ---- because they already eat a Vitamin C heavy daily diet of fresh plants and animals rather than say just surviving on dried seeds like some birds.

And yes humans are on that list of vitamin C takers not makers.

Making that gene and the resulting gene product was all very fine but it consumed a daily chunk of food and effort perhaps better devoted to making our muscles and brains bigger.

That is why all parasites accept the loss of valuable genes - because they can get the substance it makes much easier by sponging off others.

Now lets go back to the 1930s, when human efforts to successfully make Vitamin C synthetically out of inorganic chemicals in big chemical factories was hailed as a signal triumph of progressively complex humanity.

No longer would we need to eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day just to survive.

But call artificial Vitamin C a very mixed triumph, a delayed triumph for picky two years olds against "Mommy" ----- rather than a triumph for fully grown up adult moms and dad.

Because just as Mom always said, eating fresh fruit and vegetables does indeed give us many, many other benefits beyond just serving as inert packages to transport Vitamin C into our stomachs.....