Sunday, March 15, 2015

How HGT helped end Modernity

It is too frequently claimed, by tenured people well schooled in the logical and analytical skills of philosophy and who thus really shown know better , that postmodernity is all about relativism and modernity is all about absolutes.

But is this in anyway accurate ?

Postmodernism's Absolutes

True, postmodernist thought does typically say things like this : "the matriarch of an extended aboriginal family is as smart in her own way as is the boss of a New York brokerage firm".

But is this nothing more the evoking two forms of one absolute, 'smartness' ?

Modernity's Continuum of relative Progress

Contrast this with a typical modernity claim, that that 'the bigger and more complex are inevitably smarter than the small and the less complex, just as the newer is always smarter than the ancient'.

So : the header of a current brokerage firm is inevitably smarter than the head of an ancient aboriginal family.

Further : that a modern civilization is far smarter (because it is so big/complex and created so recently) than a tiny simple bacteria that first existed billions of years ago.

This is the Continuum of relative Progress that formed the base for all the towering modernist-scientism thought that lay above it.

A straight arrow of progress and smartness, ever upward towards today's biggest and the newest.

Anchored - in the minds of modern scientism at least - by the obvious smartness of today's biggest and newest human civilizations versus the obvious stupidity of the shapeless, immobile tiny bacteria first born billions of years earlier.

The real target of this line of thinking was not the bacteria, so very far beneath the pale, but humans in the middle of this continuum : the natives of the many overseas colonies held captive by western nations claiming to be their 'moral stewards' using this scientific argument.

Muller vs Dawson on Evolution and Progress

Now as it happens, one of the smartest beings in the Modernity universe, an American scientist named Herman J Muller, had been busy at work studying genetic mutations beginning at Columbia University in 1918 , trying to alter the genetic makeup of living beings.

He zapped the multitudes of these assembled beings with overdoses of deadly radiation.

Now most died right away but some lived a little while longer while being deformed into useless mutations as the radiation altered their genes.

By once in a while a being survived into old age but with a mutation that was either harmless or even possibly helpful.

He became famous overnight when he gleefully telegraphed his results at the end of 1927.

The Swedes, belatedly impressed by the mis-shaped mutations that the wartime A-Bombs had coughed up amid all the dead and dying, gave Muller a Nobel Prize in 1946.

Enter Griffith and Dawson

Now that same month as Muller announced his attempts at gene modification, a British scientist named Frederick Griffith very reluctantly submitted a paper on his discovery (made in 1923, just as Muller had done his first radiation experiments) that primitive, ancient, tiny, simple bacteria could also affect gene change.

Albeit without millions of bystanders being killed in the process.

His news was totally ignored - first by scientists and thus by their syncopants*, the so called science 'journalists', and then by ordinary journalists and their readers.

(*I have always wondered why football team cheerleaders are not similarly called sports 'journalists'.)

Unlike Muller, Griffith did not expand upon his research and nor did anyone else , except a Canadian-born scientist named Martin Henry Dawson.

His work too got little attention.

No wonder !

The Moderns has replace their parents' belief in a personal God with a belief in an Impersonal Science but that did not mean an end to needing to believe in dogmas.

They needed more of them - now more than ever.

We all know them - as historical relics, albit still taught to innocent high school kids by the old Faithfuls.

Such as "One gene = One protein", the famous central dogma of biology.

In Dawson's own skill areas, bacteriology and immunology, 'Strain-Typing' was the operating philosophy.

It was based on another famous dogma, Koch's First Postulate, that a specific disease-causing strain of bacteria will always be found in a person suffering such a specific disease but never in a healthy person.

Simply examine the various bodily fluids of a sick person possibly suffering from an unknown-for-certain disease, find within it lots of strain x of bacteria Y that always causes a particular disease Z and you are done.

Possibly a cure is known and the patient lives --- or possibly the disease hasn't yet a cure and they die - but your job, as a typing bacteriologist at the hospital lab is all done , 'where's my pay cheque ?'

Let the frontline doctors on the wards deal with the emotional fallout from this definitive diagnosis.


What Dawson boldly dared suggest - unlike the timid and disbelieving Griffith - was that the harmless strains of bacteria carried by almost all of us in our throats and noses at sometime in our lives - could be changed into dangerous strains by HGT.

This meant that simply typing a patient as having only non-pathogen bacteria in them wouldn't ensure they couldn't get a new pathogen disease when thus harmless strains took up harmful genes from other bacteria.

The professions of Bacteriology and Immunology were less than a generation old but now Dawson's suggestion of infinite bacteria genetic plasticity threatened their members' only recently attained job security and new high status within medicine and science.

He actually called his process by the plain-spoken term "bacterial transformation", but today we use the more descriptive term "horizontal gene transfer", hence HGT.

For - contrary to the God-disbelieving Charles Darwin's own personal dogma- Evolution isn't all about vertical descent from parent to child.

Non-vertical Evolution

Sometimes Evolution actually arrives horizontally, when bits of DNA from one strain of microorganism are incorporated into the "adult" DNA of another strain or even another species of microorganism - and possibly even into the DNA of complex beings like us .

The ancient stupid/simple microorganisms have evolved ways to painlessly insert foreign DNA into their own DNA - and the new clever/ complex human civilization hadn't .

True, we eventually wised up and borrowed the tools of the bacteria to do the job for us - we call it recombinant DNA and PCR.

We then have the sheer nerve to give Nobel Prizes to their mere human discovers rather than their true inventors, the bacteria !

But if HGT demonstrated the bottom end of an upward-oriented continuum of relative 'smarterness' was actually smarter in the area of recombinant DNA than the very top, could that continuum be said to actually exist ?

However remaining stands of Scientism - tenured up to the hilt and marxist cum modernist to the core - doesn't like facing up the the fact that their own central dogma, the Continuum of Progress, has no basis in fact.

Instead, modern big complex human civilization is just as smart - in its own way - as is that of ancient as ancient simple small microorganisms.

Just as the postmodernists claim ...

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