Saturday, September 6, 2014

1945 Big Science's failed promises : synthetic stability and predictability

Chemically-minded/blinded scientists (and during WWII that included almost all scientists) hate, hate, hate penicillium mold.

To them , it is like an unbroken , un-house-trained mustang bronco .

A petulant two year old pooping penicillin all over the floor and then mutating like crazy so it now refuses to eat right, go to bed on cue or produce more penicillin on demand.

And natural penicillin itself - it also sometimes mysteriously lost its potency in mere days or even hours.

"For Darwin's Sake, give me man-made penicillin every time !" was their universal cry.

"It will be stable in shelf life and with all its predictable characteristics both known in advance and consistently stable."

But if we have learned anything since Big Science's apogee in 1945, it is that merely because a substance is man-made does not mean we can predict all its characteristics in advance.

Witnesses in my defence ?

Freon Gas, Leaded Gasoline, DDT and Thalidomide just for starters.

As the offspring of a philosophy prof who taught intro logic for decades , I am tempted - very tempted - to say that all scientists need to pass a tough course in logical fallacies.

For these sort of fallacies tend to show up ,time and again, not in scientists' overt research data, but in their unspoken and unquestioned silent assumptions....

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