Sunday, September 7, 2014

Natural penicillin's unexpected triumph --- against Synthetics' 1939-1945 war against Nature

Big Science - Synthetic Science - had a lot of triumphs during WWII, the war that its promises , not Hitler's megalomania, actually started.

Synthetic Oil, Synthetic Rubber, Synthetic Silk, Synthetic Quinine , Synthetic Man , Synthetic Penicillin all sought to replace 'unreliable' natural products with new improved Man-perfected 'predictable' substitutes.

Synthetic Plutonium (sic) , Synthetic DDT, Synthetic Zyklon-B , Synthetic Freon, and Synthetic Napalm went one step further when Man was considered to have created new products that Nature could never have dreamed up.

Thank God for Nature then !

And as for Man-made predictability , it is worth recalling that human chemists only make a tiny minority of all chemical compounds.

Chemists usually stumble on a compound with useful properties and then go to work on replacing its side chains until even better properties emerge.

But so too the environment and biological beings do the same to the sidechains of Man-made chemical compounds such as Freon and DDT.

 In the process Nature created massive un-natural disasters Scientific Man could never have predicted precisely but human humility might have considered a distinct possibility .

The German chemical world's promise that in the very near future total synthetic autarky was possible allowed enough otherwise sensible adult Germans to go along with Hitler's megalomania talk of endless wars of conquest to get the whole ball of wax started.

Sensible adult Germans who should have personally remembered the failure of WWI's ersatz synthetics to feed and heat a starving , freezing nation under total blockade.

Auschwitz to help birth the Perfect Man  , Man-Made Man, Synthetic Man

During WWII, Germans killed tens of millions of Slavs, Jews, Romas and Aryan 'unfits' , all part of a huge (scientific) war within a smaller (military) war .

That scientific war , a deadly serious war that both proceeded and succeeded WWII's nominally important military war, sought to replace Nature's messy plenitude of many imperfect natural types with one Man-made perfect , perfectly static , type.

The synthesis-minded, Nature's breakers , were going to tame these unruly bucking natural broncos.

Just as the Victorian Era pornographers had virtually tamed similar bucking uppity feminist women with stirrups* in their texts and images.

(*Victorian male doctors read pornography as much as other Victorian men did and they later renamed the foot rests for their female patients as "stirrups".)

The stinky,slinky, slimy , constantly mutating fungal molds existing in an unstable, unpredictable world midway between the solid/dry and the wet/flowing , were a particular bete noire to Modern Man , as a glance at that era's most feared monsters ( H P Lovecraft anyone ?) will readily attest.

This is the real, if largely unconscious , reason why 1939-1945's synthetic chemists warred against the penicillium mold (and not the enemy) and why doctors of that period declined to use perfectly safe, effective natural penicillin to save the dying.

But the penicillium was (and remains) one bucking bronco these chemical breakers never could break.

Hitler and the synthetic chemists thought they were good - but then Hitler and the chemists had never tangled with the Strawberry Roan ...

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