Monday, October 20, 2014

Why, after 4 billion years, most bacteria STILL can't swim

Back in the Modern Era (1870s -1960s , gone but hardly lamented) a strong proof for Darwin devotees' claims that bacteria were incredibly primitive was the established fact that after 4 billion years of existence, most bacteria still couldn't swim.

Couldn't move at all in fact , most of them.

Forced to go wherever currents of wind or water moved them.

How unbearably crude !

Actually, of course, a moment's reflection suggests that what these ardent Darwinists were actually saying was that Evolution didn't really work.

Because a few bacteria species actually do move under their own power - and many other species threw up mutations in the past that could move.

But in terms of evolutionary (reproductive) success , over an entire world, over 4 billion years , on the evidence , bacteria that had to rely on sheer caprice and chance to find food, water and shelter did far better than bacteria that could deliberately move with precision to where their senses' predicted food would be.

That should have served as a warning to Modern humanity but of course it didn't.

(Cue WWI and WWII's dashed war plans and ill-founded war predictions).

The bacteria results would be as if a handful of USAAF fighters had been sent out on random sweeps over Germany in early 1945 (and told to strafe any defenceless train they came across by chance).

And postwar studies indicated that these chance encounters, impossible for the harried Germans to counter, did far more than destroy the heavily leveraged German transportation system than did all the costly and carefully planned 1000 bomber raids plodding along predictably to massively defended Ruhr rail marshalling yards.

(Yes ? Oh the postwar studies do suggest that the fighters did do more ??!!)

But humanity ignored the bacteria and instead retained an absolute faith was put in our human abilities to beat the odds of chance by basing our distant future on precise and predictive plans.

In physics, still really emotionally wedded to Newton despite the quantum revolution , this was best seen in the science of ballistics.

The point of pride was the Norden bombsight, supposedly able drop a bomb in an enemy pickle barrel from 15,000 or more feet up.

From a plentitude of non-military objects below, the Norden would precisely destroy only the military target that bomber leadership planned to takeout today.

In chemistry, a similar urge to "plenticide the plentitude" was seen in the science of synthesis.

Chemists would replace all the many 'imperfect' natural materials in one particular area (women's fabrics for example) with one perfect, human-made, plastic substitute.

In biology, almost all agreed that while God might have an inordinate fondness for beetles ,
most biologists did not.

So planned precise genetics would weed out all the imperfect beetle species and aid the reproductive efforts of the few remaining - perfect - beetle species judged useful to Man.

After the beetle surplus had been cleared up, more precise plenticide would weed out the plentitude of humanity as well.

If natural evolution can be compared to a global stock market, then it can be said that Modern Era humanity really didn't trust the judgement of the marketplace .

The Moderns, in capitalist America or Stalin's Russia, both preferred a natural economy devised down to the nth detail using planned, precise, predictable evolution.

Soon it was expected , all children would be IQ tested not long after birth and the best - the geniuses-in-waiting - would be heavily tutored , sparing no expense.

Those falling below a certain IQ score would be 'put to sleep' (by lethal injection).

No more would we fear the untutored genius bubbling up energetically from the underclass , putting all the highly educated offspring of the well-off to shame.

In this perfect world, we would have Pat Boone singing Tutti Fruiti but not Little Richard , Paul Whiteman playing West End Blues but not Louis Armstrong.

Oh Joy !

By contrast, (Martin) Henry Dawson's quixotic efforts to save the 'unfit' SBE patients consigned to a Code Slow death by a heartless Allied medical establishment could be best explained by examining his lifelong interest in 'unfit' bacteria.

Dawson seemed to have felt the human species can't accurately guess what genetic skills might be useful, moment to moment, in a dynamically uncertain world , no more than the much older and much larger number of bacteria species ever could.

Better that we should let 'all life to live', rather than risking our futures by putting all our predictive eggs in one slender genetic basket : a small 'pure' genetic pool was actually a weak genetic pool.

The huge plentitude of life chances seems - on all the evidence that Dawson had  -to demand an equal plentitude of life forms , if life was to survive in the long term.

Because the world actually doesn't change incredibly slowly and so Darwin's predicted incredibly small and slow genetic changes simply couldn't be the main engine of Evolution.

Instead every species is always throwing up a vast variety of varying individuals - many that merely manage to barely survive their species' niche without actually perfectly fitting it.

But when that niche changes rapidly, some of those existing (and formerly ill-fitting) keys now fit this new keyhole much better and now flourish grandly rather than merely surviving.

I shall not credit Dawson with insights beyond the evidence.

I merely observe that Dawson always acted through the twenty years of his prematurely brief scientific career as if he felt that all of life's 'unfit' were worth studying for lessons for 'fitter' humanity , were worth helping to survive.

He always acted as if he suspected carefully planned experiments that had worked in vitro mightn't continue to work as well in vivo - out there in the real world.

The really dynamically complex and fluid real world....

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