Monday, September 28, 2015

Survival of the Fit over the Unfit ?

Particularly after the whirlwind defeat of the effete French by the German Blitzkrieg in May-June 1940, it seemed obvious to most middle class people in the world that the fit 1As were bound to win , every time, over the unfit 4Fs.

Survival of the fit over the unfit : bigger is better/might is right : Q.E.D.

A Fact of Nature : the classic 'Appeal to Nature'.

But Dr Martin Henry Dawson strongly and fundamentally disagreed with this particular Appeal to Nature, or at the very least, he wished to make another and stronger scientific appeal to the Facts of Nature.

For he felt he had found another (and statistically much better) method for assuring long term survival, as revealed by his study of Nature.

Young Dawson had made his scientific mark, initially, by studying the pneumococcus "R"s.

Even though these "R" type was considered by most others to be unworthy of serious scientific study.

They were the deviants, the unfits, the 4Fs, the non-virulent and non-virile members, of what even human scientists had to admit were Life's most successful survivors, the microbes.

Exit the big and mighty (and very fit) dinosaurs

For almost four billion years, the microbes had survived all that the Cosmos and Nature had thrown at them and lived to see another day while the big creatures, like the dinosaurs, went extinct at the first downturn.

Dawson's study found that almost four billion years of existence had produced no evolutionary pressures to eliminate the 'unfit' among the present day populations of microbes that he had studied.

This despite Social Darwinist claims to see evidence of the same in the mere four thousand year recorded history of human civilization.

Evolutionary pressures of survival, the Social Darwinists claimed, would ensure that humanity's portfolio of genes would be gradually drained and reduced, down to a 'small tent' of just to the most fit 1A types.

But Dawson no doubt had already noted to himself that the microbes had been around a million times longer than human civilizations - surely the slowly grinding wheels of even Darwin's ultra leisurely concept of evolutionary change must have produced something by now.

Because his microbes seemed quite tolerant of what human scientists called the 'unfit' among them.

Indeed Dawson found that the 'fit' and 'unfit' among the pneumococcus microbes were free to be both patrons and authors in the microbes' world wide lending library of potentially useful genes.

In this "Big Tent" concept for a global library, any microbe - whether judged 'fit' or 'unfit' by human scientists, could freely offer up bits of DNA with potentially useful genes for a new crisis situation and any other microbe could take it up and in turn pass it on to another microbe and so on, quickly circling the world.

The miracle of HGT

This use of the unique-to-the-microbe HGT system (horizontal gene transfer), by the way, is how resistance to a brand new antibiotic can spread to the remotest corners of the world in a few years.

It is one of the key ways that microbes have survived for four billion years.

Most microbes would be considered in 1940 to be among the "lower" forms of life because they almost never reproduced sexually - that is by taking bits from the genome of both mom and dad.

Creatures unable to do that were considered to be incredibly primitive.

But Dawson showed that if the microbes could think, they might feel that sexual beings were truly incredibly primitive - for why stop at sharing the genes of just mom and dad when you could share the genes of a trillion times a trillion times a trillion of other microbes ?

In human equivalent terms, when microbes were under attack by a powerful new antibiotic, as powerful as Hitler + Stalin + Mussolini + Tojo combined, they made the biggest possible Big Tent of all the talents, be they female or male microbes, black, red or yellow microbes, fit or unfit.

All hands on deck, without regard to limiting racism or prejudice !

Big Tent Penicillin

Dawson thought the Allied cause should not just rhetorically claim to do the same but actually and concretely do the same.

Not just for the traditional moral reasons, but because he had scientifically demonstrated that it had a proven record of success.

But in fact Dawson's earlier studies had largely been ignored.

This time though, he would combine microbe 4Fs ( in this case ,the lower fungi penicillium) with human 4Fs (the working class SBE patients), all to show just what a "Big Tent" approach could do in a time of grave human crisis...

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