Friday, October 2, 2015

Other Manhattan Project is *still* not finished

In late 1943, many people all over the Allied world rightly got very furious when they realized that the new hope that lifesaving penicillin represented was only going to unfaithful husbands and boyfriends who had got a dose of the clap overseas.

Hope without Frontiers

For Dr Henry Dawson's Manhattan-based 'penicillin-for-all' Project which began in the Fall of 1940 actually hoped to do two 'good things', first do something good for all of the small of the world and secondly, to do good by also inviting in all the small of the world to help make it happen.

All this really to make a much larger point to the Allied leadership.

That point was that a military-only approach to defeating the Axis wasn't likely to work, if the Allied coalition remained as small as it was in 1940 and remained as non committal as it was in putting its back into it.

In addition then, the Axis needed to be combatted, the Allies rallied and the Neutrals brought on side by also fighting on the moral front.

And here the world was quite rightly cynical that all of Winston Churchill's high sounding radio rhetoric and all the paper behind FDR's Atlantic Charter was really just 100% NATO : no action, talk only. 

But a "Big Tent" approach, one that honestly sought to invite in all the small and the weak in the world into the Allied effort, as helpers and as people to be helped, would remove that impression.

Penicillin diplomacy, the flying of penicillin around the world to save lives, regardless of their race, gender or social status, would be the quickest (and frankly, the cheapest) way to make that claim credible.

Dawson's unwavering conviction came from his belief that his scientific results was superior to that of the current "pop science" consensus.

That consensus basically held to a view, however cloaked in soft sawder and velvet, of the 'survival of the fit', that might was always right, bigger was always better, God always on the side of the Big Battalions.

This consensus gave anyone of empathy and conscience the resigned sense that, regrettably, the small were Nature's inevitable losers and couldn't be saved even with the best will in the world.

Dawson felt he had a new explanation (what we today call HGT) as to why the small (microbes) were still around two billion years later while the mighty (dinosaurs, for example) were but a passing flash in Nature's pan.

Basically HGT, to put it into human terms, was as if the microbes opened up the biggest of Big Tents in times of crisis, rather than running blood tests on the few they trusted to fight the fight (the human and Allied/Axis approach).

HGT allowed genes traditionally viewed as 'useless' and unused by human researchers, say the ones to allow microbes to resist an antibiotic, to spread very rapidly among all the various and very different microbes species - horizontally.

As result no microbe species is at all pure, all are totally mixed hybrids - and judging by two billion years of survival, all the better for it !

(I might add that the extended penicillin family genes also spread, via HGT, from bacteria to bacteria and then into the fungus family as well.)

Penicillin without borders

Think of HGT as spreading hope throughout the entire microbe world, regardless of borders or frontiers.

It might just be the meme we need to adopt today if the Earth and humanity is to survive human created ecological disaster....

No comments:

Post a Comment