Tuesday, March 14, 2017

'calvinistic' genetic predestination selects the few worthy --- or HGT's 'catholic' transfer of genetic salvation to all ?

Dr Martin Henry Dawson, the Canadian who gave humanity the boon of  'public domain penicillin-for-all' in the teeth of fierce opposition from the likes of Sir Alexander Fleming and Sir Howard Florey, was raised well within the long-forgotten atmosphere of fervent Calvinist evangelical missionary efforts that peaked in the very decades of his youth, just before the Great War.

Calvin's harshly restrictive doctrine of double predestination might seem to sit uneasy with the contrasting universal missionary impulse of offering the Gospel to all everywhere --- but then the workings out of God's will is always remain a mystery to us.

Here in the real world, indeed, the two conflicting ideas don't always hold together very long and one wonders if this was the case with the young adult Dawson.

For in the post-Great War convulsion in Western Thought, he is said to have moved away from a belief in the formal religions of his youth.

(Dawson was raised into a devoutly active Nova Scotian Scottish Presbyterian family, at a time when what today we call 'Mainstream Protestantism' was very strongly evangelical indeed.)

But his adult scientific activities seem to suggest a quasi-religious move that was more 'sideways' than away.

People who held strongly that our invisible genetic inheritance is almost everything (and that visible behavior is less 'Free Will' than 'Breeding Will Out') dominated the scientific world in the half century between 1895-1945, the years of Dawson's life.

So some of us were predestined, by our genetic inheritance alone, to be judged lives fully worthy of life while others of us, equally, are condemned to be judged as lives unworthy of life.

You can call this urge to cull mere routine Nazi practise --- or conventional Western scientific and conventional thought rarely put into action --- morally the difference hardly matters.

But Dawson, in pointed contrast, spent his career demonstrating instead that genetic material, far from rigidly moving vertically down from father to son as Darwin's devotees claimed, actually freely roamed the Earth, potentially taken up by all and sundry : what Dawson then called Bacterial Transformation but what we today call HGT , Horizontal Gene Transferring.

Valuable genes were not for only the very few, the pre-chosen few, but potentially available for all, to take up by their own free will.

Similarly, wartime Penicillin was not only for the very few worthy of it under wartime conditions or who could afford to pay very high prices for patented 'pure' penicillin in the postwar world.

In other words, : scarce, expensive, pure penicillin for the pure.

Instead Dawson advocated abundant impure-but-harmless public domain penicillin for all in the wartime and postwar worlds who needed it to survive serious infection.

In the end, thanks mostly to Dante Colitti and the American Dr Mom, he beat back Fleming and Florey  and their ilk and we got the boon of cheap abundant penicillin for all, which by a sort of Herd Immunity effect, has benefitted 10 billion of us since 1940.

Dawson's vision was not a very Presbyterian notion, true, but it still encompassed the very essence of the pre-WWI missionary impulse...

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