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  Explaining those missing genes.

Steven Ransom, Credence Publications

 

Last week, the lucrative world of gene research was rocked by a further announcement that  "…there might not be as many genes making up the totality of the human being as we first thought."  Over the years, that number has been reduced from the original 150,000 genes to about 80,000, and now this week, down to no more than 30,000. Craig Ventner is one of only a very few geneticists announcing these intensely unpopular ‘downsize’ findings. He tells this story to the UK Sunday Observer, dated 11.2.2001: "The day after we published data pointing to the possibility of only 80,000 genes, I got this call from a US biotech boss, cursing, swearing and using all sorts of obscenities about me and my company. I calmed him down and asked him what his problem was. "You’ve just announced there are only 80,000 genes, and I’ve just done a deal with SmithKline Beecham, agreeing to sell them 100,000 genes. Where am I supposed to get the rest, you bastard?" 

Ring any bells with other avenues of conventional research?

Surely, in that single, angry outburst lies the blueprint for much of the construct of gene theory. It is a model which carries the all-too-familiar characteristics of other spheres of conventional research: an enclosed, secretive and highly paid élite, working from an as yet unproven knowledge base, supported by powerful vested interests, their particular craft offering little of any measurable benefit to a largely unquestioning public.

Talking of which, forgive the momentary venture into group participation, but hands up who has actually taken time out to research the convoluted history of genetics? Who has endeavoured to verify the actual existence of this gene thing, the word now on everybody’s lips?  Basically, how many of us today are using the phrase "genetic make-up" or "it’s in his genes" without having done some all-important homework?

It seems that with the science of today, some preliminary homework and a little bit of digging around is an absolute necessity before aligning ourselves with the scientific wisdom of the day. For with each passing week, yet another revelation brings some hitherto hallowed medical statute crashing to the ground. The recent announcement from the US AIDS establishment (reported in New Scientist) that their highly toxic drug range known as protease inhibitors "might best be administered later rather than sooner" is only the long-awaited tacit admission from the AIDS industry that their drugs bring on the very symptoms the public believe is caused by the as yet unidentified ‘HIV’. Separately, while the FDA and its global counterparts summon oppressive assaults on Laetrile or vitamin B17 Metabolic Therapy, (the unpatentable and therefore unprofitable natural treatment producing such fantastic results in cancer treatment), British cancer specialists are begrudgingly admitting that cyanide (a minute constituent in the apricot kernel and other B17-producing foodstuffs) may well have beneficial effect in the treatment of various cancers. 

Our hallowed cancer and AIDS   treatments, and the golden gods promoting them, are becoming as tin. 

Paracelsus, the 15th Century alchemist and adventurer was a vivid precursor to today’s geneticist. Like all alchemists at the time, Paracelsus was intent on discovering the fifth element, the ‘quintessence’, the vital force that holds all life together. heating test-tubes and beakers, peering intently into the contents, mixing, stirring, shaking, grinding - discovering this fifth element would bring the revere of his peers and untold riches, and would add the following impressive string to his curriculum vitae:

"It was I, Paracelsus, who discovered the formulae for life itself."

Many, many hours down in the lab, and not able to isolate the prized formulae, Paracelsus resorted to inventing his own liquefied ‘vital force’. Bottling it and marketing it as a godsend and absolute cure-all, Phillipus Theophrastus Bombastus (whence the term bombastic) Paracelsus went on to make a tidy sum in the process. 

Man's primal drive for searching, but not finding, in turn inventing and then marketing the 'deep mysteries of life' is present in the heart of man, just as much today as it ever was. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. Alchemy is alive and well in the 21st century. It's just that everything's just been updated. One senses it would be verging on blasphemy to state that Stephen Hawking, the revered quantum/particle/astrophysicist is just another 21st Century Paracelsus. But his biography by Kitty Ferguson (Bantam Books, 1994) unwittingly paints the same Paracelsian picture of this modern-day ‘thought shaper’. Entitled "A Quest for The Theory of Everything", Ferguson’s book opens thus: "Many physicists think the [universal] rule book is short, containing a set of fairly simple principles, perhaps even just one principle that lies behind everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen in our universe. Hawking says that set of rules – The Theory of Everything - may be within our reach."
 
The book then descends (as does Hawking’s own book  ‘A Brief History of Time’) into a chaotic jumble of fantastic worlds, described in enticing and imaginative terminology. Upon rational examination though, these works (and so many others like them)are just another man’s ideas on that elusive fifth essence - the secret of life! -  success in the book sales down to the fervour of the Hawking, Dawkins, Miller, Gell-Mann, Penrose, Hoyle etc., marketing team tapping into our own thirst for the answers to the deeper mysteries of life.
 
One of Hawking’s many strange beliefs is that we all have an anti-matter ‘opposite’ walking this universe, and that should we bump into him or her, we would simply disappear. Wonderful musings, but all totally unprovable, unless of course, you choose to believe that Hawking’s theory is borne out by the Bermuda triangle, the disappearance of Lord Lucan and countless MIA’s. At no point in this strange narrative does Ferguson cry out like the child in the crowd: "But sir, the Emperor has no clothes!"  Ferguson agrees with Hawking on all points, and proceeds to take the reader on an almost peyote-inspired journey through bosons, gravitons, fermions, positrons, wormholes, string theory, N=8 super-gravity, event horizons and Big Bang singularities - all these ponderings and more adding not one single cent to the bank of knowledge considered genuinely helpful to mankind. 

Bringing all of this into the context of genetic research, James Le Fanu, author of The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine, has this to say in the New Statesman, 13th December 1999:  "By all accounts, 1st December 1999 was a momentous day in the history of science, with the publication in the journal ‘Nature’ of the first chapter of the ‘Book of Man’, snappily titled ‘The DNA Sequence of Human Chromosome 22.’ It is not however an easy read, its alphabet restricted to only four letters: a typical line reading TTTGAGCTGATTAGCC plus 35 million more of these same letters in the first chapter...The information that is locked away in each and every cell is of such inscrutable complexity as to defy imagination… This is just one illustration of a recurring feature in genetic research – the yawning gap between the key to a golden future and the reality that in practical terms its benefits are scarcely detectable. It would be to overestimate considerably the collective intelligence of scientists to suggest they have even the vaguest idea of how this information begins to translate into "who we are". Geneticists must insist that what they are doing is important to guarantee the continuous flow of research funds. They endorse the image of the ‘blueprint’ because their claim to holding the key to deciphering this blueprint elevates their role in society to that of the shaman – the possessor of arcane knowledge that no-one else can understand. The reality is more prosaic. ‘The DNA Sequence of Human Chromosome 22’ is an extremely tedious document whose claims to profundity are unwarranted." 

And the Statesman’s science correspondent, Ziauddin Sardar notes: "Stephen Hawking has announced that we are ready to peep "into the mind of God". The Nobel prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman tells us that we are very close to discovering the ultimate elementary particle - "the God particle" - which orchestrates the cosmic symphony. This discovery will reduce the laws of physics to a single equation that could be printed on a T-shirt. Soon the human genome will be number crunched, and from conception to death, the biochemistry of everything we are will be stored in the computer. We are thus very near to a grand synthesis, a Theory of Everything…. This triumphalist picture reveals more about our ignorance than what we have learnt."

We must never be afraid actively to question the confident statements of today’s science and scientists. Former Professor of Physics at Toronto University, Lynn Trainor states: "In many fields there are certain things in vogue at a given time. Nearly everything published in high-energy physics, for example, is junk. It has nothing to do with reality - it's a whole castle of cards. Yet you are on safe ground if you publish a paper according to the currently accepted style. You will be published, especially if you make some curves and graphs that make it appear that you did some calculations. The fact that it is all a house of cards with very little reality to begin with is somehow ignored."

A visit to one genetic company at http://imgen.bcm.tmc.edu/NIPF/nipfgene.htm  and you will discover the page carries a heading "WHAT IS A GENE?" It goes on to say "Genes are the chemical messengers of heredity. They are tiny, invisible packets of biochemical information (DNA) that direct how our bodies develop and function." Another page at http://www.wri.org/wri/biodiv/gene-div.html  explores "Genetic Diversity". The following quote is fairly representational as to the true tangibility of the gene. "Each species of animal is the repository of an immense amount of genetic information. A typical mammal such as the house mouse has about 100,000 genes. [but now only 30,000 surely!] ...If stretched out fully, the DNA would be roughly one meter long. But this molecule is invisible to the naked eye. ...The full information contained therein, if translated into ordinary-size letter of printed text, would just about fill all 15 editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica published since 1768."
 
What is this recurring theme  'invisible to the naked eye' ?  Have we resigned ourselves to a blanket acceptance of this convenient little phrase, it repeating itself so often in so many of today’s respected sciences?  And when it comes to the  usefulness of the research into this invisible entity, we discover  the ‘full information contained therein’ amounts to nothing more than TTTGAGCTGATTAGCC etc., etc., getting us all nowhere in terms of usefulness, but costing us - as tax-payers - Łmillions.  We are reminded that to fashion the Emperor's invisible clothes, the Emperor was required to deliver no end of gold thread to the master weavers. 
 
But not everything invisible is non-existent or worthless. No-one has seen magnetism, no-one has seen electricity, and yet no-one can deny that something is definitely happening when the pin sticks to the magnet, or when we flip the switch to turn on the light. It would be foolish to say that because we can’t see either of these two 'forces', then surely, they do not exist. No, the argument rests on semantics - the way we describe things - the graphs, the calculations and the words that finite man uses to try and explain what he thinks, or has decided is happening in this astoundingly complex world of ours. The argument is also about the abuses that can creep in along the way, and where a scientific premise might lead us, should that premise be in error.  In other words, for our intellectually lax thinking, do we get the science we deserve? 

For the truth seeker, a healthy approach surely, is to look for the widely accepted 'societal-shaping' theories that use terminology ‘according to the currently accepted style’, and then have every reason to investigate those theories, despite the threat this might pose to  a broad spectrum incomes and status. Astro-physics, biology, chemistry, dna, evolution, Hawking's fermions, genetics, there really is a whole alphabet of topics shaping the way we think, topics that deserve much closer scrutiny. But in today’s climate, this rarely happens. 


It wasn’t so long ago that most school physics text books contained the rider  ‘The  structure of the atom and the periodic table is theoretical. The ideas contained herein are based on models most appropriate to reasonably explain the material world.’   Ergo, the validity of atomic structure is surely up for discussion. But to even question the existence of atoms (even though no-one ever has actually  seen or touched one) is to invite speculation over one’s sanity and intellect.

In striking the correct balance in all these matters, we must not dismiss theories and ideas at the drop of a hat. Conversely, we must not accept blindly all theories that are presented to us. We must research these matters for ourselves. We must do our own digging. And to aid us in the weeding out process, history has provided us with many templates enabling us to very quickly smell a rat.   It was Francis Bacon who proposed the 'calendar of popular error' that we might learn from history's mistakes when they reappear.  Applying Bacon's advice to realm of genetics, the popular errors that seem to be surfacing are the age-old secretive and highly paid élite, an unproven knowledge base being foisted upon us as fact, the support of powerful vested interest groups, with the particular craft to date, offering little measurable benefit to the wider community.

An example of the benefits of simple investigative research runs as follows: a recent article in the UK Guardian newspaper reported a 25% increase in the share value of genetic research company Human Genome Sciences, after they had announced the ‘discovery’ of CCR5, the gene which supposedly acts as the docking point for HIV. Credence Publications contacted Human Genome Sciences to ask why the article had no photograph of the gene, and used only a drawing of CCR5, which had been misleadingly described as a photograph. Steve Ruben, head of research at HGS, candidly stated, "There is nothing as representative as an actual photograph of CCR5.  We’ve got it in a test-tube, but we can’t look at it. This is molecular [atomic]  level science."

And as for those original 150,000 genes now down to 30,000 – just where are the missing 120,000? Was is it just matter of ‘select all , delete’?  Traynor’s house of cards brought to life through computer imagery, and just as quickly dispatched to the recycle bin?  A  slick marketing team, with a finger on the pulse of the peoples and an eye for a quick buck? Have we all been suckered?

As we move into this new century, new millennium even, we as a species will not cease in our quest to try and fathom our universe. And in the context of fathoming health, illness and diseases, we must take into account the huge financial and conventional medical forces subliminally shaping the way we think.  More often than not, if we actually take time out to question what these gods of modern science and modern thought are crafting in our midst, we discover just how divorced is ‘the wisdom of this world’ from real life.

Steven Ransom, www.credence.org

comments to steve1@onetel.net.uk

 

 

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