Monday, March 21, 2016

Touting microbial intelligence -- against a hegemony that required them to be stupid

Henry Dawson was a very early (1920s -1940s) pioneer in demonstrating - and then promoting - the claim of microbial intelligence against a fearful Modernity hegemony dependent on disbelieving all such claims.

HGT, quorum sensing, molecular mimicry, biofilm communities, bacterial 'persisters', 'wall-less' bacteria : Dawson was frequently the first - or among the very first - to investigate these forms of microbial intelligence.

Yawn, right ?

These are all still cutting areas of biological research today but hardly pose a existential threat to the intellectual hegemony of today.

But imagine yourself as a scientist like Dawson, inside the pre-war white male protestant-oriented european-origin professional middle class culture, a group that had clawed itself into positions of wealth and power on top of what they saw as the hierarchy of life.

Progress was a smooth unbroken ever upward path from ancient tiny stupid microbes at the bottom to the bigger white european-originated civilizations of today.

No wonder that this group half consciously feared 'inside agitator' Dawson and his claims that in some areas , the microbes supposedly at the very bottom of that hierarchy, were actually far superior to the white european professional males supposed to be at the very top.

For example, his belief that the penicillium could make penicillin far better than even hundreds of the best human chemists could ( sometime he proved up during WWII and remains true to this very day.)

Now microbes, intelligent or not, were likely to be trying to get university tenure --- but their kissing cousins at the bottom of the modernity hierarchy of worthiness : the darker races, women, gays, the handicapped, etc might start - and that would never do.

Intellectually, Dawson's claims were a far graver intellectual threat to the elites of WWII's world than anything Hitler or Stalin could dream up....

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