Tuesday, April 19, 2016

antivivisectionists among Modernity's earliest, loudest critics - supporters of microbial intelligence among its last, quietest ---- and most effective

Life-saving doctors killing and inflicting pain upon the weakest of sentient beings (animals) in the interests of "Science" began in the 1850s with Claude Bernard.

It thus well proceeded life-saving doctors doing the same to the weakest of humanity (the poor, weak and minorities) in the name of "Eugenics" beginning in the 1910s.

I use scare quotes around Science and Eugenics to emphasize that we must always ask who is really being served and who is being hurt in all these interactions, not just take the claims of their proponents as face value that they are merely furthering abstract causes.

What it is worth noting is that Eugenics in its heyday never received anything like the fierce public opposition than vivisection got in its prolonged heyday (which indeed is still underway more than 150 years after it first began.)

But anti-vivisection soon ran up against its own limits.

It always faced a hard sell in rural areas, at a time when rural populations were much larger than today and when the virtues of rural values over big city values were taught as given truths.

Rurals routinely killed pests, as well as partaking in the mass killing of animals for food from fishing, hunting and agriculture. More importantly, they treated long term farm animals from laying hens and milk cows to plow horses and oxen like broken old machinery.

To be quickly disposed of when too old to work and produce, or when potential vets bills exceeded their future worth.

Rural people knew they acted a lot like pro-vivisectional scientists at these times.

Groups of scientists fiercely defending the killing of lowly animals in experiments designed to benefit only their killers, no matter how painless the experiments and deaths supposedly are supposed to be, is the far side of the coin from groups of scientists regarding the lowly microbes capable of forms of intelligence and complexity at times superior to that of civilized mankind.

For all that science and medicine was dominated in the years of Modernity by pro-vivisectional and pro-eugenics sentiment, it is well to remember that smaller numbers were seeing the weakest forms of life in a far far different light.

Triumph of wartime natural penicillin, set against  civilized disasters of Auschwitz & Hiroshima

Dr Howard Florey was in the first camp with Dr Henry Dawson in the latter.

 I am sure this added an extra intensity over their conflict as to how best to deliver massive amounts of penicillin to a hurting world at war.

Florey touted civilized Man as the only possible route  while Dawson said that it is just possible that the weak little fungus slime might do the job better, faster, cheaper.

Florey failed totally but got the Nobel prize anyway (because it is well known that the Nobel Committees' toast always lands butter side down).

Dawson's method is actually what delivered the war's live-saving penicillin in the nick of time and is still the way we produce the base of almost all our live-saving antibiotics, seventy five years on.

We must accept that one hundred and fifty years of strong antivivisectionist protests didn't lay a glove on Modernity.

 Instead a combo of Auschwitz's life-destroying disaster at the top and the triumph of life-saving penicillin and other other microbe-produced antibiotics at the bottom killed Modernity stone dead in twenty years, around the mid-Sixties.

And interesting date, that.

Because with it, it is now possible to connect all three movements.

Auschwitz and Penicillin led Boomers in time to fill Human Rights campaigns, followed by Animal Rights campaigns...

A growing belief in microbial intelligence, starting in the mid-sixties with a renewed interest in microbial symbiosis and bacterial HGT, means regarding the lives of the microbes at the very bottom of life as still being as worthy of as much respect as the civilized man at the top of Modernity.

Just as anti-vivisectionists have always regarded mid-level life, animals, as having lives worthy of as much respect as civilized man at the top of Modernity.

These beliefs in turn became the moral and ethical basement under the post-Auschwitz opposition to eugenics.

That grew, by the mid 1960s, into the movement for extending full rights to all humans - such as aboriginals, people of color, women, children, gays , the handicapped, the poor etc.

All traditionally regarded as unworthy lives at the bottom of Modernity's pecking order, but now regarded as lives worthy of having as much respect as civilized man at the very top of Modernity.

In ordering all this by a sort of dateline, I believe that the popularly supported and renewed campaign for animals rights followed , by about thirty years, the success of human rights campaigns.

Those campaigns in turn followed the growing belief among child boomers that the microbes at the bottom of life were a whole lot smarter and a whole lot nicer than Civilized Man at the top (insert here Hiroshima and Auschwitz).

Far nicer and far smarter than their modernist grandparents had ever accepted....

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