Saturday, July 28, 2007


BREAKING MOLDS:
Like many anarchists Molly has an attraction to things that are "different". Perhaps this personality trait precedes and predisposes a person for an attraction towards anarchism. Perhaps it only predisposes some of us to the ideology because "anarchism" is rather an amoeba of a noun. Some forms of anarchism are just as rhetorical, dogmatic and mindless as the most egregious example that anyone could adduce from any other political or religious belief system. Like any biological species anarchism always produces mutations, and some of these mutations are monsters. Molly certainly !!!! believes that a basic morality should precede political beliefs and that political beliefs should be judged in terms of this common human morality rather than the other way around. She also believes much more emphatically that facts should precede belief and never be deduced from an ideology as is the common practice amongst ideologues, anarchist and otherwise. Most of the worst examples of this that Molly is familiar with are Stalinist, primitivist or fundamentalist, though the present American government has some tendencies in this regard. Mostly, however, the neo-cons behave as if truth simply doesn't exist, like their leftist mirror images the post-modernists do. No need to deduce something that is irrelevant anyways. Speak emotion not fact.
Molly looks over her last few posts. There seems to be a pattern here. Molly is very pleased with the fact that at least some opponents of pesticides are in touch enough with reality to base their opposition on scientific fact rather than New Age dishonesty. Molly is also pleased that some Christians want to rescue their religion from the grip of the Anti-Christ in the USA, a distortion of the Christian message that gives everything to Caesar and nothing to God. So on and so forth down the list of posts. Molly is always attracted to something that is "contrarian". Get me drunk enough and I'll express the idea that I hardly ever agree with myself.
I'm presently reading 'Principles of Cancer Biology' by Lewis J. Kleinsmith, a very good book in my opinion. It's obviously designed to be either a 2nd or 3rd year biology text for both biology and non-biology students, though Molly can hardly imagine that non-science students would have the knowledge to absorb its concepts properly. As continuing education it's great. It's amazing how much progress has been made since I first learned cancer biology and left the fundamentals for the purpose of learning how to estimate the probabilities that a skin tumour is a basal cell carcinoma, a squamous cell carcinoma, a melanoma or some other benign event. It's always good to go back to first principles, and this book is great because each chapter contains not just a summary but also a self testing section. The references provided at the end of each chapter are, perhaps, less oriented towards useful reviews than I would like, but they are still very valuable.
How this connects with the subject of this blog is as follows. At the same time I have read an article in the May edition of Scientific American by Peter Duesberg. Duesbery was apparently the "first" to identify an oncogene in connection with virally induced cancer in 1970(Molly thinks that this "priority" is more complicated than that). In latter years, however, he has become something of a crank. He is the main (and perhaps only )reputable scientist who has questioned the HIV origin of AIDS. The editors of Scientific American were visibly falling all over themselves to provide an excuse for publishing this article by Duesberg. The basis of the article is that Duesberg disparages most of present cancer biology in favour of a rather ideological view of cancer being a disease of "aneuploidy" ie chromosome rearrangements.
As in most cases of questions that are open to free debate (unlike political ideology- which really should try and model the process of science, the most libertarian process on Earth today) the "truth" is a matter of "fuzzy truth". Duesberg is neither 100% right nor 100% wrong. Whether he is 1% right or 99% right or any point in between will be determined by further research. For those interested Duesberg's home page is at http://www.duesberg.com and his views on cancer are at http://mcb.berkley.edu/labs/duesberg . What Molly finds interesting is the fact that she is reading the orthodox view in Principles of cancer Biology at the same time as the dissident view from Duesberg. It's actually helpful to Molly in evaluating both. She finds orthodoxy much more open than the personality driven views of Duesberg, but she still believes that the truth is somewhere in between.
Science is forever "breaking the mold". This has been its history for hundreds of years. The new ideologies that attempt to criticize it are far more dogmatic, totalitarian,authoritarian and restrictive than their fantasies of "scientism" could ever be. Science is an human project that is much more "internationalist" than the politically correct rhetoric that imagines that it can criticize it. In its own clumsy way science lumbers on by dispute, contradiction and confirmation. No other human enterprise comes closer to the ideals of anarchism. Science is what anarchism should aspire to be. The perpetual breaking of molds is what science, good science rather than time serving, is all about. It should also be what politics is about. Molly is uncertain about just how "correct" Duesberg is in terms of cancer biology, but she is also dead certain that the evidence is sufficient to reject his view of AIDS. She judges this by "evidence", not by deducing it from a philosophy. Politics should be the same. Science is a decentralized but also interconnected enterprise, and it approaches the truth because of this. But also because of its methods. It has a beauty that is intrinsic to its nature. This is a beauty that its critics never have. It "breaks the molds" not via fashion and force but via truth and demonstration. More of life should be like that.

5 comments:

Buddhagem said...

I love your blog. I love a lot of the posts. But the third person, Molly says, Molly thinks just drives me up the wall. Who the hell is Molly? Why don't you just write like a normal person? Was this cute to someone at some time? It's really annoying. As much as I love your blog, I can't stomach the ridiculous third person prose. Any chance you'll give it up?

dave

Werner said...

I guess some people just can't take a joke.

mollymew said...

The short answer is "no". The longer answer follows here.
"Mollymew" is the name of one of my cats who died a few years ago. The blog was named in her memory as was the "business name" of 'Mollymew Productions' that I use for occasional pamphlets, stickers, posters, etc.. If you want my real name it's in the upper left of the blog under 'My Profile'.
Yes, I can see how it can be annoyed to some, particularily as I overuse the 3rd person (7 out of 9 of the most recent posts use this person- some use BOTH the first and third person singular). So...I'll compromise and try and use it less.
"Mollymew" is a pen name, and my real identity is freely available. The pen name is also an opening into some of my flights of fancy that come up now and then. "Mollymew" is actually something of a cartoon character, and ,yes, some people don't like a particular cartoon.But the continueing adventures of Mollymew WILL go on, perhaps with less frequency. At least it helps me from sinking to the level where I might take everything I say or write with deadpan seriousness. This sort of magical thinking is one of the many things that are wrong with leftism, at least in its North American version.
The result of such thinking can be seen in the always reoccuring tendency for leftists here to make a great big, hairy, gigantic, massive DEAL of who they "support" in country X,Y, or Z with whom the American Empire has its tussle of the month. Seen from the outside it is starkly obvious !!!! that who they "support" has absolutely ZERO effect on the outcome of said tussle. It CAN'T have. Replace the word "support" with the word "like" and the rhetoric generated insanity simply couldn't take off. Such a replacement would also TELL THE TRUTH which an overwhelming view of one's importance in the scheme of things disguises.
The use of the "avatar" Mollymew happens to be a fantasy anchor that continually reminds me, because of its unreality, of the REAL situation that I am only one singular person, and that my effect on the world is minimal at best. This is ironic indeed. It also happens to be fun.
But I'm open to other opinions. Anybody else feel that the third person should be eliminated in this blog, that Molly should die a second death ? Ooooo...what a nasty thought.
-Pat the M. for Molly who is presently laid up with a severe hairball.

Rolfe said...

I like the pseudonym, and I think more people should defend themselves from sinking into deadpan seriousness.

On to the topic of the post (which I enjoyed, as usual). It seems to me that the anarchism of science is one of the things that makes it so successful. It doesn't matter who you are or where you came up with your ideas, if those ideas are better than existing theories they have a reasonable chance of acceptance. You don't have to worry so much about sticky topics like "truth" because you have empirical measurements to fill the gap.

Well, it's not quite as perfect as I just made it sound. But I still think that the freedom of thought in the scientific community is what makes it work. Liberty is the real scientific method. OK, I guess you need some experiments too...

But I get uncomfortable when people start taking it too seriously. It seems like science has the potential to become some sort of tyrant of truth for people outside the scientific community who haven't learned that they can and should question scientific claims.

mollymew said...

Thanks for the comment Rolfe. I have little doubt that various people have used, use and will use the concept of "science" as an ideological cover. All that I can say in reply is that it is the method that counts, not the pronouncements at a given time. Science is almost unique in the history of human thought by framing its "results" in terms of provisonal truths rather than absolute truths and actually HAVINg a method to test these "truths" (theories actually). Those unfamiliar with the enterprise have great misconceptions about what actually happens within science.
The real interior threat to science is NOT dogmatism but rather "time serving", laziness in other words. This is part of the "academization" of too much of intellectual life today. The difference between scientific curriculum vitae building and that in other academic fields is that the result in the sciences is usually factual but unimportant and really uninteresting while that in other fields treats facts at best as inconveniences to be explained away or ignored or- more frequently- as simply irrelevant. This attitude builds its own irrelevance rather than accepting it at face value and is interesting only for its ability to generate annoyance.
There actually is NO great god or demon called "science" that can say anything just as there is no "history", "dialectics","society" or any other fantasy that speaks as from an idol. There are only facts and, in science, results from controlled tests of theories. People go astray when they think that their abstractions have independent reality. When, for instance, I describe lunar features or constellations I KNOW that these names are NOT the same as the things they describe. They are merely conveniences for seeing things that might otherwise be hidden.
I close with a quote from Erik Hoffer on "seriousness"
"The compulsion to take oneself seriously is in inverse proportion to our creative capacity. When the creative flow dries up all we have left is our importance"