Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. George Will on the Discovery of DNA

 

A couple of years ago, George Will wrote an opinion piece on the importance of pure science. He took his topic from a recent book by Robbert Dijkgraaf, the current director of the Institute for Advanced Study, in which he reprinted Abraham Flexner’s famous essay on pure scientific research (The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge) and included an essay of his own, a plea for improved funding of pure research (engaging essays both, and worth reading).

The thing that most struck me about Mr. Will’s opinion piece, which he gleaned from a very brief comment to the same effect by Dijkgraaf, is that he considered as the most important discovery due to pure scientific research, with no thought for the utility of the discovery, the 1953 discovery by Watson and Crick of the double-helical structure of DNA and the genetic code.

While this was a momentous discovery, it is the opposite of historic reality to say that this was a discovery accomplished for the sake of knowledge alone. On the contrary, the discovery was driven in large part by those with an intense agenda to discover the basis of human heredity in order to control it, for Eugenic purposes. James Watson trained under Linus Pauling at Cal Tech and was sent specifically by Linus Pauling to work with Francis Crick on the structure of DNA. Pauling had begun to realize that the key to human heredity was not in proteins, as he had first surmised, and studied extensively (he had identified the alpha-helical structure of the hemoglobin protein and identified the molecular basis of sickle cell disease in the variant hemoglobin produced by the abnormal gene); but that DNA held more promise as the key to heredity. Right he was.

Cal Tech was the epicenter of Eugenic efforts in America in the 20th Century. Linus Pauling was a militant Eugenicist (for example he was the originator and proponent of a “yellow star” program to physically brand anyone, with a visible physical mark, who possessed a single gene for sickle cell, who then had the trait but not the disease, or phenylketonuria, and other recessive traits, to avoid intermarriage of carriers who might produce affected offspring), as were Robert Milliken, the Nobel Laureate who was President of Cal Tech, and the Board of Cal Tech, which included Ezra Gosney and Paul Popenoe, along with David Starr Jordan. These board members were founders of the Human Betterment Foundation, an aggressive Eugenics organization that was responsible for more forced sterilizations than any other institution in America (about 16,000, the records of which remain under lock and key at Cal Tech, unavailable for study). Linus Pauling was the foremost researcher with a Eugenics agenda. His research, and that at Cal Tech generally, was funded mostly by the Rockefeller Foundation under their agenda of studying the “Science of Man”. That term was drawn from the Enlightenment ideas of David Hume, which precluded any idea of human transcendence, the main point of Hume’s skeptical philosophy.

This history is detailed in a treatise by Lily E. Kay, The Molecular Vision of Life: CalTech, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology.

It is unfortunate that prominent and influential commentators, as well as top-level scientists, promulgate historic inaccuracies. They do not help their case with such an approach.

Published in Science & Technology
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  1. Henry Castaigne Member

    Eugenics is great. People with the recessive gene for sickle cell anemia shouldn’t breed with with other folks who have the recessive gene. It’s when government power comes into play that things go topsy-turvy.

    • #1
    • October 28, 2020, at 3:34 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Great article. Thanks.

    • #2
    • October 28, 2020, at 3:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. kedavis Member

    Somehow I’m not surprised that George Will would be rather ignorant of anything that’s not baseball.

    • #3
    • October 28, 2020, at 5:48 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nanocelt TheContrarian: While this was a momentous discovery, it is the opposite of historic reality to say that this was a discovery accomplished for the sake of knowledge alone. To the contrary, the discovery was driven in large part by those with an intense agenda to discover the basis of human heredity in order to control it, for Eugenic purposes.

    Nano,

    Yes, coming to terms with the hard truth of the cold hard 20th century is still something that is a bridge too far for most of our “intellects”. Will is no different. I doubt Mr. Will is able to face the truth that Nazi stands for National Socialist Party and that the Nazis even saw themselves as closer to the Bolsheviks than to the West. Our modern leftists can’t grasp that Planned Parenthood is a racist eugenicist organization. Its purpose is not to “liberate” women but to kill off the undesirables.

    Of course, if one really took a very loose definition of evolution, one that gave up entirely on strict Darwinism, one could consider the possibility of an ethical evolution. This would simply a priori assume “free choice” rather than strict reductionism like Darwin. Kant’s metaethical system is designed to play such a role. He saw himself answering the challenge of Hume. If one was able to entertain the possibility of Kant being right (mostly right would be good enough) then this would be a productive line of thought for bio-scientists.

    Of course, usually, we are talking about small minds that cling to their reductionism and hide their eugenic prejudices. When I was young I used to refer to such people as renaissance fascists. I would suspect Will is one of these.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #4
    • October 28, 2020, at 7:18 PM PDT
    • Like
  5. Henry Castaigne Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):
    doubt Mr. Will is able to face the truth that Nazi stands for National Socialist Party and that the Nazis even saw themselves as closer to the Bolsheviks than to the West.

    Pretty sure Mr. Will knows about that. 

    • #5
    • October 28, 2020, at 9:29 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. kedavis Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):
    doubt Mr. Will is able to face the truth that Nazi stands for National Socialist Party and that the Nazis even saw themselves as closer to the Bolsheviks than to the West.

    Pretty sure Mr. Will knows about that.

    Maybe so, but Mr Will is still wrong about many things that he “knows.”

    • #6
    • October 28, 2020, at 9:35 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):
    doubt Mr. Will is able to face the truth that Nazi stands for National Socialist Party and that the Nazis even saw themselves as closer to the Bolsheviks than to the West.

    Pretty sure Mr. Will knows about that.

    Maybe so, but Mr Will is still wrong about many things that he “knows.”

    ke,

    Good point. Knowing isn’t enough if you aren’t willing to make the point against a Marxist BLM/Antifa and against a new Democratic Party that would actually justify their insane behavior.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #7
    • October 28, 2020, at 9:53 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. kedavis Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):
    doubt Mr. Will is able to face the truth that Nazi stands for National Socialist Party and that the Nazis even saw themselves as closer to the Bolsheviks than to the West.

    Pretty sure Mr. Will knows about that.

    Maybe so, but Mr Will is still wrong about many things that he “knows.”

    ke,

    Good point. Knowing isn’t enough if you aren’t willing to make the point against a Marxist BLM/Antifa and against a new Democratic Party that would actually justify their insane behavior.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Yes, and Will is far from alone. Many “intellectuals” draw the wrong – and even ridiculous – conclusions from the vast array of facts (more or less) and history etc they have accumulated.

    • #8
    • October 28, 2020, at 9:58 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Eugenics is great. People with the recessive gene for sickle cell anemia shouldn’t breed with with other folks who have the recessive gene. It’s when government power comes into play that things go topsy-turvy.

    As someone with a bit of a libertarian streak, I don’t feel comfortable telling people whom they should or shouldn’t marry. Of note is that when Linus Pauling wrote about his “yellow star” program in 1968 (in an issue of the 1968 UCLA Law Review journal), the longevity of individuals with sickle cell disease was about 20 years on average. Subsequently, the average life span of those with sickle cell disease has increased three fold, into the 60s. The reason for this is that the greatest mortality is from pneumococcal pneumonia in the first three years of life. A protocol of treatment continuously with penicillin for the first three years of life has markedly reduced infant mortality, and childhood mortality, in this disorder. Further, sickle crisis can be effectively avoided, and can be treated expeditiously when they occur, with IV hydration, oxygen, and pain meds. While sickle crises are terrible, and can cause permanent damage, none of the patients that I have treated expressed a desire not to have been born, as Pauling advocated for abortion for affected pregnancies. 

    It is also interesting that at the time he wrote, and advocated the prevention of phenyketonuria, or the abortion of affected fetuses, the disorder was fairly effectively treated by diagnosis at birth (done by urine paper chromatography at the time, mandated by the State of California–a pediatric geneticist at UCLA at the time, Stephen Cederbaum, ran a lab screening newborns for such metabolic defects for the State–now done on blood) and removal of Phenylalanine from the diet. Compliance with the cumbersome diet is an issue, but better and better methods of nutrition sans phenylalanine have been and are being developed. 

    • #9
    • October 29, 2020, at 9:15 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Henry Castaigne Member

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    As someone with a bit of a libertarian streak, I don’t feel comfortable telling people whom they should or shouldn’t marry.

    I don’t want to tell people who they should or shouldn’t marry. But I do encourage that people consider each other’s genetic code before they make babies. There is a nurse I am an acquaintance with who mentioned that two sickle cell anemia patients formed a baby. She was disgusted at the thoughtless procreation and I chided her for being a eugenicist

    • #10
    • October 29, 2020, at 9:30 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Roderic Reagan

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    Of note is that when Linus Pauling wrote about his “yellow star” program in 1968

    I was under the impression that with the revelations of Nazi genocide at the end of WWII eugenics died out in the US. Incredible that Pauling would write of using yellow stars after the way Nazis used yellow stars.

    • #11
    • October 29, 2020, at 4:26 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Henry Castaigne Member

    Roderic (View Comment):

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    Of note is that when Linus Pauling wrote about his “yellow star” program in 1968

    I was under the impression that with the revelations of Nazi genocide at the end of WWII eugenics died out in the US. Incredible that Pauling would write of using yellow stars after the way Nazis used yellow stars.

    That kind of eugenics should have immediately died after the camps.

    • #12
    • October 29, 2020, at 5:27 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Roderic (View Comment):

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    Of note is that when Linus Pauling wrote about his “yellow star” program in 1968

    I was under the impression that with the revelations of Nazi genocide at the end of WWII eugenics died out in the US. Incredible that Pauling would write of using yellow stars after the way Nazis used yellow stars.

    That kind of eugenics should have immediately died after the camps.

    The lines get blurry. Perfectly understandable. We’re just humans. Highly flawed. 

    One reason of many that eugenics is poison. 

    • #13
    • October 29, 2020, at 6:00 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. Henry Castaigne Member

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    One reason of many that eugenics is poison. 

    I don’t think sickle cell people should make other sickle cell babies. It’s a very easy and cheap thing to avoid. Isn’t that eugenics? Isn’t ignoring the suffering caused by easily preventable genetic diseases poison? We don’t need to put stars on people.

    • #14
    • October 29, 2020, at 7:39 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. ape2ag Member

    A well functioning society with high social capital is naturally eugenic. Productive individuals who contribute to society are supported and encouraged in family formation. Poor performing and destructive individuals are discouraged from having children. Government does eugenics like it does everything else. Badly. Government is a poor substitute for civil society in all things. Government directed eugenics is a blight on human dignity and usually degenerates into ethnic score settling.

    • #15
    • October 30, 2020, at 5:31 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member

    Roderic (View Comment):

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    Of note is that when Linus Pauling wrote about his “yellow star” program in 1968

    I was under the impression that with the revelations of Nazi genocide at the end of WWII eugenics died out in the US. Incredible that Pauling would write of using yellow stars after the way Nazis used yellow stars.

    Pauling was a Prussian through and through. Eugenics has never died out. It has been retooled and updated. The recently retired director of the Kennedy-Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a medical geneticist by the name of Alan Guttmacher, for example, was an avid Eugenicist and devotee of Francis Galton, the founder of Eugenics (see his execrable book, Hereditary Human Genius). I happened to attend a plenary session of the Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society, in which Alan Guttmacher gave a presentation. His first slide was of the first page of an article from a British medical journal circa 1890, with the title: The Genetics of Human Growth, and it’s author was Francis Galton. This was shown on massive screens spaced through the ballroom of the convention center (in Houston, Texas) so that all could read it. I voiced objections (for me the experience was as if I were attending a pain management conference and for historical perspective to honor the pioneers of the field, a slide of the data from Dr. Mengele were shown). I was ignored, told that one had to have a pluralistic view of different perspectives. None of my colleagues seemed to have a problem with this. Alan Guttmacher was the number 2 scientist on the Human Genome Project under Francis Collins, and was rewarded with the chairmanship of the Institute referred to above, in which position he imposed the motto: Every child healthy and wanted. A more Eugenicist motto could hardly be conceived; any child not healthy (to whose standard?) or wanted, is to be terminated? Eugenics remains a core idea of biomedical sciences today, pursued by different means (mostly abortion). Alan Guttmacher’s namesake uncle, an Obgyn at Johns Hopkins in the mid 20th Century, was one time vice president of the American Eugenics Society, was affiliated with Planned Parenthood after Roe v. Wade, and founded the Guttmacher Institute to promote the availability of abortion. Eugenics will always be with us. We ordinary humans, per se, are deplorable and need to be improved, in one fashion or another, according to the lights of our Elites. 

    • #16
    • October 30, 2020, at 10:47 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    As someone with a bit of a libertarian streak, I don’t feel comfortable telling people whom they should or shouldn’t marry.

    I don’t want to tell people who they should or shouldn’t marry. But I do encourage that people consider each other’s genetic code before they make babies. There is a nurse I am an acquaintance with who mentioned that two sickle cell anemia patients formed a baby. She was disgusted at the thoughtless procreation and I chided her for being a eugenicist

    The couple were of course familiar with the nature of the disease, and, apparently, felt that life with sickle cell disease was worth living, to the point that they sought fulfillment in forming a family even with the certainty that their children would be affected. Patient’s with Huntington’s chorea, and other genetic diseases, seem to take a similar approach. Who of us is in a position to deny life and children to such individuals? I agree with your response to your friend. 

    • #17
    • October 30, 2020, at 11:10 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. kedavis Member

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    As someone with a bit of a libertarian streak, I don’t feel comfortable telling people whom they should or shouldn’t marry.

    I don’t want to tell people who they should or shouldn’t marry. But I do encourage that people consider each other’s genetic code before they make babies. There is a nurse I am an acquaintance with who mentioned that two sickle cell anemia patients formed a baby. She was disgusted at the thoughtless procreation and I chided her for being a eugenicist

    The couple were of course familiar with the nature of the disease, and, apparently, felt that life with sickle cell disease was worth living, to the point that they sought fulfillment in forming a family even with the certainty that their children would be affected. Patient’s with Huntington’s chorea, and other genetic diseases, seem to take a similar approach. Who of us is in a position to deny life and children to such individuals? I agree with your response to your friend.

    I can think of a few other questions. Should parents who deliberately create a child with known medical issues or disabilities etc, be liable for the costs of those issue, throughout the life of the child they create?

    Or should they be allowed to shift those costs onto society as a whole?

    Should medical insurance be allowed to deny coverage to someone who intentionally creates a “pre-existing condition?”

    If not, who should pay for the insurance? As in the first case, should these parents be allowed to create a known problem, and then expect the rest of us to pay for it?

    Not exactly the same thing, but there was an episode of the excellent 1970s TV show “Emergency” where a child ends up suffering some effects of polio because his mother didn’t think he needed to be vaccinated. One of the doctors says, more or less, “I wonder what she’ll tell him when he’s old enough to understand?” (Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if she never told him, or if she lied about what really happened.)

    What would the parents of an intentional sickle-cell sufferer, say to the child? “Sorry you have a miserable life, but we thought it was more important for us to feel good about producing a child.”

    • #18
    • October 30, 2020, at 11:18 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. James Gawron Thatcher
    James GawronJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    Every child healthy and wanted. A more Eugenicist motto could hardly be conceived; any child not healthy (to whose standard?) or wanted, is to be terminated? Eugenics remains a core idea of biomedical sciences today, pursued by different means (mostly abortion).

    Nano,

    This is why I mention the possibility of the left pushing for post-natal abortion. Abortion has been a cover for many a Renaissance Nazi since Roe. When they start talking about killing a 6-month-old healthy baby, you know you’ve got a Nazi. Zeke Emanuel is the model of a modern major Nazi. This jerk was redesigning our entire health care system via the Obamacare fiasco.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #19
    • October 30, 2020, at 12:20 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member

    @Jamesgawroneke Emanuel is also the head of Biomedical Ethics at the NIH, and an Oncologist on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. He advocated for removing medical insurance coverage (Medicare) from anyone 75 years of age or older, as such individuals had already made their contribution to society and were no longer needed (never mind Ben Franklin at age 80 at the Constitutional Convention). Emanuel is in his 60s, and I expect that he will change his tune when he hits 75.

    Emanuel’s father was that very rare entity, a Jewish terrorist (and a pediatrician), who was involved in the bombing of the King David Hotel. He fled Israel when it became a State, with Ben Gurion at it’s head, who demanded the end of Jewish terrorism. Thus we have Zeke, Rahm, and their Hollywood agent brother gifted to America. You can decide which of the three has made the greatest contribution to our nation.

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    Every child healthy and wanted. A more Eugenicist motto could hardly be conceived; any child not healthy (to whose standard?) or wanted, is to be terminated? Eugenics remains a core idea of biomedical sciences today, pursued by different means (mostly abortion).

    Nano,

    This is why I mention the possibility of the left pushing for post-natal abortion. Abortion has been a cover for many a Renaissance Nazi since Roe. When they start talking about killing a 6-month-old healthy baby, you know you’ve got a Nazi. Zeke Emanuel is the model of a modern major Nazi. This jerk was redesigning our entire health care system via the Obamacare fiasco.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Z

    • #20
    • October 31, 2020, at 4:07 AM PDT
    • 1 like