AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org
Recently, Jonathan Mathew of the Norfolk Genetic Information Network
(http://members.tripod.com/~ngin) issued a scathing attack on Dr. Patrick
Moore, founder of Greenpeace for his support of biotechnology and his
endorsement of the Agbioworld petition. This was published in several
Internet lists including Agnet and AAAS' Scope (GMF).
Here, Patrick Moore responds to the criticisms and allegations of Jonathan.
Response to NGIN attack.
- From: Patrick Moore
The Norfolk Genetic Information Network (NGIN) has published an article
accusing me of using "disinformation" in my efforts to bring some logic
into the debate over genetically modified food crops. Typically, they are
the ones spreading disinformation. I have responded to some of their more
serious allegations below. Anyone interested in reading what I have
actually written on this and other subjects can visit the Greenspirit
web-site at <http://www.greenspirit.com>
NGIN says: The press release, titled "GREENPEACE FOUNDER SUPPORTS
BIOTECHNOLOGY: Moore Criticizes Colleagues for Opposing Golden Rice", came
soon after Greenpeace released a letter from Gordon Conway in which he
agreed with Greenpeace's contention that Golden Rice has been massively
hyped by industry. The timing of the press release suggests it was
intended to undermine such criticism. Similarly, the recent upsurge in the
disinformation campaign aimed at environmental NGOs in the Phillipines
(sic) co-ordinates exactly with the arrival in the country of Golden Rice.
Moore response: The timing of my signature to the AgBioWorld Foundation
petition had nothing to do with Gordon Conway's statement. I met C.S.
Prakash in Melbourne and he informed me of the petition so I signed it.
Besides, Greenpeace and others have taken Gordon Conway's statement out of
context in the same way they tried to use Igor Potrykus comments to attack
biotech companies. The criticism of NGOs in the Philippines is roundly
deserved if they are opposed to the development of Golden Rice.
NGIN says: In fact, Prakash's claim of a recent Moore-Greenpeace
connection is completely bogus. Moore actually left Greenpeace back in
1984/85, ie he hasn't worked with any of the supposed "colleagues" he's
said to be criticising for the past 16 years or more! Who broke with who,
is also open to question. According to Greenpeace's Tamara Stark, Moore's
exit was "not necessarily by his own choice".
Moore response: I was a founding member of Greenpeace in 1971. I left
Greenpeace as an elected director in 1986, after 15 years as a director of
Greenpeace and Greenpeace International. I remained a member of Greenpeace
for many years after that, and seeing as though we gave ourselves
life-time memberships in 1975, I am still technically a member. What
Prakash is referring to by my "recent break" with Greenpeace is my recent
decision to support GMO crops for their many environmental and social
benefits. Tamara Stark was not with Greenpeace until years after I left
active involvement. It was my choice to leave Greenpeace and focus on
sustainability and consensus-building rather than extremism and
NGIN says: After he left Greenpeace in '84/'85, however, Moore initially
pursued a somewhat curious career for an environmentalist. He set up a
Moore response: When I left Greenpeace I wanted to do something that
could be described as "sustainable development". I established a salmon
hatchery and spent seven years growing native Chinook salmon at my family
home, Winter Harbour, on northern Vancouver Island. I could never
understand the "environmentalist" opposition to aquaculture. Of course,
like anything, aquaculture can be done badly, but I had a very good
hatchery and grew beautiful, delicious fish. So what is so "curious" about
growing fish, anyway? Aquaculture provides wholesome food, creates
employment, takes pressure off wild, over-fished, species, etc. The
omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are very good at preventing heart disease.
One of the reasons I left Greenpeace was because I couldn't get them to be
in favor of anything. I thought "If these guys are against growing fish,
what on Earth are they in favor of?"
NGIN says: It was only after this business venture failed and Moore got
into serious financial trouble, that Moore established an environmental
consulting firm (Greenspirit, formed in 1991). The firm's consultancy has,
apparently, not been without controversy.
Moore response: The salmon farm succeeded for seven years. In 1989 the
market fell due to over-supply (over-success), and the industry rapidly
consolidated. We decided that a family operation was no longer viable so
we wound it up in an orderly fashion and ceased production. I did not get
into serious financial trouble and never have been. I formed my
consultancy as a vehicle for my work. The idea that I turned to the Dark
Side due to financial desperation is ridiculous. I can do whatever I want
because I am very capable at many things, including carpentry, writing,
photography, gardening and running a chain saw. The web-site "Patrick
Moore is a Big Fat Liar" was put up by an extreme little band of
anarchists. For my response to the claims made there please see:
NGIN says: At around the same time that Moore set up Greenspirit, he also
became a full-time paid director and consultant, and a main spokesperson,
for the British Columbia Forest Alliance.
Moore response: I was born into a third-generation forest industry family.
Forestry is British Columbia's most important industry. Incorporating
environmental values (increased parks and wilderness, better forest
practices, pollution reduction) has been major feature of recent policy
development in this field. I have been helping the forest sector to meet
this challenge proactively and progressively. The anti-biotech groups are
also anti-forestry as a rule, something I also cannot understand as wood
is the most renewable material and fuel used in our society. Again, I am
against bad forestry, but I am very much in favor of good forestry. I
believe we should grow more trees and use more wood as a substitute for
non-renewable fossil fuels and non-renewable materials such as steel and
concrete wherever possible. NGIN blows any semblance of objectivity by
inferring that one's very association with the forest industry is proof
you are "not an environmentalist". My Ph.D. is in ecology and I have spent
a lifetime studying forests.
The Forest Alliance is an industry initiative to bring community leaders
from all walks of life together to help adopt sustainable forestry and to
explain the importance of the industry to the public. The Forest Alliance
supports the doubling of parks and wilderness in BC, the Forest Practices
legislation, third-party certification of forest products,
multi-stakeholder processes (such as the
<http://qlg.org> Quincy Library Group in California).
NGIN says: This industry-funded pressure group was the brain child of the
anti-environmental PR multinational, Burson-Marsteller. B-M even put in
one of its own employees as Executive Director, as well as handpicking
many of the Alliance's board. B-M was forced to withdraw from the Alliance
in a welter of bad publicity, but the Alliance has continued to be used,
as intended, as the British Columbian forest industry's PR weapon against
Greenpeace and other environmental groups, using TV ads and other
campaigns to undermine and discredit them.
Moore response: Burson-Marsteller Canada (the former Canadian arm of the
New York-based PR giant) was used by the forest industry in BC to help
them establish the Forest Alliance, an alliance of industry, labor,
contractors, community leaders, aboriginal leaders, etc. There was no evil
plot, just an effort to get out in front on the environmental agenda,
something the forest industry was a bit late in recognizing. The purpose
of Forest Alliance communications is not to discredit, but certainly to
set the record straight in the face of the misinformation campaign that
has been waged against the industry for many years.
NGIN says: In one Canadian television ad for the Alliance, aired in
September 1994, Patrick Moore stated "even the chief conservation
biologist with the World Wide Fund for Nature in Europe, which is the
leading mainstream environmental group, agrees that clear-cutting is
necessary in some cases and is the best method in some cases."
Moore response: This is true. I quote from a WWF brief to the government
of British Columbia "We think clearcutting does have a place in some
Canadian forests." I agree with them. The person I was referring to above
is Per Rosenberg, who was speaking at a meeting in Hamburg on behalf of
WWF when he made the statement. WWF has always had a problem with this
issue because they do not agree with extreme positions like Greenpeace's
"ban clearcutting worldwide". They recognize that forest harvesting is
sometimes best done in "patches", "openings", "clearings", etc. The word
"clearcut" has been so thoroughly loaded with negative images that it has
no objective meaning anymore so it is used as a weapon. So WWF will not
agree with Greenpeace but they are very reactant to say they support
"clearcutting" because of what their members will think.
NGIN says: Moore's claims provoked a furious response from Jean-Paul
Jeanrenaud, head of the forest programme of World Wide Fund for Nature
International, who accused Moore of "grossly misrepresenting" WWF's
position on clearcutting, something WWF "deplored". Jeanrenaud also went
on to note that this was not the first time the Forest Alliance had,
"selectively quoted, distorted and misrepresented statements by
representatives from WWF". Jeanrenaud further pointed out that the "chief
conservation biologist with the World Wide Fund for Nature in Europe",
whose support Moore had claimed, did "not even exist".
Moore response: No explanation was ever given as to the nature of my
"misrepresentation". I simply quoted Per Rosenberg. Apparently Per's
formal title at the time was Forest Officer for WWF Sweden. He was
representing the WWF at an international meeting in Hamburg, Germany so
one might assume what he said represented their position. The claim that
such a person "did not even exist" is based on the claim that I didn't get
his title right, not that Per was a fictitious being.
NGIN says: Moore's other attacks on environmental groups have often been
of an extreme character, claiming for example that they are riddled with
communists, that they have 'anti-human','anti-democratic' and
'anti-civilization' attitudes, and that they are guided by a mixture of
'pagan beliefs' and 'junk science'
Moore response: Mostly correct. My criticism is never in the form of
character assassination or personal attack, unlike the venom aimed at me
by the extreme groups. As for communists, I merely pointed out that a lot
of peace and social activists, many who sympathized with the Sandinistas
and Soviets, brought their anti-American, anti-corporate, anti-trade
agenda with them into the environmental movement in the late 1980's after
the Berlin Wall came down. I still think that much of the environmental
movement has been hijacked by political activists who use green rhetoric
to push agendas that have little to do with ecology.
NGIN says: (quoting me) "Environmental extremists have been toying with
anti-science, anti-humanitarian, and anti-intellectual policies for some
time now. In this case it is not merely a case of mischief or "fair
comment". This kind of witch-hunt can lead to the kinds of policies
enforced by Lysenko under Stalin."
Moore Response: I think it is important to remind people what can happen
when anti-intellectual forces embark on campaigns of persecution.
Scientists are afraid to mention they work in "genetic engineering", and
many students will be deterred from entering the field by the fear
campaign that has been waged against biotechnology. It is not far-fetched
to imagine the banning of genetic research based on the hysteria against
GMOs. There is definitely an air of fascism, eco-fascism, in the zero
tolerance statements of many anti-biotech groups. NGIN says: Moore has,
however, been far more charitable about his more recent associates.
Dismissing concern about Burson-Marsteller's alleged PR work on behalf of
the Argentinian generals at the time of the death squads, Moore told the
Canadian press, "people get killed everywhere".
Apparently if you volunteer to be on the board of a citizen's group that
was formed with the advice of a public relations company that ten years
earlier advised the Economic Ministry for Argentina then you are guilty of
being a "death squad", or at least of associating with them. (part of
Burson's advice was that Argentina must improve human rights if they
expected any financial assistance from IMF etc.) My statement, taken
completely out of context, was simply an exasperated response to this
effort to link me to the death squads.
NGIN says: The story of Moore's support for GMOs, then, turns out NOT to
be, as advertised, that of a leading environmentalist who has suddenly
turned his back on his Greenpeace colleagues due to his adherence to
science, logic and GMOs, but that of a man trading on a now distant
Greenpeace past who has a proven track record of misinformation on behalf
of an environmentally-damaging industry.
Moore: It is actually Greenpeace that continues to trade on the work of
many people who are no longer with the organization. By the time I left in
1986 we had built the organization into a $100 million/year group with
offices in 21 countries. Our campaigns to stop nuclear testing, save the
whales, reduce toxic discharge, etc. were what put Greenpeace on the map
and gave it credibility. It pains me greatly to see the organization adopt
policies that are harmful to the environment and to prospects for
improving the human condition. To dismiss the entire forest products
industry, which provides a renewable, solar-based material for fuel,
building, printing, packaging, sanitation, etc. as
"environmentally-damaging" is simply extremist. NGIN is trying to make the
argument that because I support sustainable forestry I must not be an
environmentalist. I support sustainable forestry because I am an
environmentalist. As for all the other nasty attacks they are not worth a
response so I will leave it at this. Again, I encourage you to visit my
web-site and see that I approach environmental issues in a thoughtful,
informed manner. One's effectiveness in public debate can often be
measured by the vehemence of the personal attacks against you, used as a
way of avoiding discussion of the actual subject at hand and to deflect
public attention away from the real issues. My personality is not one of
the most pressing but I am actually quite a nice person and I would be
pleased to reply to any further questions that might arise from this
- Patrick Moore, Greenspirit, "MAY THE FOREST BE WITH YOU"
Please visit: <http://www.greenspirit.com>
- From: Andrew Apel
Those of eminent repute have shown that Mae-Wan Ho's scientific claims are
tragically misinformed, while others have suspected her of pure
demagoguery or worse. I would like to disagree somewhat with all of them.
Further, I would like to suggest an alternative: that Ho approaches
science not as a disciplined and evolving collection of observations and
theories, but as a sort of "allegory"(1) which shapes our perception of
the world (2). In her treatment of science as allegory, she is not
required to adhere to accepted theory or provable fact, but rather to work
with how science shapes meaning, and with how the way people perceive
science can be shifted to serve ideological ends. And this, she does.
I believe she does this extremely well. In fact, I believe Mae-Wan Ho may
well be the most brilliant propagandist of our time. I replicate below the
text of her lecture at Schumacher College, London, on April 7, 2001, which
may be found at http://www.i-sis.org/Schumacherlecture2001.shtml. The only
difference between my text and hers is that my comments appear as
footnotes to her text, and the footnotes have already begun.
THINKING AGAIN OF LIFE'S MIRACLE (3) by Mae-Wan Ho
Imagine (4) a fire-breathing dragon a mile long flying straight as an
arrow across the evening sky. The night goddess (5), annoyed at the
disturbance, casts a silken veil in its path. The head of the dragon hits
the veil, but the veil does not rip apart. Instead, the dragon is absorbed
into the fabric. In almost no time at all, the entire dragon has vanished,
its roar replaced by an eerie silence. The night goddess smiles
enigmatically and waits. Then, a slight flicker of her delicate hand, and
whuarr! The head of the fiery dragon comes blasting out to continue on its
way, but missing the rest of its body. The goddess laughs and flicks the
veil again, and out comes the dragon?s trunk. Finally, after another
pause, she releases the dragon's tail. The mighty dragon has been
permanently dismembered for violating the peace of the heavens. (6)
I have been describing the remarkable experiment with laser light carried
out by US physicist Lene Hau and her colleagues and reported in Nature at
the beginning of this year [1 (footnote omitted for purposes of
convenience)]. They show how you can stop light in its tracks. A 2 km long
laser light-beam, the dragon, can be trapped inside a layer of sodium
atoms as thin as a veil, by means of coherent entanglement (7). The sodium
atoms, cooled to near absolute zero and prepared in a coherent state by a
coupling laser, slows down the incident laser beam ten million-fold, so
that the head hardly has time to emerge before the tail end is completely
absorbed (8). Switching off the coupling laser at this point effectively
traps the beam ? now squeezed to ten-millionth of its original length -
inside the layer (9). The beam can remain imprisoned for close to a
thousandth of a second, which is an eternity on the scale of the speed of
light. Switching on the coupling laser will immediately release the light
beam to continue on its way. Not only that, by switching the coupling
laser on and off three times in succession, the light beam can be released
in three separate segments.
This amazing capture of energy by coherent entanglement is what organisms
do for a living, day in and day out (10). Think of coherent entanglement
in terms of partners dancing together, perfectly in step, but each doing
different movements (11).
As we face the threats (12) of genetic engineering in the midst of the
climate change catastrophe (13), poet Wendell Berry reminds us, "Thine
life is a miracle, think again" [2 (Ho's footnote omitted for purposes of
convenience)] (14). Think again, for it is imperative to replace the
destructive, mechanistic and instrumental view of life with the truly
organic and miraculous (15).
James Hillman and Satish Kumar talked about the soul this morning. The
soul is the essence of the whole (16). Organisms are possessed of the
irrepressible tendency towards being whole, towards being part of a larger
whole (17). They are predisposed to be soulful (18). Whole books could be
written on the miracle of organisms, and I have written one of them [3
(footnote omitted for purposes of convenience)], but I won't have time to
talk about that. Instead, I'll show you some suggestive images of the
It has become a truism that living organisms depend on energy flow.
Actually, energy flow is not sufficient; it is energy capture and storage
that is key. The sun shines on earth as it does on Mars and Venus, but
only earth has life, as far as we know, because only earth has
successfully captured and stored the energy of sunlight. The real miracle
that enables life to emerge then is to close the energy circle, to make a
life cycle that stores and feeds on the energy flowing through. Something
magical happens with a circle. A circle entails perpetual return (20), and
that means dynamic stability (21).
The life cycle is in turn made up of numerous sub-cycles of activities, or
biological rhythms, ranging in periods of split seconds and minutes, to
circadian, annual and supra-annual (see Figure 1 (figure omitted)). (22)
James Hillman has urged us all to slow down, but also warns against
excessive slowing which leads to stagnation. Well, the organism has the
full range of activities from the very slow to the very fast all at once,
and from the most local to the global (23). (Just as Schumacher says, we
have to pay attention to both the very small as well as the very big, the
local and the global.) Each sub-cycle in the diagram is a domain of stored
coherent energy. Coherent energy comes and goes together so it can do
work, as opposed to incoherent energy that goes in all directions and
cancels itself out. You must imagine further, that each sub-domain has an
internal structure similar to Figure 1. This self-similarity? of fractal
structures (24) is characteristic of natural processes. All the cycles of
activities are linked coherently together; they are dancing together in
step but each doing different things at different paces. That is why I can
be digesting my breakfast while talking to you and waving my arms about as
As you can see, the more sub-cycles there are, the more energy is stored
within the system. Cycles make perfect thermodynamic sense. Not only do
they give dynamic stability, they enable the activities to be perfectly
Most importantly, the cycles are linked through all space-time scales (26)
in a symmetrical, or reciprocal way (27), so that processes yielding
energy can directly or indirectly transfer the energy to those that
require energy, and their roles can be reversed as the need arises (28).
By the same token, energy can be readily transferred from all over the
system to any local point and conversely, energy created at any local
point can spread over the entire system, with the minimum loss or
dissipation (29). In other words, energy transfer is rapid, efficient and
reversible (30). This creates the conditions for internal balance, so that
coherent energy is maximally conserved, and the system organisation is
All I have said up to now describes the ideal healthy organism, and
applies also to a healthy ecosystem, or any sustainable system [4
(footnote omitted for purposes of convenience)] (31). Figure 1 explains
why sustainable systems are biodiverse, for they maximise energy storage
over all space-time scales (32).
The reciprocal relationships between the activities occurring over the
system are the key to dynamic balance and sustainability. You may ask how
one can speak of reciprocity when it is always the wolf that devours the
lamb. The wolf feeding on the lamb is storing lamb energy, so when the
wolf dies and decomposes, it goes to nourish the grass that feeds the
sheep that suckles the lamb. One has to think of reciprocities extending
over space-times (33).
Figure 2. The organism consists of cyclic non-dissipative processes
coupled to the dissipative one-way energy flow.
Now, let me show you some images of real organisms (see them here). These
are live organisms (the fruitfly larva, daphnia and the brine shrimp)
recorded on video camera with an imaging technique invented in my
laboratory, which enables us to see them in all the colours of the
rainbow. The technique is a slight modification of the polarised light
microscopy routinely used by earth scientists to look at rock crystals and
more recently, also liquid crystals. But crystals have static molecular
order, so how can living, moving organisms appear crystalline? All the
molecules in the body would be moving around transforming and transferring
The answer is that the molecules must be moving coherently together.
Because the coherent motions are much slower than the vibrations of light,
the molecules appear static to the light passing through. It is like
capturing a still photograph of a moving object with a very fast film
(34). In fact, these images directly demonstrate that highly coherent
molecular motions must be taking place in the organisms? body (35). The
organism is thick with coherent activities over all scales, from the
molecular to the macroscopic. There is no preferred level within the
organism. All the parts are participating in the whole (36).
These images also show that how we observe determines what we observe. As
someone said, if your only tool is a hammer, then everything looks like a
nail. Mechanistic biology is like a hammer, so everything looks dead as
nails (37), or as Brian Goodwin said, like nuts and bolts. If we observe
with the sensitivity of organisms, however, we see them as organisms. Our
imaging technique is non-destructive, if not non-invasive. You can put the
organisms back into the aquarium afterwards (38).
I would like to draw out some of the main lessons the organism teaches us
about the organic whole as opposed to the mechanistic whole. The organic
whole is an ideal democracy of distributed control (39). It does not work
in terms of a hierarchy of controller versus the controlled, but by
intercommunication (40). Ultimately, each is as much in control as it is
sensitive and responsive. In the ideal coherent system, local freedom (or
autonomy) and global cohesion are both maximised (41). That is impossible
within a mechanical system where public and private, local and global, are
always in conflict (42).
Most important of all, the organic whole is quintessentially diverse and
pluralistic (43). The organism is the antithesis of uniformity and
homogeneity (44). We have some 30 000 genes and 300 000 proteins,
astronomical numbers of metabolites, cofactors, inorganic ions, in
numerous kinds of cells, tissues and organs that make up our body, all of
which are necessary for sustaining the whole. In the same way, populations
are naturally diverse, and thriving ecosystems are rich in species (45).
As hundreds of indigenous tribes today are being driven to extinction by
the activities of corporations engaged in mining, timbering and oil
extraction (46), I must stress in the strongest terms that we need the
diversity of cultures in the human species. We need the full diversity of
cultures to sustain the human miracle, to express the full creative human
Andrew Apel's Reponse:
1. Allegories are quite powerful. They are stories which operate as memes,
i.e., as ideas which humans perceive as interesting and pass on ? as
stories ? to one another. Carl Jung's account of the "collective
unconscious" as a form of "racial memory" has been largely discredited,
but his related notions of cultural "archetypes" are alive and well.
Archetypes are symbols of mythic status which pervade various cultures. On
the account of Charles Campbell, some of these archetypes are universal in
all societies. Archetypes quite often appear, as one might suspect, in
allegories, and as such, both are the ideal raw substance of memes ideas
which use a culture's "DNA" so to speak, its allegories and archetypes, to
look appealing and to prompt their propagation.
2. Which makes working with allegories and archetypes a powerful way to
construct memes the intentional construction of memes is most often known
3. Miracles are conventionally defined as events which cannot be explained
in terms of natural phenomena, therefore "thinking" of them cannot be
conducted in any objective way ? so already, a juxtaposition of the
rational and irrational has been introduced with the title.
4. Fascist ideology is historically opposed to rationalism, relying
purposely on imagination and "feeling," which are said to more truly
express the human spirit.
5. Here we have the first introduction of a feminist theme, which will
6. Here we see the "veil," which is reminiscent of the hymen, a vestigial
flap of tissue present in the vaginal canals of human females who have not
had intercourse. In resisting the onslaught of a dragon, the hymenal veil,
instead of yielding, resists the dragon ? the male archetype in this
allegory ? thereby portraying the male's failure to rape the virgin. Note
also that the virgin also treats the dragon with a powerful disdain,
acting, paradoxically, the part of the matriarch. However, the virginal
matriarch is a recurrent theme in proto-feminism.
7. Thus begins a new allegory, this one using quantum physics. Quantum
physics and related disciplines have become archetypes for some,
especially in the New Age quasi-religious communities.
8. Those familiar with how sperm and egg interact in mammalian species
will find this allegory to be graphic.
9. I.e., the invading sperm, the dragon, the rapist, is subjugated.
10. When they discover lasers in living tissue, I'm going to suspect
11. Here, Ho briefly suggests that the virgin and the rapist might get
along, but points out that the two have "different movements."
12. The "threats" are unidentified, but that is the inherent nature of all
13. Climate change is based on computer modeling, not on observation ? but
"climate" is another stand-in for "Nature" and "Gaia," whom, it is said,
are repeatedly raped? by reductionist colonialist chauvinist globalist
neo-Liberal capitalists and their scientists.
14. Again, we are asked to eschew rationalism, and take a "poetic" view,
though here we go back and borrow not from fascism, but to the Romanticism
which opposed the Enlightenment, the Romanticism which later became an
important basis of fascism.
15. Here Ho reveals her approach to science not as observation and theory,
but as allegory. She sees science instead as a "view," and brands that
view 'the view' as destructive and mechanistic. The view is all, the way
the world is perceived is all, attempts at integrating objective
observations are not merely beside the point, but mostly wrong for the
16. This rhymes nicely, and may be an attempt to popularize a new slogan.
At the same time, it appeals to several established religions.
17. Another way to say that is, organisms don't want to die, and they want
to eat. But the poesy of the expression is admirable.
18. The conclusion does not follow from the premises, but again, the poesy
of the expression is admirable.
19. The whole exercise is "suggestive images of the organism," but that
merely serves to demonstrate that for Ho, science is allegory.
20. Circles have informed Nordic religions (the world snake) Hinduism
(wheel of karma) and many others. The circle is also the basis of
astronomy, which formed an important part of many agrarian cultures. It is
also the simplest of the geometric forms and nearly universal in religious
and mythic symbology.
21. The circle does not necessarily imply dynamic stability, as anyone
with a car with an unbalanced wheel can attest to. However, the cultural
associations with the wheel and circle make Ho?s notion quite appealing.
22. Here, Ho makes overt reference to the circularity inherent in various
religious doctrines, various cultures, and scientific theories, a powerful
23. Here, "complexity" as a notion raises its head, the notion that the
organism can have effects globally, i.e., beyond the organism's
comprehension. This is of course a fearful notion, a humbling notion, but
it also conveniently expresses a foundation of global fascism, i.e., that
humble organisms should obey what they are told by their superiors about
24. "Fractal" is very popular with some people who don't buy into the
"quantum physics" archetype for the complexity of the universe.
25. This account of thermodynamics may be poetic, but likely it horrifies
physicists to the point of distraction.
26. Here, Ho verges on claiming omniscience. It is possible she identifies
herself with Gaia.
27. This cannot be proved and according to observation and theory, is
quite likely false, as thermodynamics is decidedly asymmetric. However, Ho
must make this claim in order to portray the universe as vast and
interconnected and harmonic and complex.
28. This ascribes intentionality to the universe, a notion which science
has rejected as misguiding. Apologies to fans of Teilhard De Chardin.
29. Ho must not have heard of the limitations of the speed of light or the
inverse-square rule. Or much about thermodynamics. But again, it?s an
allegory, a story about the universe. When she invents a story of
creation, it will be complete.
30. If energy transfer is truly reversible, that means entropy doesn't
exist! The claim would embarrass any scientist, but Ho has to make the
claim to perfect her "circle" analogy. Remember, it?s allegory, not
31. This means that a "sustainable system" defies space, time and
thermodynamics as we understand it. Well, it's allegory, not science.
32. This is an interesting claim. Information theorists have (credibly, I
think) claimed that entropy can be defined as complex (high-information)
systems running down to simple (low-information) states. That this
requires biodiversity in all times and places (i.e., planting weeds in
fields) is open to question.
33. Here again is an appeal to the circle symbol/archetype. It may be that
one "has" to think of this as extending across all space-time, but only if
one is poetically inclined.
34. This is a polite invitation to consider that Ho's poetry and allegory
are grounded in observable fact.
35. Similar demonstrations could be achieved by investigating a crystal of
quartz, i.e., a chunk of rock. But the picture has an innate appeal.
36. Poetic, but by definition, you take parts away, you don?t have a whole
organism any more. The expression will be appealing, however, to those who
favor a "wholistic" or universal-circularistic approach.
37. The nail is clearly a linear, phallic symbol, its "dead"-ness
describing a subjugation at the mercy of the hammer, and the reference to
the "mechanistic" approach is clearly borrowed from proto-feminist claims
about science as a rape of nature.?
38. Here we see the feminist scientist, laying down a boundary for
scientific investigation which naughty-boy chauvinist? scientists should
not trespass, and she is kind enough to exemplify the narrow limits of
39. The politics behind science-as-allegory emerges. "Distributed control"
is a prominent feature of fascism, though more typical of communism.
40. This is another ideal of the fascist state, which, unfortunately, must
demand the punishment/exile/death of those who are do not communicate the
right things, i.e., those who are not "right thinkers."
41. If the ideal should be worked for, then it must be. In other words, if
you don?t work to maximize the ideal, you?re not part of the circle and
it's the Lubyanka for you.
42. Ho could have described conflict between these levels as a natural,
even "circular" dynamic which stores and emits energy efficiently, on the
same terms she earlier explained. Inexplicably, she says a similar
efficiency between the local and non-local is "impossible," which
contradicts some of her claims about universal energy, etc. This also
requires some form of global political control making all part of the
"whole." Dissent would be inefficient on these terms. Since the local
organism does not perceive its global interconnections, this requires
global fascism to implement.
43. This is an obvious appeal to "biodiversity," though in a political
context. Note that biodiversity is required to be part of Ho's circular
whole,? which means nonetheless that those who are not part of the
properly-defined whole? must be plucked up, like weeds ? an analogy
popularized by Hermann Goerring during the Third Reich and another part of
the fascist agenda. The German Laender were diverse, and called upon
therefore to be the diverse source of "unity" behind a required popular
notion, embodied by a "Fuehrer," while those outside the whole,
non-Germans and other "entartetes Voelker" were declared "Unkraut" (weeds)
growing amid the revered German biodiversity.
44. This means, individualism and autonomy are the enemy. Here, Ho
espouses what is probably the most quintessential element of the fascist
45. A diversity which must, by definition, be harnessed to the efforts of
the whole as part of a collective effort.? Note that the elements of the
organic diversity she refers to, the body, must all be subservient to the
needs of the whole. As an organism must also defend itself, we also see
here the seed of nationalism, in which all citizens must rise up as a
body? against the foreign aggressor.
46. News of corporate genocide of such stunning magnitude have yet to leak
out. If Ho has evidence of this, it is her duty to release it to the
world. Again, this is allegory, not fact. It is another facet of the rape
of nature? allegory, a way of portraying what chauvinistic, autonomous
capitalist males are doing to the innocents who supposedly live in perfect
harmony with Nature.
47. This ends the presentation with a sense of universal appeal, similar
to the slogan, "Workers of the World, Unite!"
Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT)
- From: Malcolm Livingstone
In reply to Dr. Nielsen's remarks about HGT:
First of all you are correct that HGT is a very rare occurrence. I think
however that the reason this has been raised is not to suggest that it
occurs so rapidly that it is somehow comparable to transgenics but to
counter the quasi-religious argument that it is "unnatural" for genes from
different species to be mixed in the same organism.
Secondly it is also true that transgenes, at the moment, have bacterial
sequences that might make recombination more likely. But recombination
with what? You can't be suggesting that transgenic canola is recombining
with other plants or animals. Perhaps you mean that the antibiotic gene
sequences can combine with bacterial sequences in our guts?
Because the vast majority of DNA reaching our guts is degraded this is
unlikely but not impossible. However the circumstances would have to be
such that there was some selective advantage for the recombinant E.coli to
persist. What would those circumstances be? I can only think of one and
that is the prolonged use of the antibiotic that the transgene gives
resistance to. If this is not the case then we need to put Charles
Darwin's work in the bin and start over. I for one am on Darwin's side.
In any case this is a moot point as antibiotic resistance genes are being
phased out of transgenic work. Some examples of other means of selection
have already been mentioned on this site several times. For example the
use of herbicide resistance (genes derived from plants) or others such as
the ipt gene or the mannose-6--phosphate approach (PMI gene). The PMI gene
is ubiquitous in nature but not found in most plants (especially cereals).
There has been a recent article published which shows that tetracycline
resistant genes have been found in soil bacteria. The presumed source is
from animals fed with antibiotics. Several people have hysterically
assumed that once these bugs are out there they will spread and all hell
will break loose. Not so. Not unless we saturate our fields, homes and
bodies with tetracycline. We both know that resistance genes are easy
enough to find in bacteria. Where ever there is a concentrated and
continual source of antibiotics (or most toxins for that matter)
resistance will occur. However I challenge you to find one single
antibiotic resistance gene without the use of antibiotics.
You correctly point out that any novel genes would have to confer a
selective advantage to proliferate. You also correctly point out that this
is unlikely. However you don't really make it clear just how unlikely this
would be. It would be astronomically unlikely. The VAST majority of
mutations are not advantageous. Perhaps over tens of millions of years an
organism might find a use for a transgene (or part of a transgene) that
would give it an advantage in its environment but I don't really think so.
In any case so what? Why would novel genes (created constantly by
background radiation by the way) be disadvantageous to most other
organisms. Any organism that gains a selective advantage (something which
happens all the time over evolutionary timescales) may very well cause one
or two competitors to become extinct but, of course, this is normal and
called Natural Selection.
So I can't really see what the fuss is all about. What sequences are
likely to cause problems and over what timescale? We need practical
estimates based on what is likely to occur now or in the near future not
10000 years or more from now. Nobody on this list is claiming that we
cannot think of any circumstances where genes could be transferred - just
that it is so unlikely that we don't consider it worth mentioning. -
Malcolm Livingstone PhD
- From: Malcolm Livingstone
I offer some comments on your posting about HGT and mutation rates.
1. With the possible exception of Archaea, it appears that all living
things on the planet have a great deal of DNA in common. For instance,
I've heard that even between humans and parsley, the DNA is about 40
percent identical. Since this points to a common ancestry for most life,
is there really a valid distinction distinction between HGT and "vertical"
gene transfer in cases where, for instance, a petunia gene is transferred
to its (albeit remote) relative, the soybean?
Yes all living organisms share a great deal of DNA sequence. Our sequence
is 99% similar to that of chimpanzees. I don't personally regard a gene as
being a chimp gene or a petunia gene except for the purposes of
identifying it. For me it is just another sequence of nucleotides. In its
native environment a gene may be surrounded by unique controlling
sequences but for the most part the differences are minor. Plants are less
related to us than other animals. One of the differences is their codon
usage. The further apart two organisms are on the evolutionary stage the
more differences will be found. Nevertheless we can put animal, bacterial
and viral genes into plants and they still work. An example is the luc
gene from fireflies. When the insect gene was inserted into plants it
worked but not that well. After modifying the sequence so that the codon
usage was the same as that used by plants the gene worked much better. As
far as I am concerned the modified luc gene was now a plant gene. It is
not right to consider the glowing plant an insect/plant hybrid. It is just
a plant - but a glowing one. So as far as I am concerned there is no
difference between HGT and any other kind of gene transfer. It all
involves moving x amount of base pairs from one place to another.
2. There is evidence that at least some bacteria use a Lamarckian form of
evolution, i.e., under environmental stress, during multiplication they
induce mutations in a non-random way, yielding a disproportionate number
of favorable mutations. Some bacteria are also fond of swapping handy bits
of DNA from their cousins. Does this indicate that, at least at one if not
more levels, nature long ago found HGT to be a handy mechanism for
speeding evolution and speciation? Could bacteria be the prime natural
generators of novel sequences?
I seem to recall something along the lines you mention (do you have
reference?). However I can't for the life of me figure out how a bacterium
can know in advance which mutations are going to be useful to it. After
all what is a favourable mutation one minute may be deleterious the next.
Mutation rates are not really the driving force behind evolution - Natural
Selection is. HGT and transposons are just two other forms of mutation.
For the most part the integration of foreign genes (from either of the
above sources) would constitute no more than a point mutation unless the
transferred gene was functional and useful under the environmental
conditions it found itself. Of course it is important to remember that for
many organisms the mutation has to occur in the gametes or it is not
passed on. Our own cells suffer mutations all the time but the only time
they can duplicate is if the cell becomes cancerous and then only until
death. So for the vast majority of times mutations, from whatever source,
do nothing and die out. Gene transfer between bacteria is common but don't
forget retroviruses are also a means of transferring host DNA from one
individual to the next.
3. Does the "junk" DNA found in so many organisms indicate the existence
of a mechanism designed to take advantage of HGT, which may have actually
incorporated unhelpful (or temporarily helpful) sequences over the
4. Is it possible that the system is designed to balance HGT and
speciation? Speciation into groups of organisms which are not
cross-fertile would allow them to stably exploit different ecological
niches across generations with only minimal random mutations; HGT,
however, through such media as bacteria or viruses, would make the
nearly-identical DNA of non-interfertile plant species a handy thing, by
making it easier to borrow and incorporate "working" DNA from others at
times--which would be far superior to relying simply on random mutations
for evolution. Might the system work this way? Are there any studies which
suggest this? Wouldn't this make HGT more than merely an accidental
phenomenon, but also a beneficial design feature?
Junk DNA might be there to mitigate for the disruptions caused by
transposons and, I'll wager, occasionally HGT. A lot of junk DNA consists
of repeated regions with homology to retroelements. If most of the DNA is
not essential then potentially harmful insertions can be tolerated more
easily and, yes, may provide a source of useful sequence. However the
chance of a whole working, useful gene being transferred from one species
to another must be vanishingly small. Also any benefit would be seen only
on an evolutionary timescale of millions of years. This is also highly
However I have never been an advocate of the theory that junk DNA has no
purpose. It is there for some reason and maybe it does act as a buffer and
a means of increasing the mutation rate.
5. If HGT is a functional part of evolution and plants actually "like" it,
should it really be all that scary for some people?
I don't fear HGT and neither should anyone else. Understanding how nature
works doesn't make it more dangerous. 50 years ago we understood very
little about molecular genetics but we were still riddled with
retroviral-like DNA. Ignorance is often comforting but it won't extend
More Plant Scientists as new NAS Members!
In my previous posting, I missed out on many names because of my ignorance
of photosynthesis scientists who are elected to NAS. Here, please see
below a response from Charlie Arntzen (a member of NAS) which includes a
complete list of plant scientists elected to NAS.
From: "Charles J. Arntzen"
Subject: Re: Plant scientists elected to NAS Members
It was a pretty good year for "plant and photosynthesis" people in the
National Academy this year. I've listed plant/photosynthesis folks below.
Newly elected members are:
CARPENTER, Stephen R.; Center for Limnology, Univ of Wisconsin, Madison
FIELD, Christopher B.; Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford,
GLAZER, Alexander N.; University of California, Berkeley
GOLDBERG, Robert Bruce; University of California, Los Angeles
LAGARIAS, J. Clark; University of California, Davis
ZAMBRYSKI, Patricia C.; University of California, Berkeley
Newly elected foreign associates:
COEN, ENRICO SANDRO; University of East Anglia, Norwich (U.K.)
CRANE, Peter Robert; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (U.K.)