STOP THE PRESS: Headlines in the last week of February announced the successful cloning of sheep and monkeys by scientists in the U.K. and in America. These cloning experiments sent Sekhmet foraging into her long-term memory bank for an account of the Proceedings of the Anti-Science Society (a shadowy organization whose alleged roots stretch back to ancient Greece when a prototype of the contemporary society was founded by Platonists in an attempt to combat the pernicious proto-rationalism of Aristotle.) The present society annually presents A.S.S. Awards --mainly to scientists who have inadvertently succeeded in holding modern science up to ridicule and derision. Sure enough, Sekhmet was able to retrieve an account of the proceedings of the Society written some twenty years ago, when the future spectre of cloned complex organisms was first raised. It is worth noting here that the Society's staunch neo-Luddite principles expressed in these proceedings have been somewhat softened over the past two decades, largely through the interest shown by the television and film industries in subjects normally denounced by Establishment science and by the tremendous communications powers inherent in newly developed computer technology, specifically the Web, which permits the instant worldwide broadcasting of material that would normally be either ignored or vilified by Church of Progress forces. Apart from this caveat, however, Sekhmet finds this account of the Anti-Science Society's Proceedings largely applicable to the possibilities inherent in the above-cited headlines. Sekhmet will continue her discussion of the Church of Progress itself in upcoming columns. 


SENSATION! A.S.S. SUPPORTS GENETIC ENGINEERING, In an astonishing turnabout, the Anti-Science Society recently came out strongly in favor of continuing research into all forms of genetic engineering. Largely responsible for the surprise conclusion was a paper read by the Society President, alchemist and astrologer, Dr. Ephraim Lilly.

 Dr. Lilly, who has doctorates in both modern mathematics and philosophy from Oxbridge University, revealed his the discovery of the mathematical, psychological and sociological constant that, applied to all questions of science and technology, allowed for objective, quantifiable criteria. In lay terminology, Dr. Lilly dubbed the new constant, 'The Bungle Factor'. Dr. Lilly proved to an initially skeptical audience that by simply applying The Bungle Factor the single great question hanging over the history of science might be answered: Why, in over three centuries of science and technology, has not one single thing worked out the way it was intended? Apologizing for descending to the obvious, Dr. Lilly listed several examples of science gone awry:

 1. Theoretical research into the structure of matter leading to the actual, permanent, imminent threat of nuclear annihilation.

2. Perversion of the sacred science of Alchemy into a gross manipulation of matter, or Chemistry, leading to stockpiles of bacteriological and chemical weapons; and simultaneous, irreversible toxic poisoning of the earth, sea and skies. 

3. Advances in modern medicine leading to uncontrolled and uncontrollable population expansion with no foreseeable means for feeding additional billions of people. 

4. The miracle of mass communication that instantly disperses news of disasters and catastrophes about the world, thereby infecting all 'humanity instantly with psychic poison --since all 'impressions' such as bad news produce quantifiable, demonstrable negative emotional states. While disseminating psychic poison, the miracle of mass communication has also served to bury, minimize or otherwise camouflage whatever there may be that is genuinely new and valuable, creating a situation in which genuine learning is less accessible to the layman than it was in the worst periods of the so-called Dark Ages.

 Dr. Lilly admitted that these negative results brought about by science and technology were relatively minor, and they were cited simply because they were easily defined and isolated, and equally easily explained by applying The Bungle Factor constant. The more important negative results of science and technology were not of course physical, but spiritual: the manner in which improvements to the Standard of Living inescapably destroyed Man's Way of Life; how technology effectively deprived the great mass of men from exercising the creative function that is both their birthright and their responsibility; ultimately, the one and only means Man has for contacting his divine, inner, spiritual self. These, and related questions, required a more sophisticated application of The Bungle Factor, claimed Dr. Lilly, the results of which would be reserved for a future meeting.


 An objection was raised from the floor. It was accepted as proven that the Bungle Factor applied to each and every instance where science and technology planned to benefit humanity, but when Science turned deliberately to destructive ends, it realized its intentions with a somewhat disconcerting consistency. Did this not relegate The Bungle Factor to but one aspect of science? It did not, claimed Dr. Lilly. The difference was merely one of degree. Whereas, all planned benefits turned into their opposites, exercises in planned destruction invariably turned out to be far more destructive and insidious than anyone had foreseen, due to The Bungle Factor. The example of radiation was cited --predictable from theoretical formulae but in practice infinitely more dangerous than anticipated; the carcinogenic qualities of defoliants was another example. A further question was raised: Was there, in the history of science and technology, any one single invention or discovery whose direct or indirect drawbacks did not outweigh its advantages? Dr. Lilly replied that his research team had studied just this question for the past twenty years. To date, the only invention meeting this difficult criterion was the bicycle, but he did not the exclude the possibility that others might be found.

 Dr. Lilly vetoed further discussion, and returned to the Society's stand vis-a-vis genetic engineering.


Genetic proponents looked forward to the time when all genetic defects in man, animals and plants would yield to the corrective methods of science, and man would at last live free from the inefficient and capricious effects of Evolution. Through genetic manipulation, science would at last realize that Victorian dream: The Conquest of Nature. 

The application of the Bungle Factor, and recourse to recent history with its examples of Thalidomide, DDT, PCP's and other acronyms ensured that these planned benefits would work out otherwise. But meanwhile, it was the negative possibilities of genetic engineering that aroused suspicion among scientists. Leaving aside for the moment the possibility of monstrous, self-replicating hybrids out of the pages of science fiction magazines, or the spectre of Hitlerian eugenics and the production of a cloned Master-race, critics were even more apprehensive of scientific attempts to benefit humanity by reproducing exactly those they selected as examples of the highest and most evolved human types. 

Sir Peter Medawar, Nobel-Prize winning immunologist once declared, 'Science is a very great work, perhaps the greatest of all the works of man.' Though it was this statement that won for Sir Peter the first of his four A.S.S. awards, Dr. Lilly agreed that very few working scientists would find fault with it. 

It followed inescapably that the perpetrators of 'the greatest of all the works of man' were necessarily the greatest men, and therefore the most deserving of duplication. Dr Lilly agreed that the prospect of a limitless number of cloned great scientists was perhaps the most terrifying scenario yet faced by Man. Fortunately, however, it was doomed to fail, and in this happy instance, it was possible even to predict the manner in which The Bungle Factor would operate.


Modern science defines organic life as 'The interaction between genetics and environment,' and having framed this definition, science believes it has reduced life to Rationalist terms, obviating any need for metaphysics or divine teleology. But, pointed out Lilly, like all Reductionist attempts, the definition was specious, and for all its rational appearance, it was no more than a convenient label applied to a mystery; Science playing Rumpelstiltskin and hoping the problem would vanish. 

Advances in molecular biology now make it possible to quantify genetics. By breaking down environment into a finite number of variables that, too, may be quantified in some acceptably statistical fashion. But the 'interaction' that effects the interchange of forces between genetics and environment is undefined, ignored, and in fact, given the methodology of modern science outside its scope. Therefore, continued Dr. Lilly, to define Life as a result of 'the interaction between genetics and environment' has no more meaning than to define a child as a result of 'the interaction between a man and a woman,' or to define music as the result of 'the interaction between the violinist and the violin.' In each case, the crucial third force --'love' or 'desire' in the former example, 'inspiration' in the latter-- is unaccounted for, and remains utterly mysterious; only the results can be measured, the cause remains hidden. What then is the 'interaction' that mediates between genetics and environment? It is of course that higher music that Plato called 'The Music of the Spheres', or Astrology. 

As all Anti-Science Society members knew, the sophisticated statistical studies of Michel Gauquelin, Hans Eysenk, and others proved categorically that Astrological factors play a part, perhaps the determining part, in the formation of the human personality. Against odds of many millions to one against chance, great athletes are born with Mars rising on the Eastern Horizon, or on one of the 'Angles' (in astrological terminology). Against similar odds, great scientists are born when Saturn is there. 

Since it is the 'personality' of the athlete or scientist that channels his energies into the chosen field, and since it is the position of the stars at the moment of birth that in whole, or in part, determines the personality (in the more precise symbolic terminology of Ancient Egypt, the spiritual complex called the KA) humanity can go on, allowing geneticists to putter about, secure in the knowledge that all attempts to exactly duplicate chosen scientists will fail. The results might be strange; psychological hybrids torn apart by inner contradictions; with Venus, or Jupiter rising, the unhappy clone might end up a rationalist poet, or an analytical priest or a logical politician, but at least humanity at large would not be affected. The question was then raised: could not science take these astrological factors into account and succeed?

 Dr. Lilly replied that this was impossible for two reasons. The first was that the exact astrological conditions responsible for the gene donor's personality would not re- occur for another 25,900 years, the cycle of the 'Great' or Platonic Year that incorporates the full recession of the Equinoxes. Therefore, by taking astrological factors into account, science could at best approximate a personality 'type', but never the precise individual. Secondly, there was no reason to fear even this possibility. Though the statistical evidence supporting the astrological premise was conclusive and incontrovertible, science to date had managed to ignore it, and, Lilly predicted, science would continue to ignore it. To admit the validity of astrology would be to acknowledge the metaphysical or divine basis of the universe, and there was not the slightest fear that science would undermine its own faith in chance and meaninglessness to do this. Therefore, concluded Lilly, the predictable operation of the Bungle Factor ensured that the greatest possible genetic disaster, the cloning of scientists, was doomed to failure.


Though A.S.S. members were unable to fault Dr. Lilly's reasoning, most still did not see why the Society should actively support a genetic engineering program. Dr. Lilly cited a number of cogent reasons.

 1. Genetic research is a delicate, time-consuming process. Geneticists agree that practical application of their discoveries is unlikely for over a decade. Under the worst of scenarios, declared Lilly, genetic programs gone awry are unlikely to be more destructive than other, already developed programs. Genetics is a fashionable new discipline, and it is also expensive. Therefore, support for genetics research is likely to draw both talented personnel and vital money away from other pursuits guaranteed to be even more destructive.

 2. Since the world already teeters on the brink of an entire spectrum of catastrophes -ecological, military, agricultural, chemical, bacteriological, nuclear, and psychological- all of them directly or indirectly traceable to science, the chances were that one or several of these disasters would catch up to us long before we would have to face the consequences of genetic tinkering. Therefore, why bother to oppose it? 

3. Perhaps most important, the Society prided itself on its pragmatic, unquixotic approach to scientific problems. Any study of the history of science was enough to convince even the slowest of students that neither sanity nor reason have ever dissuaded scientists from pursuing to the end any line of research no matter how obviously dangerous, useless or silly it may have been. If, said Lilly, in the face of Three Mile Island it is still possible to find strong lobbies of scientists, politicians and industrialists supporting nuclear energy, what possible hope could there be of talking anyone out of genetic engineering? But due to the Bungle Factor, we may rest secure that whatever the intentions of the scientists involved, the results will differ radically. And it is this that gave scope for a measure of optimism. Given the prevailing morals and values of Science, any divergence from plan was liable to be an improvement.


Sekhmet Speaks 1

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Sekhmet Speaks 3

Sekhmet Speaks 5




  J.A.W. Credentials   © John Anthony West 2002