The End of Bad Science and Beginning Again with Life
Institute of Science in Society and Department of Biological Sciences,
Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK
This is a public Lecture for Conference on "The Limit of Natural
Selection", French Senate, Paris, March 18, 2000
(to appear in Proceedings in French)
The debate on evolution between the creationists and the neo-Darwinists
is not just sterile, it misses the central issue, which is that
neo-Darwinism is wrong and dangerous. It is promoting and misguiding a
runaway technology that has the potential to destroy all life on earth. It
reinforces a worldview that undermines every single moral value that makes
us human1. It is also obstructing and preventing the necessary
shift to holistic ecological sciences that can connect to the organic
revolution rising from the grassroots all over the world, which can truly
regenerate the earth and revitalize the human spirit.
Key words: neo-Darwinism, natural selection, evolution, organic
revolution, quantum theory, science of the organism, the new genetics,
natural genetic engineering
"..the potential for new science is hard to find in the
Creationist-Darwinist debate. Both sides appear to have a common interest
in presenting a static view of the scientific enterprise. This is to be
expected from the Creationists [who reject science]..But the neo-Darwinian
advocates claim to be scientists, and we can legitimately expect of them a
more open spirit of enquiry. Instead, they assume a defensive posture of
outraged orthodoxy and assert an unassailable claim to truth, which only
serves to validate the Creationists criticism that Darwinism has
become more of a faith than a science."2
Let me make clear that I am not a Creationist, as there is a tendency in
the popular media to regard any and every critic of neo-Darwinism as a
Creationist. I intend to show you how neo-Darwinism has been invalidated
within science itself, as an explanation of how life on earth has evolved
and is evolving. It is nevertheless still perpetrated by the academic
establishment, if only because it serves so well to promote genetic
engineering, a technology that has the potential to destroy all life on
earth. Furthermore, neo-Darwinism reinforces a worldview that undermines
all moral values and prevents us from the necessary shift to holistic,
ecological sciences that can truly regenerate the earth and revitalize the
The bad science of reductionist biology
Up to the late 1960s and early 1970s, biology was dominated by the
double helix of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the genetic material, which
got Watson, Crick and Wilkins the Nobel prize. Complementary base-pairing
between the strands of the double helix enables the DNA to be faithfully
copied, and passed on unchanged generation after generation. Random
mutations occur, but these are very rare, about one in a billion or less.
DNA is faithfully transcribed into a complementary strand of RNA
(ribonucleic acid), which is, in turn, translated into a protein with a
specific amino-acid sequence. This is the so-called Central Dogma of
molecular biology. Genetic information is strictly linear, and goes in one
direction, from DNA to RNA to protein, and no reverse information flow is
allowed. As the proteins catalyze all the biochemical reactions in our
body, the implication is that the genes ultimately control and determine
all the characteristics of the organism.
The Central Dogma formalizes the four basic assumptions of genetic
determinism and give them material substance.
Genes determine characters in a straightforward, additive way: one
gene-one protein, and by implication, one character. Environmental
influence, if it occurs, can be neatly sorted from the genetic.
Genes and genomes are stable, and except for rare, random mutations,
are passed on unchanged to the next generation.
Genes and genomes cannot be changed directly in response to the
Acquired characters are not inherited, as germline genes are not
influenced by the environment.
These assumptions fit neatly with the dominant neo-Darwinian theory,
which says that all of marvelous life on earth evolved, and is still
evolving essentially by the natural selection of random genetic mutations.
Neo-Darwinism combines Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection
with August Weismann's theory of the immortal, inviolable germline, which,
through Mendelian and molecular genetics became the Central Dogma. So,
there is supposed to be a Weismann's barrier forbidding
environmental influences from changing the genes directly, especially in
the germ cells that give rise to the next generation.
That is how biologists and the public at large came to see the living
world purely in terms of genes and DNA. There are no organisms, only
collections of selfish genes, all clamoring to replicate.
There are no societies of communities, only selfish individuals competing
against one another. Dawkins is the best known popularizer of such views.
"If you look at the way natural selection works, it
seems to follow that anything that has evolved by natural selection should
be selfish. Therefore we must expect that when we go and look at the
behaviour of baboons, humans and all other living creatures, we will find
it to be selfish. If we find that our expectation is wrong, if we observe
that human behaviour is truly altruistic, then we will be faced with
something puzzling, something that needs explaining."3
The explanation on offer for altruistic behaviour is essentially
disguised selfishness. Dawkins view on the organism, is that it
doesnt exist, the organism is just the means for propagating
replicators, or genes,
"We are all survival machines for the same kind of
replicator - molecules called DNA - but there are many different ways of
making a living in the world, and the replicators have built a vast range
of machines to exploit them..."4
"...Exactly how [genes specifying proteins] leads to
the development of a baby is a story which it will take decades, perhaps
centuries, for embryologist to work out. But it is a fact that it does.
Gene do indirectly control the manufacture of bodies and the influence is
strictly one way: acquired charateristics are not inherited...Each new
generation starts from scratch. A body is the genes way of
preserving the genes unaltered."5
The greatest danger of this reductionist biology is that we end up
denying and explaining away all that is good in organisms and human
beings, such as altruism, love and compassion. That is all of a piece with
the dominant social reality that glorifies competition and exploitation,
of corporate capitalism that makes the rich ever richer and the poor ever
One has to appreciate that the assumptions of genetic determinism, in
one form or another, have been the bread and butter of mainstream biology
for at least 100 years, rather the way that Newtonian mechanics had been
the foundations of physics in the pre-quantum physics era. Within 10 years
of the Central Dogma, however, genetics was turned upside-down. All those
assumptions, and more, were contradicted by research findings, from the
then newly developed recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology.
Recombinant DNA technology is a set of techniques for isolating,
multiplying, cutting and joining pieces of DNA, and for transferring DNA
between species. It is what makes genetic engineering possible, and it
happens also to be a powerful research tool.
The initial crack to the genetic determinist edifice appeared before
rDNA research really got underway. Howard Temin and David Baltimore in the
United States, independently discovered reverse transcriptase, an enzyme
that does the reverse of transcription - making a copy of complementary
DNA from an RNA sequence, which is inserted into the genome the
totality of all the genetic material in the cell or organism - so it can
be replicated with the genome. Reverse transcriptase was first found in
retroviruses, such as the ones implicated in AIDs and in cancers, which
have RNA as their genomes. Then came a torrent of new discoveries which
shook the very foundations of genetic determinism.6
By far the most significant picture to emerge from the findings is how
very dynamic and flexible the genome is in both its function and
structure. This is in striking contrast to the static, mechanical
conception that previously held sway. Gene functions are mutually
entangled in extremely complex networks, with many genes required to turn
other genes on or off, which are in turn regulated by other genes. Genes
can get silenced under certain physiological conditions, and this state
can be passed on to all daughter cells. According to the Central Dogma,
one gene specifies one protein. In reality, all possible specifications
exist. One-to-one, one to many, many to one, and many to many. The gene is
no longer a continuous stretch of DNA on the chromosome. It exists in
bits, interrupted by long non-coding stretches which are spliced out in
the RNA transcript. Transcipts are subject to numerous processing
reactions including alternative splicing to produce different proteins.
Most surprisingly, the transcript can become extensively edited
by chemical modifications to change the base sequence, so that it is
translated into a protein completely different from the one encoded.
Furthermore, the genes themselves and the structure of the genome are
both subject to small and large changes in the course of normal
development and as the result of environmental perturbations, so much so
that molecular geneticists have coined the descriptive term, the
fluid genome almost 20 years ago. There are many processes
contributing to the fluidity of the genome (see Box 1). All these
processes are under cellular regulation and also occur in response to the
Processes responsible for genomic fluidity
Transposition (gene jumping)
Gene amplification and contraction
Reverse transcription and insertion of cDNA into the genome
Horizontal gene transfer
All these processes are subject to cellular regulation and can
also occur in response to the environment.
Genes jump around from one site to another, they may be multiplied up to
hundreds of thousands of times, or the repeated copies could contract
down. DNA may be deleted or inserted, some of the insertions resulting
from reverse transcription, the process that copies a complementary
sequence of DNA from the RNA transcript. Chromosomes can undergo
rearrangement to change the linear order of genes. Hyper-mutations can
occur at up to a million times faster than usual mutations, and they may
be directed by environmental factors.
Hyper-mutations and gene amplifications often occur in response to
noxious chemicals, to make cells and organisms resistant to the chemicals.
This happens in mammalian cells during drug treatment, as in chemotherapy
against cancer. It happens in insect cells exposed to insecticide and
plant cells exposed to herbicides. Amplifications the
multiplication of specific stretches of DNA in the genome - are often
accompanied by gross changes in chromosome structure. These changes in
genes and genomes are repeatably generated by particular agents in
particular cells lines, and are part and parcel of the spectrum of
physiological responses common to all individuals in a population. They
have nothing to do with natural selection. Gross, repeatable changes in
the genome are also induced in flax and other plants by treatments with
different fertilizers, and these are inherited in subsequent generations.
Directed mutation, or adaptive mutation, is a phenomenon first
discovered in bacteria some 25 years ago, and is now found in yeast and
other organisms. When cells are presented with a nutrient they cannot use,
the starving cells eventually acquire mutations that enable them to feed
on it. Directed mutations may be similar to the mutations that make cells
resistant to drugs, insecticides and herbicides. Gene conversion, on the
other hand, is the substitution of one sequence of a gene by another.
Evidence suggests that those genes that are most actively used are
candidates for converting other genes. This is a case of the Lamarckian
principle of use and disuse at the molecular level.
Finally, the genes themselves can travel outside the original organism
on their way to infect another. This is horizontal gene transfer, now
known to be very widespread. The scope of horizontal gene transfer is
essentially the entire biosphere, so genes and genomes are not only fluid
and adaptable, they are also delocalised. Typical vectors or carriers for
horizontal gene transfer are viruses, and other genetic parasites, plasmids
and transposons. Plasmids are pieces of DNA that replicate
independently of the genome of cells, and transposons are jumping
genes - units of DNA that can jump from one site in the genome to
another, or jump out into the genome of another organism altogether.
However, it is recently found that other pieces of naked or free DNA,
that is, DNA outside cells or in the case of viruses, DNA without the
viral coat, may also become transferred, as they are readily taken up by
cells of all species including our own. Horizontal gene transfer is the
process exploited by genetic engineers to by-pass normal reproduction, to
transfer genes directly, often between species that would never interbreed
Recent research in gene therapy and nucleic acid vaccines leaves no
doubt that naked or free nucleic acids do get into the cells, and in some
cases, integrate into the cells genome. Researchers are elated that
they can deliver naked genetic material by all routes to practically all
cells. You can apply it in the eye in eye-drops, rub it in on the skin,
inject it, inhale it and swallow it7. In fact, the most
underestimated and serious danger from genetic engineering biotechnology
is the huge diversity of artificial combinations of genes released into
the environment that have never before existed in nature, and which can be
passed onto unrelated species, to be multiplied, mutated and recombined
Finally, the ultimate neo-Darwinian taboo has been broken. Wiesmanns
barrier has been breached, and in many different forms, some of which I
mentioned already (see box 2).
Weismann's barrier can operate only when organisms have germ cells that
are separated from somatic cells. Plants have no separation between germ
cells and somatic cells, as any somatic cell is capable of becoming a germ
cell, so any change in DNA induced in a somatic cell can become inherited.
In fact, the majority of animal phyla also do not have separate germ cells
and somatic cells. Even for animals which appear to have such a
separation, there are two possibilities, either the germ cells may also
respond to the environment, or more likely, there is a feedback
communication channel between the somatic cells and germ cells, so DNA
changes acquired by somatic cells can become incorporated into the germ
cells and passed on to the next generation.
The inheritance of acquired characters
Epigenetic inheritance - inheritance of cellular or gene-expression
states such as patterns of DNA methylation, cortical inheritance in
Inheritance of induced changes in genomic DNA - fertilizer treatment
of flax and other plants; drug-resistance in mammalian cells
insecticide- resistance in insect pests and herbicide-resistance in
Feedback from somatic cells to germ cells - reverse transcription
and insertion of cDNA into germ cells, eg. immunoglobulin V genes
'Adaptive' mutations in bacteria, yeast and other cells.
I have already mentioned the numerous reverse transcripts present in the
genome of all higher organisms, which suggests that one feedback channel
may be reverse transcription. Reverse transcriptase may exist in the cell
itself, or it may be encoded by dormant retroviruses, or retrotransposons,
a large number of which are found in all genomes. Australian immunologist
Ted Steele and his colleagues have found evidence that reverse
transcription may indeed be involved in transferring somatic information
back to germ cells in the immunoglobulin V genes.8
It so happens that as part of the immune response, a complicated series
of genetic rearrangements has to take place in the genome of the blood
cells to bring specific combinations of several different kinds of genes
together: V, D, J and C genes. This is followed by hyper-mutation of the
antigen-binding region so that, eventually, very high affinity antibodies
are created. This region is coded by one of the V genes. Steele and
colleagues found evidence that hyper-mutated V genes from somatic cells
are transferred to the germ cells, probably by resident viruses smuggling
them into the germ cell.
Actually, recent findings indicate that sperm cells are very effective
in picking up naked DNA9, so naked V gene sequences may well
be taken up directly and undergo homologous recombination with the
germ-line V genes. It is a case of gene conversion, in which a somatically
mutated and functionally tested gene converts a germ-line gene.
Ted Steele and others including myself have written on how those newly
discovered processes seriously undermine neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory
over 15 years ago10. The evidence against the natural
selection of random mutations has grown overwhelming since. Simply stated,
organisms can mutate their genes as they are selected; and there
is a large degree of non-randomness to mutations.
Recently, molecular geneticist James Shapiro has joined the debate. He
is critical of neo-Darwinians like Richard Dawkins and John Maynard Smith
who are still clinging to the discredited paradigm. "Localized random
mutation, selection operating "one gene at a time" (John Maynard
Smiths formulation), and gradual modification of individual
functions are unable to provide satisfactory explanation for the molecular
data, no matter how much time for change is assumed. There are simply too
many potential degrees of freedom for random variability and too many
interconnections to account for."11
And yet, the variations are far from random. The processes responsible
for the fluidity of the genome form a highly sophisticated regulatory
system, which can provide hyper-variability or stability for genes or
genomes as required. All organisms, from bacteria to human beings, possess
a wide range of repair and proof-reading functions to remove accidental
changes to DNA sequences and correct errors resulting from physiological
and physical insults. The same cells also possess numerous biochemical
mechanisms for changing and reorganizing DNA through natural genetic
engineering processes that include cutting and splicing of
DNA molecules into new sequence arrangements (like the immunoglobulin
genes). Most frequently, natural genetic engineering involves mobile
genetic elements, found in all genomes, which can move from one position
to another, enabling organisms to respond to environmental challenges.
The ability to activate those mechanisms under stress can significantly
accelerate evolutionary change in times of crisis without threatening
genetic stability under ordinary circumstances. Shapiro12
suggests that further studies of transposable elements and DNA
rearrangements may throw light on directed mutations. Just as
signal-transduction systems of the cell can direct the transcriptional
apparatus to specific genes, so there might be mutational apparatus(es)
that can be similarly directed to mutate specific genes. In other words,
the natural genetic engineering done by organisms themselves is quite
precise, even though we don't yet know how they manage it.
There is a striking contrast between the DNA-centered Central Dogma and
the new genetics. The scientific findings have completely invalidated
genetic determinism. The new genetics is diametrically opposite to the old
static, reductionist view. It is radically holistic. The gene has a very
complex ecology consisting of the interconnected levels of the genome, the
physiology of the organism and its external environment. Changes in the
environment is transmitted inwards, and may alter the genes themselves.
Conversely, putting a new gene or new combination of genes into an
organism will create disturbance that may propagate out to the external
environment. Remember that the genes themselves can spread by horizontal
transfer to unrelated species, so the potential ecological impacts are
But the mainstream biology community has remained untouched by this
profound revolution. Dawkins' views have not changed much since his first
book. Worse yet, genetic determinism is rife, if only because it is
perfect for promoting genetic engineering biotechnology and selling it to
the public. James Watson said this when launching the Human Genome Project
to sequence the entire human genome13
"We used to think that our fate was in the stars. Now
we know, in large measure, our fate is in our genes."
Literature supposed to promote public understanding, and endorsed by
Government scientists, are no better.
"Research scientists can now precisely identify the
individual gene that governs a desired trait, extract it, copy it and
insert the copy into another organism. That organism (and its offspring)
will then have the desired trait.."14
" The key to these new biotechnologies is the
ability to identify, isolate and manipulate the individual genes that
govern specific characteristics or traits in plants, animals and
microorganisms. We can alter genes and so adjust the characteristics they
code for, and we can move specific genes from one organism to another in a
very precise manner. As a result, specific characteristics can be
transferred from one individual to another with a level of control not
imaginable a few decades ago."15
These statements are nothing if not genetic determinist. More seriously,
they claim a precision for the technology that simply does not exist. For
in contrast to natural genetic engineering, which is regulated by the
organism as a whole, artificial genetic engineering is uncontrollable,
unreliable and unpredictable. The foreign genes insert at random, giving
correspondingly random genetic effects including abnormalities and cancers
in animals and toxins and allergens in food plants. And there are other
The world is experiencing a worsening public health crisis in drug and
antibiotic resistant infectious diseases. Many factors have been suggested
as contributing to the resurgence of infectious diseases within the past
25 years, most of them social and ecological; highlighting the point there
is no reductionist single cause to disease. The most publicized factor is
the overuse and abuse of antibiotics in intensive farming and medicine.
The evolution of antibiotic resistance is where the orthodox community
persists in misrepresenting the causes16. It is still treated
as a classic case of the natural selection of random mutations. In
reality, it is a paradigm case of the fluid, adaptable and delocalised
genome. The rate of mutation to resistance was grossly underestimated. The
mutations are not random, but directed, in the sense that they do not
pre-exist before the cell interacts with the drug or antibiotic, they
occur at high rates, and possibly, only the relevant genes are
hyper-mutated. Until fairly recently, the experts also did not realize how
widespread is horizontal gene transfer, which rapidly spreads antibiotic
resistance genes necessary for survival to all the bacteria, not only of
the same species but of unrelated species as well. The microbes are
involved in rampant cooperation instead of competition, sharing their most
valued assets for survival in hostile environments. Another ignored factor
is that the presence of antibiotic increases the frequency of horizontal
gene transfer 10 to 10 000 fold. The key question is: has genetic
engineering biotechnology contributed to creating the new viruses and
bacteria that cause diseases and spreading antibiotic and drug resistance
genes among the pathogens?
One main focus of genetic engineering biotechnology is to enhance
horizontal gene transfer, greatly increasing both its scope and frequency.
It effectively breaks down all species barriers, using artificial vectors
made of parts of the most aggressive viruses and genetic parasites that
spread disease and antibiotic resistance genes, in order to transfer genes
between species that would never interbreed in nature. A huge variety of
arbitrary combinations of genetic material from pathogens are created,
which have never existed before. The potential for creating new
cross-species viral and antibiotic resistant bacterial strains by the
enhancement of horizontal gene transfer and recombination was recognized
by the pioneers of genetic engineering themselves. That was why they
called for a moratorium in the 1970s.
Unfortunately, commercial pressures cut the moratorium short. We now
know that the regulatory guidelines drawn up to allow commercial
exploitation to go ahead were based largely on assumptions, everyone of
which has been proved wrong by scientific findings since. The most serious
being that naked or free DNA can persist in all environments and transfer
horizontally to unrelated species. Current evidence also indicates that
horizontal gene transfer and recombination have been responsible for
generating the new viruses and bacteria associated with infectious
diseases, and spreading drug and antibiotic resistance genes among these
The two-way connection between science and society
Genetic engineering biotechnology is not just about food production. It
is about any and every way of exploiting life and our life-support system
for profit. It is the ultimate in the dominant way of life that knows the
monetary cost of everything and the value of nothing.17
There is a two-way connection between science and society. Science is
both shaped by the politics and the mores of society and it can
reinforce them. And nowhere is it more clearly seen in the mechanistic,
instrumental worldview that pervades the scientific mainstream and the
dominant culture at large.
The mechanistic paradigm of western science is really a direct legacy of
the Judaeo-Christian tradition. The tradition inspired the search for
eternal laws, ordained by God, which could make the universe move in
predictable, mechanical ways. Through Copernicus, Galileo and Descartes,
this strand of thought culminated in Newtons mathematical laws of
mechanics. Mechanical explanations seem so compelling that every event in
nature came to be seen in a mechanical perspective.
Another strand in the legacy of the Judaeo-Christian tradition is that
human beings are supposed to be created in the image of God and to have
immortal souls, while animals and the rest of nature are to be used by
human beings. Descartes established the dualistic separation of human
beings from nature, of mind from body and matter from spirit. He
maintained that only human beings can reason, that animals are unfeeling
machines; and condoned cruel experiments on dogs and cats. Francis Bacon,
similarly, urged that it was our right to extend our power and dominion
over the universe.18
Thomas Hobbes went further. For him, nothing exists except matter and
motion, the universe including human being are to be explained
mechanically. He argued that human beings are ruled purely by their
appetites and aversions, and without a powerful king to restrain and
channel those impulses, our lives would be "poor, nasty, brutish and
short". In other words, absolute government is necessary to prevent
the war of each against all to which natural selfishness inevitably leads19.
Hobbes was writing when mercantilism reached its high point in Europe, and
brought great power to those princes and merchants who successfully
accumulated vast quantities of gold and other precious metals.
Hobbes influence has passed down to us via Charles Darwin in an
age that saw the birth of capitalism and the expansion of the free
market under the military might of the British Empire. Nature became
ultimately reduced to isolated atoms jostling and competing in the
struggle for survival of the fittest. In its present-day form,
neo-Darwinian sociobiology has changed very little from social Darwinism.
Neo-liberal economic theory is in many ways much more pernicious than Adam
Smiths laissez-faire economics, which is based on
competition tempered by moral restraint20. And so, through the
self-fulfilling prophecy, mechanistic science has created a dysfunctional
social milieu and a globalized economy which is destroying our
planet and failing to serve the physical and spiritual needs of the vast
majority of humanity21. That was why fifty thousand
people from all walks of life and of all ages took to the streets at the
World Trade Organization conference in Seattle at the end of November,
It is clear that the mechanistic paradigm has failed the reality test in
life as in science. But the discredited paradigm is still perpetrated by
mainstream academic institutions as though no alternatives exist.
Mechanistic biology has reached its logical conclusion when organisms
including human beings are to be genetically manipulated and cloned. The
first human clone has been created, by injecting the genetic
material of a human being into a cow's egg22, a scene
reminiscent of Mary Shelley's prophetic parable of Frankenstein.
Dr. Frankenstein, in a role not unlike the contemporary genetic engineer,
is a scientist obsessed with mastery over nature; so much so that he
attempts to create the perfect human being. Instead, he created a monster.
Mary Shelley's classic is as much a parable of the mechanistic science
that inspires the deed as it is of the scientist playing God.
All species are being genetically manipulated. Millions of transgenic
mice are being created to serve as dubious models of human diseases, and
an increasing number have to be sacrificed to make room for more.
Livestock are humanized to provide spare organs for
transplanting into human beings, or engineered and cloned as bioreactors
to produce pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals in their milk, blood,
urine and semen, and with tens of thousands of failures and abnormalities.23
Apart from the potential hazards of creating new viruses that cross
species barriers, the excessive suffering inflicted on the animals
violates the most basic moral code of human society. Michael Fox strongly
questions the right of human beings to interfere so profoundly with the
inherent nature or telos of other species24. Indeed,
each species has its own intrinsic value, its own purpose in the scheme of
nature, which we violate at our own peril. This is also the most abiding
ecological wisdom which western science has lost touch with, and is only
The organic revolution and the new ethic of science
Genetic determinism offers a simplistic, reductionist description which
is a travesty of the interdependence and complexity of organic reality. It
has no concept of the organism as a whole, nor of societies or ecosystems.
That is one reason why genetic engineering, at least in its current form,
can never work. It is based on misconceptions that organisms are machines,
and on a denial of the complexity and flexibility of the organic whole.
This brings us to the kind of science appropriate to society, which can
transcend the existing dominant ethos, to support the necessary transition
to sustainable ways of life, and to connect with the organic uprising that
is coming from the grassroots all over the world. Many remarkable
individuals and local communities are indeed changing their own lives and
the world around them for the better. They all do so by learning from
nature and recognizing that it is the symbiotic, mutualistic
relationships which sustain ecosystems and make all life prosper,
including the human beings who are active, sensitive participants in the
ecosystem as a whole.25
The same organic revolution has been happening in western science over
the past thirty years. Jim Lovelocks Gaia theory, for example,
invites us to see the earth as one super-organism26. Even more
remarkable is the message from quantum theory: that we may be inseparably
entangled with one another and with all nature, which we participate in
co-creating. In other words, the universe is an entangled whole consisting
of organisms that are themselves wholes. From my own work, I have shown
that the organism is so perfectly whole that it approaches quantum
coherence: a state of both maximum local freedom and global cohesion27.
The organisms activities are fully coordinated from the molecular to
the macroscopic, and that is why, with a special imaging technique
invented in my laboratory, we can see the living, moving organism as a
liquid crystalline being.
It is this holistic, organic perspective that can enable us to negotiate
our path to a sustainable future. It also provides the basis of a new
ethic of science that can reshape society and transform the very texture
and meaning of our lives. Seattle has shown us that things can be
different. Society does not have to be ruled by the dominant culture.
Science can transcend the dominant status quo to reshape society
for the public good, which is also the private good. We begin to
appreciate how the purpose of each organism and species is entangled with
that of every other. Our humanity is a function of this entangled whole,
and we cannot do arbitrary violence to one another, nor to the nature of
other species without violating our own nature.
See Ho, M.W. (1998,1999). Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare?
Turning the Tide on The Brave New World of Bad Science and Big Business,
Gateway, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin.
Steele, E.J., Lindley, R.A. and Blanden, R.V. (1998). Lamarck's
Signature: How Retrogenes are Chainging Darwin's Natural Selection
Paradigm, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.
Spadafora, C. (1998). Sperm cells and foreign DNA: a controversial
relation. BioEssays 20, 955-64.
See Ho, M.W. and Saunders, P.T. eds. (1984). Beyond neo-Darwinism:
Introduction to the New Evolutionary Paradigm, Academic Press, London;
Ho, M.W. and Fox., S.W. eds. (1986). Evolutionary Processes and
Metaphors, Wiley, London.
Shapiro, 1997 (note2).
Shapiro, J. (1997). Genome organization, natural genetic engineering
and adaptive mutation. Trends in Genetics 13, 98-104.
See GeneWatch 9, 1994, p.5.
Food for Our Future, Food and Biotechnology, Food and Drink
Federation, London, 1995, p.5.
The new biotechnologies, opportunity and challenges, a starting point
for discussion, bbsrc, 1996, p.1.
See Ho, M.W., Travvik, T., Olsvik, O., Tappeser, B., Howard, V.,
vonWeizacker, C. and McGavin, G. (1998). Gene technology and gene
ecology of infectious diseases. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease
See Ho, 1998, 1999 (note 2).
See Fox, M. (1999). Beyond Evolution, Chapter 5, The Lyons Press, New
See Korten, D.C. (1998). The Post-Corporate World, Life After
Capitalism, Kumarian Press, West Hartford and Berett-Koehler Publishers,
See Korten, 1998 (note 20).
See Mander, J. and Goldsmith, E. (1996). The Case Against the Global
Economy, And For a Turn Toward the Local, Sierra Club Books, San
"Fears that a baby could be cloned" Ian Cobain, Daily Mail,
17 June, 1999.
See Ho, M.W. (2000). Towards a new ethic of science. In Ethical
Careers Guide for Young Scientist, Scientist for Global Responsibility,
Fox, 1999 (note 19).
See Korten, 1998 (note 20); also, Hawken, P., Lovins, A. and Lovins,
L.H. (1999). Natural Capitalism,
Lovelock, J.E. (1988). The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living
Earth, Norton, New York.
Ho, M.W. (1993, 1998). The Rainbow and The Worm, The Physics of
Organisms, World Scientific, Singapore.