Taking over the steering wheel of a doomed bus

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Sat Dec 7 15:07:49 MST 2002

Hmmm... Looks like the thread that began with the SUV thing really took off
during my "unsubscription." The thing is, the Militant article typifies the
technological determinism, based in part on -- a very capitalist --
one-sided scientific reductionism that gave us nuclear power, the "Green
Revolution" and -- possibly -- the AIDS epidemic (note: I DON'T say HIV --
the "medical model" that emphasizes "magic bullets" rather than prevention
of disease has certainly helped propagate HIV/AIDS). In the case of GMOs,
Barry Commoner already gave a cogent response in his article Unraveling the
DNA Myth: The spurious foundation of genetic engineering, published in
Harper's Magazine Feb02
R.C. Lewontin also discussed some of these issues in his Biology as
Ideology. In brief, Commoner seeks to debunk the "central dogma," the idea
that an organism's genome---its total complement of DNA genes---should
fully account for its characteristic assemblage of inherited traits." He
points out that genetic causality -- leaving aside extrinsic environmental
factors that also influence an organism's phenotype -- is far more complex
than the "one-gene, one-protein" concept incorporated in the central dogma.
Consequently, there are unforeseen consequences -- lethal by-products, for
example -- of genetic engineering, based on this form of biological
determinism. The Militant buys into the bourgeois myth of an objective
science divorced from its social matrix, something that, ironically, the
scientific philosopher Karl Popper (as noted on this list, a rabid
anti-communist) explicitly recognized. The scientific conceptualization
underlying the development of stuff like the Green Revolution or GMOs (or
SUVs? :-]) would probably be inconceiveable in a socialist society.

(yeah, Lou: I passed!)

At 12:57 PM 12/7/2002 -0500, you wrote:
>Date: Sat, 07 Dec 2002 09:38:03 -0500
>From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
>Subject: Taking over the steering wheel of a doomed bus
>(Here is an example of the kind of thinking that exemplifies Lou Paulsen's
>excellent analogy with taking over a bus that is heading off a cliff. It is
>a kind of techno-optimism that is shockingly innocent of the facts first of
>all, but more importantly an understanding of the general crisis of
>farming. GMO's are *not* the answer to anything more than chemical
>fertilizers, irrigation, pesticides, etc. are today. They simply exacerbate
>the problem of the 'metabolic' rife and make its resolution under communism
>all the more difficult.)
>The Militant
>Vol.65/No.33            August 27, 2001
>Communism and Labor's Transformation of Nature
>Working people need to distinguish science from its uses by capital
>Monopolists use technological advances, including Genetically Modified
>Organisms, to squeeze more profits from farmers
>The latest focus of middle-class hysteria in face of the progress of
>science and technology is the campaign against foods that have been
>cultivated from seeds that have undergone a transplant of a strand of
>genetic material, DNA, from a different plant species--so-called transgenic
>organisms, or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

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