- POPULAR CULTURE
- MENTAL HEALTH
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
- APPLIED SCIENCES
- PRINT & MEDIA
THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE MODERN BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
The disciplines and sub-disciplines, categories and sub-categories of the biological sciences have multiplied and burgeoned, taking the form of some great efflorescence of knowledge in the last two centuries (1800-2000). Any comprehensive history of the biological sciences traces the study of the living world from ancient to modern times. Although the concept of biology as a single coherent field arose only recently, in the 19th century, the biological sciences emerged from traditions of medicine and natural history reaching back to ayurveda, ancient Egyptian medicine, and the works of Aristotle and Galen in the ancient Greco-Roman world.
As the 19th century developed, the scope of biology was largely divided between medicine and natural history. Medicine investigated questions of form and function, that is physiology, and natural history was concerned with the diversity of life and interactions among different forms of life and between life and non-life. By the beginning of the 20th century, much of these two domains overlapped, while natural history, and its counterpart natural philosophy, had largely given way to more specialized scientific disciplines like: cytology, bacteriology, morphology, embryology, geography, and geology.
Philosopher and historian Alexandre Koyré coined the term scientific revolution in 1939 right at the start of the first systematic Baha'i teaching Plan(1937-1944) to describe the foundation of the modern efflorescence of the biological sciences. I mention this teaching Plan because I have now been involved with it in a host of ways for 60 years: 1953 to 2013. The year 1953 was a big year in biology, the year of the discovery of DNA; it was also the first year I did any studying of the content of the biological sciences that I can remember. I was in grade 4 in a primary school in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe.My teacher was a Mrs Jones.
The era associated primarily with the 16th and 17th (1500-1700) centuries laid the foundations for modern science, the burgeoning and what became the increasing specialization of the biological sciences. During those earlier centuries, those 300 years from 1500 to 1800, new ideas and knowledge in: physics, astronomy, biology, medicine and chemistry--transformed medieval and ancient views of nature and what became the biological sciences. According to most accounts, the scientific revolution began in Europe towards the end(1500-1600) of the Renaissance era(1300-1600). This revolution continued through the late 18th century(1775-1800), the later period known as The Enlightenment(1650-1800). It was sparked by the publication in 1543 of two works by Nicolaus Copernicus that changed the course of science.
MY WRITING ON THE BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
The poetry and prose that I write involving the biological sciences relate to the burgeoning fields, the immense efflorescence of the biological sciences since the 1840s, and especially since the 1859 publication of Darwin's theory. Darwin's theory was published in his: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. This book is often considered the central event in the history of modern biology. Darwin's established credibility as a naturalist, the sober tone of the work, and most of all the sheer strength and volume of evidence presented, allowed Origin to succeed where previous evolutionary works, such as the anonymous Vestiges of Creation, had failed. Most scientists were convinced of evolution and common descent by the end of the 19th century. However, natural selection would not be accepted as the primary mechanism of evolution until well into the 20th century, as most contemporary theories of heredity seemed incompatible with the inheritance of random variation. For more on the modern history and evolution of the biological sciences go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_biology#19th_century:_the_emergence_of_biological_disciplines
I draw on the many disciplines and sub-disciplines, these many fields of knowledge, directly and indirectly, literally & metaphorically in my writing. Some readers may find the connections I draw to the biological sciences not that evident, and when evident a little obscure. Sometimes the writing in which I draw on these sciences assumes knowledge on the part of the reader which the reader does not actually possess. Readers who want to understand some particular terms I use often need to do a little Googling to truly appreciate the particular piece of my writing. Of course, I leave that to readers who now have to deal with the immense print and image-glut of our 21st century. The serious study of my writing has only begun; it may never really take-off and create what you might call The Price Industry. Although I now have several million readers. Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy.
Modern biology is a vast and eclectic field, composed of many branches and subdisciplines. However, despite the broad scope of biology, there are certain general and unifying concepts within it that govern all study and research, consolidating it into single, coherent fields. In general, biology recognizes the cell as the basic unit of life, genes as the basic unit of heredity, and evolution as the engine that propels the synthesis and creation of new species. It is also understood today that all organisms survive by consuming and transforming energyand by regulating their internal environment to maintain a stable and vital condition.
Subdisciplines of biology are defined by the scale at which organisms are studied, the kinds of organisms studied, and the methods used to study them: biochemistry examines the rudimentary chemistry of life; molecular biology studies the complex interactions among biological molecules; botany studies the biology of plants; cellular biology examines the basic building-block of all life, the cell; physiology examines the physical and chemical functions of tissues, organs, and organ systems of an organism; evolutionary biology examines the processes that produced the diversity of life; and ecology examines how organisms interact in their environment. millions of words in cyberspace, the literary world is now awash with writers and authors, poets and publishers. I will not hold my breath waiting.
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Modern biology is a vast and eclectic field, composed of many branches and subdisciplines. However, despite the broad scope of biology, there are certain general and unifying concepts within it that govern all study and research, consolidating it into single, coherent fields. In general, biology recognizes the cell as the basic unit of life, genes as the basic unit of heredity, and evolution as the engine that propels the synthesis and creation of new species. It is also understood today that all organisms survive by consuming and transforming energyand by regulating their internal environment to maintain a stable and vital condition.
Subdisciplines of biology are defined by the scale at which organisms are studied, the kinds of organisms studied, and the methods used to study them: biochemistry examines the rudimentary chemistry of life; molecular biology studies the complex interactions among biological molecules; botany studies the biology of plants; cellular biology examines the basic building-block of all life, the cell; physiology examines the physical and chemical functions of tissues, organs, and organ systems of an organism; evolutionary biology examines the processes that produced the diversity of life; and ecology examines how organisms interact in their environment.
LIST OF THE BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES and THE BRANCHES OF BIOLOGY
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the fields and branches of biology. Biology is the study of living organisms. It is concerned with the characteristics, classification, and behaviors of organisms, how species come into existence, and the interactions they have with each other and with the environment. Biology encompasses a broad spectrum of academic fields that are often viewed as independent disciplines. However, together they address phenomena related to living organisms, to biological phenomena, over a wide range of scales, from biophysics to ecology. All concepts in biology are subject to the same laws that other branches of science obey, such as the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy. Go to this link for both the following fields and the many branches of biology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outline_of_biology
Institute of Life Sciences
Institute of Life Sciences is an autonomous institute of higher education for research and education in life sciences in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. It was established by the Government of Odisha in 1989. Its administrative control was taken over by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India in August 2002 and declared a National Centre for excellence in 2003. It has three faculties — Infectious Disease Biology; Gene Function and Regulation; and Translation Research and Technology Development for higher research. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Life_Sciences
HERE ARE TWO SUCH JOURNALS
Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology Research is the name of an online journal in the field of biology. The journal provides an opportunity for those with a research interest in this field to highlight their research focus. This journal also provides an opportunity to create an online dialogue on a focused research area with manuscripts encompassing recent advancements, the latest methods, opinions, and more. For more go to:http://www.frontiersin.org/Bioengineering_and_Biotechnology/researchtopics
The Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology is an international journal which publishes papers describing original research, short communications, and critical reviews in the fields of biotechnology, fermentation and cell culture, biocatalysis, environmental microbiology, natural products discovery and biosynthesis, marine natural products, metabolic engineering, genomics, bioinformatics, as well as other areas of applied microbiology. For more go to: http://link.springer.com/journal/10295
Frontiers, the journal in the first paragraph of Part 1 above, is a community-oriented, open-access, academic publisher and research network. The grand vision of the organizers of this journal is to build an Open Science platform that empowers researchers in their daily work and where everybody has equal opportunity to seek, share and generate knowledge. Frontiers is at the forefront of building the ultimate Open Science platform. The site provides a driving force for innovations and new technologies around peer-review, article and author impact metrics, social networking for researchers, and a whole ecosystem of open science tools. This journal is the first – and only – platform that combines open-access publishing with research networking, with the goal to increase the reach of publications and ultimately the impact of articles and their authors. Go to this link for more information about this journal: http://www.frontiersin.org/Bioengineering_and_Biotechnology
Frontiers was launched as a grassroots initiative in 2007 by scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, out of the collective desire to improve the publishing options and provide better tools and services to researchers in the Internet age. Since then, Frontiers has become the fastest-growing open-access scholarly publisher, with a rapidly growing number of community-driven journals, more than 25,000 of high-impact researchers across a wide range of academic fields serving on the editorial boards and more than 4 million monthly page views. Here are some of the topics for non-experts like myself and most of those who come to this part of my website:
Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Bionics and Biomimetics
Computational Physiology and Medicine
ELSI in Science and Genetics
Microbiotechnology, Ecotoxicology and Bioremediation
Process and Industrial Biotechnology
Stem Cell Research
Stem Cell Treatments
FIELDS AND BRANCHES OF BIOLOGY
The division of fields and branches of biology follow in an alphabetical list:
A * Aerobiology — the study of airborne organic particles
* Agriculture — the study of producing crops from the land, with an emphasis on practical applications
* Anatomy — the study of form and function, in plants, animals, and other organisms, or specifically in human
* Astrobiology- the study of evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe—also known as exobiology, exopaleontology, and bioastronomy
B * Biochemistry — the study of the chemical reactions required for life to exist and function, usually a focus on the cellular level
* Bioengineering — the study of biology through the means of engineering with an emphasis on applied knowledge and especially related to biotechnology
* Bioinformatics — the use of information technology for the study, collection, and storage of genomic and other biological data *Biomathematics or Mathematical Biology — the quantitative or mathematical study of biological processes, with an emphasis on modeling
* Biomechanics — often considered a branch of medicine, the study of the mechanics of living beings, with an emphasis on applied use through prosthetics or orthotics
* Biomedical research — the study of the human body in health and disease
* Biophysics — the study of biological processes through physics, by applying the theories and methods traditionally used in the physical sciences
* Biotechnology — a new and sometimes controversial branch of biology that studies the manipulation of living matter, including genetic modification and synthetic biology
* Building biology — the study of the indoor living environment
* Botany — the study of plants
* Conservation Biology — the study of the preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation, and wildlife
* Cryobiology — the study of the effects of lower than normally preferred temperatures on living beings.
D/E * Developmental biology — the study of the processes through which an organism forms, from zygote to full structure
* Ecology — the study of the interactions of living organisms with one another and with the non-living elements of their environment
* Embryology — the study of the development of embryo (from fecundation to birth). See also topobiology.
* Entomology — the study of insects
* Environmental Biology — the study of the natural world, as a whole or in a particular area, especially as affected by human activity
* Epidemiology — a major component of public health research, studying factors affecting the health of populations
* Ethology — the study of animal behavior * Evolutionary Biology — the study of the origin and descent of species over time
F/G/H/I * Genetics — the study of genes and heredity
* Herpetology — the study of reptiles and amphibians
* Histology — the study of cells and tissues, a microscopic branch of anatomy
* Ichthyology — the study of fish
* Integrative biology — the study of whole organisms
J/K/L/M * Limnology — the study of inland waters
* Mammalogy — the study of mammals
* Marine Biology — the study of ocean ecosystems, plants, animals, and other living beings
* Microbiology — the study of microscopic organisms (microorganisms) and their interactions with other living things
* Molecular Biology — the study of biology and biological functions at the molecular level, some cross over with biochemistry
* Mycology — the study of fungi
N/O * Neurobiology — the study of the nervous system, including anatomy, physiology and pathology
* Oceanography — the study of the ocean, including ocean life, environment, geography, weather, and other aspects influencing the ocean
* Oncology — the study of cancer processes, including virus or mutation oncogenesis, angiogenesis and tissues remoldings
* Ornithology — the study of birds
P * Population biology — the study of groups of conspecific organisms, including
*Population ecology — the study of how population dynamics and extinction
* Population genetics — the study of changes in gene frequencies in populations of organisms
* Paleontology — the study of fossils and sometimes geographic evidence of prehistoric life
* Pathobiology or pathology — the study of diseases, and the causes, processes, nature, and development of disease
* Parasitology — the study of parasites and parasitism
* Pharmacology — the study and practical application of preparation, use, and effects of drugs and synthetic medicines
* Physiology — the study of the functioning of living organisms and the organs and parts of living organisms
* Phytopathology — the study of plant diseases (also called Plant Pathology)
* Psychobiology — the study of the biological bases of psychology
Q/R/S * Sociobiology — the study of the biological bases of sociology
* Structural biology — a branch of molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysics concerned with the molecular structure of biological macromolecules
T/U/V * Virology — the study of viruses and some other virus-like agents
W/X/Y/Z * Zoology — the study of animals, including classification, physiology, development, and behavior
(See also Entomology, Ethology, Herpetology, Ichthyology, Mammalogy, and Ornithology)
BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES: JOURNALS
An incomplete list of journals in the biological sciences is found at the following link. This list may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by expanding it with reliably sourced entries, if this field is one of your great interests. These dozens of journals fall into 8 categories, as follows: 1 General, 2 Agriculture, 3 Anatomy, 4 Biochemistry, 5 Bioinformatics, 6 Biophysics, 7 Neuroscience, and 8 Virology. Go to this link for a list of all these journals, and access to them individually: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_biology_journals
ENTROPY: A VIDEO
The poetry and prose that I write involving the biological sciences also relates to the following life sciences, fields of science that involve the scientific study of living organisms: plants, animals, and human beings. However, the study of the behaviour of organisms, such as practised in ethology and psychology, is only included in-as-much as it involves a clearly biological aspect. While biology and medicine remain centerpieces of the life sciences, technological advances in molecular biology and biotechnology have led to a burgeoning of specializations and new, inevitably, interdisciplinary, fields. The following is an incomplete list of life-science fields, as well as topics of study in the life-sciences, in which several entries coincide with, are included in, or overlap with other entries:
LIST OF THE LIFE SCIENCES
B.* Bio-engineering * Biomedical science * Biochemistry * Biocomputing * Biocontrol * Biodynamics * Bioinformatics * Biology * Biomaterials * Biomechanics * Biomedical sciences * Biomolecular engineering * Biomonitoring * Biophysics * Biopolymers * Biotechnology * Botany
C.* Cognitive neuroscience * Computational neuroscience *Cell Biology
D.* Developmental biology
E.* Ecology* * Environmental science * Evolutionary biology * Evolutionary genetics
F. * Food science
G.* Genetics * Genomics
H.* Health sciences
I/J/K/L * Immunogenetics * Immunology * Immunotherapy
M/N/O* Medical devices * Medical imaging * Medicine * Microbiology * Molecular biology
* Nanotechnology * Neuroinformatics * Neuroscience
* Oncology * Optometry
P/Q/R/S/T * Personalized medicine * Pharmacogenomics * Pharmacology * Physiology * Plant sciences * Proteomics
* Structural biology * Systems biology
* Tissue engineering
EDUCATION AND RESEARCH IN THE BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
Intute: Biological sciences is a website which provides free access to high quality resources on the Internet. Each resource has been evaluated and categorised by subject specialists based at UK universities. No new resources are being added to the catalogue, but existing resources were checked and broken links were fixed until two years ago, until July 2011. Following Intute's closure in July 2011, the website will remain available until July 2014. However the site will not be maintained or updated, and no additional resources will be added. Go to this link until July 2014 for some excellent resources: http://www.intute.ac.uk/biologicalsciences/
BIO-GENETICS and GENETIC ENGINEERING
Genetic engineering is the manipulation of genetic material to produce specific results in an organism. More specifically, genetic engineering is the process of producing recombinant DNA for the purposes of altering and controlling the genotype and phenotype of organisms. Restriction enzymes are used to break a DNA molecule into fragments so that genes from another organism can be inserted into the DNA. Genetic engineering has been used to produce a variety of human proteins, including growth hormone, insulin, and interferon, in bacteria. At present, it represents a powerful tool for medical research but is possible only in microorganisms. In the future, genetic engineering may be applicable to more complex organisms, offering the possibility of controlling and eliminating genetic disorders and malformations in humans. For a short list of relevant terms go to: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Biogenetics
Do we today have an available bioethics? Yes, we do, a bad one: what the Germans call Bindestrich-Ethik, or ‘hyphen-ethics’, where what gets lost in the hyphenation is ethics as such. The problem is not that a universal ethics is being dissolved into a multitude of specialised ones like: bioethics, business ethics, medical ethics and so on, but that particular scientific breakthroughs are immediately set against humanist ‘values’, leading to complaints that biogenetics, for example, threatens our sense of dignity and autonomy.
The main consequence of the current breakthroughs in biogenetics is that natural organisms have become objects open to manipulation. Nature, human and inhuman, is ‘desubstantialised’, deprived of its impenetrable density, of what Heidegger called ‘earth’. If biogenetics is able to reduce the human psyche to an object of manipulation, it is evidence of what Heidegger perceived as the ‘danger’ inherent in modern technology. By reducing a human being to a natural object whose properties can be altered, what we lose is not only humanity but nature itself. In this sense, Francis Fukuyama is right in Our Posthuman Future: the notion of humanity relies on the belief that we possess an inherited ‘human nature’, that we are born with an unfathomable dimension of ourselves. For more on this topic go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v25/n10/slavoj-zizek/bring-me-my-philips-mental-jacket
Professor Alice Roberts(1973- ) journeyed 40,000 years back in time on the trail of the great beasts of the Ice Age. Roberts is an English anatomist, osteoarchaeologist, anthropologist, paleopathologist, television presenter, and author. She is professor of public engagement in science at the University of Birmingham. I leave it to readers with the interest to google her story.
Drawing on the latest scientific detective work & a dash of graphic wizardry, Alice brings the Ice Age Giants back to life. "Land of the Sabre-Tooth" was the title of the first episode which I watched on ABC1 TV at 7:30 to 8:30 on 23/3/'14. North America, a continent that was half covered by ice that was up to two miles thick, was the frozen homeland which also boasted the most impressive cast of Ice Age giants in the world. Across locations such as the Grand Canyon, the sands of Arizona and the coast of California, Alice traces the movements of Ice Age beasts like: bear-sized sloths, vast mammoths and the strange beast known as the glyptodon. These leviathans all have one thing in common: they were stalked by the meanest big cat that ever prowled the Earth, armed with seven-inch teeth and hunting in packs: the Smilodon fatalis, the sabre-toothed cat. Readers with the interest can google all of these ice-age giants individually, and/or at this link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p018c9fm
MORE ON THESE ICE-AGE GIANTS
In the Land of the Cave Bear, Alice ventures to the parts of the northern hemisphere, hit hardest by the cold - Europe and Siberia. High in the mountains of Transylvania, a cave sealed for thousands of years reveals grisly evidence for a fight to the death between two staving giants, a cave bear and a cave lion. Yet Alice discovers that for woolly rhinos and woolly mammoths, the Ice Age created a bounty. The Mammoth Steppe, a vast tract of land which went half way round the world, provided food all year round, for those that liked the cold. It was these mammoths that Europe's most dangerous predators hunted for their survival. In the final episode "Last of the Giants" Professor Roberts sets off on her last voyage back to the Ice Age to discover why, even after thousands of years of ice crushing the northern hemisphere and temperatures of 20 degrees lower than those of today, many of the great giants of the ice age still walked the earth. It was only when the world had warmed up again that mammoths, woolly rhinos, sabre-toothed cats, giant ground sloths and glyptodonts finally became extinct.
HOW I COME NOW TO WRITE: A POEM OR WHATEVER
I remember the then unofficial poet laureate of the Baha'i community back in the 1980s, Roger White(1919-1993), saying that the origins of a poem were often like poor connections you often get on a telephone line. I corresponded with Roger for a decade before he died in 1993. He was, perhaps, the critical precursor in my development as a poet. White had an immense vocabulary and a wonderful sense of humour, as well as a humility that I would like to possess.
For me writing is a little like that poor connection on a telephone line--at least some of the time. Writing begins in a feeling or a thought or both. The thought will often be in a book, on the internet, in one of the multitude of mediums in the print and electronic media, sometimes in a quotation from the thousands I have collected in the last 50 years(1964-2013), sometimes an experience or a memory. This thought will be enough to move my emotions. I need to feel moved, provoked, stirred and, then, a simple or not-so-simple flowing of ideas occurs. The words I then write are like experiences; indeed, they are experiences. Sometimes it takes two or three hours before a poem is completed. Often, though, the poem is finished in an hour: a little less or a little more.
I’m not sure why I write. Perhaps it is that I don’t like doing many other things like: gardening and shopping, household and domestic duties, going out socially and watching many hours of TV, sport and vigorous exercise, inter alia. We all have to fill in our time somehow. This is the one way I have of filling in my time in the evening of my life that gives me the most pleasure and meaning. As much as two hours in the morning, two to four in the afternoon and one to two at the most in the evening: six to eight hours in total with an average of seven a day. This gives me, as I head to the age of 70 in the next 13 months(on 23/7/'14), a 50 hour working week.
Until I retired from FT, PT and most volunteer-work work in the years 1999 to 2005 this way of spending my time did not exist. I worked 60+ hours a week, attended a multitude of meetings, and had what might be called a high social profile. The responsibilities that made up my life as: a father and a husband, a teacher and lecturer, a secretary of and a participant in a Baha'i community, a participant in other volunteer groups like the Red Cross, the Lions Club or some fitness centre, a friend and a man, a human being in the late twentieth century prevented me from ever really getting my life oriented around writing.
EXPERIMENTS IN BIOTECHNOLOGY
Media, Mars and Metamorphosis is the title of a remarkable open access e-book by Jeremy Hoyle. Hoyle is a former student, and at times zealous disciple, of Francis Fukuyama. His work echoes and extends the concerns Fukuyama expressed in Our Posthuman Future for the status of human nature in the era of biotechnology and for the rights of the individual in a threatened liberal democracy. Like Fukuyama, Hoyle considers himself to be a social philosopher, and he too is something of a populist. He has sought out three of the most recent and controversial experiments in biotechnology in order to dramatise his concerns, and each promises (or threatens) to change the meaning of human life.
Hoyle has chosen open access publishing because, as Gary Hall points out in Digitize This Book!, it has the potential to reach a very wide audience while garnering feedback and creating a market for a subsequent paper publication: ‘the main priority of most academics is to have their research read by as many people as possible, in the hope, not only of receiving greater levels of feedback and recognition for their work, and thus an enhanced reputation, but also of having the biggest possible impact on future research, and perhaps even society’ (Hall, 2008: 46).
The impact of Hoyle’s first draft, however, was not quite what he had hoped for, and, indeed, expected. Of the three people he interviewed in connection with the experiments, two are currently suing him for defamation of character, and the third is still consulting her lawyer. On the advice of his lawyer, Hoyle has temporarily withdrawn the manuscript and its associated links – including a podcast, blog and short film on YouTube – from the web. Although he has sought to remove all evidence of his book, and although it was only posted for a brief period, I was able to read it, and can therefore offer the summary that follows.
Hoyle’s chosen experiments incorporate bacteriology, immunology and what, in the service of rhyme rather than reason, we might, after Regis Debray, call mediology (for him, a materialist answer to semiology, for me, merely a means of recognising the existence of a dynamic media ecology). The experiments occupy different spatial realms that, against the injunction of Karen Barad,4 Hoyle considers to be analogous: cosmic space, the interior space of the computer or another computational object, and bodily space at the boundary between self and other. They can be summarized as follows at this link:http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/383/391
A GRAIN OF TRUTH and THE GM CONTROVERSY
A Grain of Truth: the Media, the Public and Biotechnology by Susanna Hornig Priest(Rowman and Littlefield, 160 pages, 2001); Travels in the Genetically Modified Zone by Mark Winston(Harvard, 300 pages, 2002); and Seeds of Contention: World Hunger and the Global Controversy over GM Crops by Per Pinstrup-Andersen(Johns Hopkins, 200 pages, 2001) were reviewed in the London Review of Books in July 2002. The scientific controversies of our time don’t have much to do with maths or formulae. In their fine detail, the issues of cloning, stem-cell research, gene therapy, genetic testing and, the subject of these three books, genetically modified crops, are difficult. In their essentials, they’re not. They’re far more accessible to a non-specialist than quantum computing, cosmology or particle physics. Not just to a non-specialist, but to people who left school without having passed any science exams.
There is a reluctance on the part of the public, and, in some cases, of the media, to grasp the basic biology in this whole GM controversy. Some see pro-GM scientists & their backers in agrochemical conglomerates as the cause of opposition to GM foods. The scientists are frustrated. What began as ‘Why won’t they trust us when we know best?’ may have shifted to ‘If only they understood, they would trust us,’ but the underlying resentment is the same: irrational, unnecessary ignorance, encouraged by nefarious, myth-spreading activists, is to blame for the anti-GM movement.
For a simple overview of GM foods, foods which are produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food These techniques have allowed for the introduction of new traits as well as a far greater control over a food's genetic structure than previously afforded by methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding. For an overview of GM crops or biotech crops, that is, plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_crops In most cases the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species.
It’s true that most people could understand the science of GM crops with less effort than they imagine. But there is no great inclination to make that effort. Popular opposition to GM crops has little to do with whether people understand the science or not. It has a lot to do with hostility to unaccountable corporations having control over farming. This is, in some ways, an accurate hunch that scientists do not entirely know what they are doing, and an attachment to an idea of ‘nature’ that is emotional, sentimental and irrational, and therefore cannot be proved wrong or right by scientific means. Perhaps because of their increasing dependence on private capital, too many scientists seem to have become confused about the difference between science and the practical application of science. They need to remember that a public judgment about the application of science, based on non-scientific criteria, is valid. For more on this quite complex question go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n13/james-meek/everyone-has-a-voice
THE HUMAN GENOME AND THE ARC PROJECTS
The completion of the Human Genome Project http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Genome_Project coincided with the completion of the Arc Project by the international Baha'i community at the Baha'i World Centre in Haifa Israel. A working draft of the genome was announced in 2000 and a complete one in 2003, with further, more detailed analysis still being published. The Arc Project is, like the Human Genome Project, an ongoing task: http://bahai-library.com/poetry_arc_project_history The Arc Project has certainly changed the way the world now sees the Baha'i Faith, at least a segment of the world. The Human Genome Project, the mapping of human genes, is an important step in the development of medicines and other aspects of health care. While the objective of the Human Genome Project is to understand the genetic makeup of the human species, the project has also focused on several other nonhuman organisms such as E. coli, the fruit fly, and the laboratory mouse. It remains one of the largest single investigative projects in modern science.
Just as small differences between our genome and those of other animals and plants reveal what make us uniquely human and profoundly different from animals and plants, so do small differences between the Baha'i Faith and other Faiths make this new world religion which grew out of Persian soil in the 19th century, the unique and profoundly different phenomenon that it is. Both Projects have resulted in great gifts, powerful tools, for humanity's use. Both Projects will help human beings find their place in the complex systems that make up the great adventure of life in this universe. Both Projects were launched by inspired visions, visions that were based on the pursuit of large-scale fundamental problems in the life-sciences or in the human and social sciences, of which religion is but one of their many related sub-disciplines. Both Projects were and are in the interest of humanity whether any specific individual takes an interest in these Projects or not. Those portions of humanity who take an interest in these Projects can see some fascinating co-relations, synchronicities.
Both Projects are not endings but beginnings. They are the beginnings of a new approach to biology on the one hand and global cooperation, peace and a new future on the other. Both Projects are identified with extraordinary new power and with the treatment of disease, one physical disease and the other spiritual. Both are associated with a true internationalism which has developed significantly during my lifetime: 1944 to the present. For a timeline on this internationalism, this globalization, go to:http://www.org/Globalization-Timeline.pdf -Ron Price with thanks to Barbara R. Jasny and Donald Kennedy, "The Human Genome," Science, Vol. 291, No. 5507, 16 February 2001, p.1153.
We get another perspective
on all the life on earth & on
religion in which we played
a part over all these years.
from 1965 to....whenever...
Small differences can make
all the difference...a written
Revelation, clear statement
of succession.......My God,
these two factors alone can
make for a unique and pure
beginning & the unity of life,
of religion...it is so obvious,
so clear, & so true.....I see it
on that Hill of God....still the
cynosure of such a very few.
24 February 2001 to 29 August 2011
A NEW POETIC INFLUENCE
The Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, which the West comes closest to in the writings of Henry David Thoreau(1817-1862), places the accent on artistic expression. In its aesthetic philosophy the accent is on the rustic, the raw, the rough, on the imperfect, the impermanent, the incomplete, on nothingness, emptiness, detachment. Since much of my poetry contains accents similar to the tone and texture, meaning and feeling, conveyed by these words; since I have long felt a certain identity with the writings of Henry David Thoreau--that pioneer of yesteryear who also wrote extensively about his everyday experience in the bush, in the rustic places where he lived by himself; and since the Writings of the Baha'i Faith, and of Baha'u'llah in particular, also dwell on that same mystical quality of nothingness and emptiness, of detachment and the wilderness of remoteness: this particular Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi has a peculiar relevance to my own writings. -Ron Price with thanks to "The Comfort Zone," ABC Radio National, 3 March 2001, 9:00-10:00 am. For an overview of Wabi-Sabi go to:
Only recently has it been confirmed
that this galaxy has a billion planets,(1)
only just the other day while the Arc
Project was being completed, filling
my world with a white marble light,
with fragrances of mercy wafted as
they are over all created things, and
over those many myriads of planets.
And here, in these words, I shed
a unique light on the lives of men
and women over the four epochs,
these protean beings who strike a
100 thousand postures in their lives
and change their spots swifter than
the twinkling of an eye or even the
singleness of a breath or heartbeat.(2)
(1) Interview with an astronomer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science(AAAS) on "The Science Show," ABC Radio National, 12:10-1:00 pm, 3 March 2001. The real number of planets is astronomically huge. There are about 400 billion stars in our galaxy. If each of them have the same number of planets on average as our own sun, then that's about 4 trillion planets in our own galaxy. Multiply that by an estimated 125 billion galaxies in the universe ... that's a lot of planets. For more details go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planet.
(2) Robert Louis Stevenson(1850-1894), the Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer, wrote the "Modern History Sourcebook: Samuel Pepys," 1886. In this book Stevenson discusses the chameleon nature of human beings drawing on the great diarist Samuel Pepys(1633-1703).
YOU MUST COME CLOSE
The poem below was the last one I wrote in the few days I was in England before going on my pilgrimage to Haifa. I wrote it while sitting in Hyde Park on an overcast afternoon in early June at the beginning of summer in the UK. A certain and undefinable poetic mood settled as a result of my thinking about my maternal grandfather who would possibly have passed though this park a century before in 1900 before going to Canada, coincidentally, exactly 100 years before. A century later, in these several days in London in which I did visit one of the places of spiritual pilgrimage if not my biological roots, I got as close as I probably ever would in my life to some of the places of my origins on my mother's side, my maternal grandfather’s side of the family, and his earliest days in Chatham, Croydon and London back in the 1870s. My poetic mood concluded, finished its enveloping function, as a result of my contemplating another park, another garden, in Haifa. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, 3 June 2000.
This great green garden,
in the midst of an ocean
of concrete, bitumen, brick,
glass, plastic and aluminium:
creations of this burgeoning
century--fill all of my senses
as I sit in this historic park.
And these Hanging Gardens,(1)
chambers for a process, another
creation, mass conversion, major
creation of this new century on...
the horizon, cannot be envisaged
as I sit in this famous place where
the world gathers for its leisure &
where ducks and pigeons gather
for theirs—decade after decade.
Our world will be transformed in
the next hundred years......Even
these new Hanging Gardens, like
this park, will wear a new garment
when this new century is rolled up.
In the meantime, thank you for your
space in this hectic city of such very
narrow streets, endless cars & buses.
The small rose garden here with subtle
fragrance, its rich beauty & sweetness
can be felt...but you must come close.....
in this great green garden: yes you must
come close, or you won’t even see it......
Like so many things in life, you must.....
come as close as you possible can, right
into it....if you possibly can, yessireebob!
Reminds me, reminds me, of that Hanging
Garden with its grace that is so contained
as to pose no threat, no threat at all.....(2)
(1) where I will be in a few days and which I have been contemplating with some seriousness for several years.
(2) Roger White, “The Artefact”, The Witness of Pebbles, 1981, p.97.
3 June 2000 to 29 August 2011.
VISION CREATES REALITY
A week before my kindergarten class broke for its Christmas holiday in Burlington Ontario in 1948, T.S. Eliot gave a banquet speech. Of course I had no idea as I got ready to make snow forts, to roll-up snow balls and to play my little red harp more than usual. Eliot’s banquet speech was given for the Nobel Prize he received that year in literature. “Poetry is usually considered the most local of all the arts,” he opened his speech. “Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, can be enjoyed by all who see or hear. But language, especially the language of poetry, is a different matter. Poetry, it might seem, separates peoples instead of uniting them.”
“But on the other hand,” he went on, “we must remember, that while language constitutes a barrier, poetry itself gives us a reason for trying to overcome the barrier…..In the work of every poet there will certainly be much that can only appeal to those who inhabit the same region, or speak the same language, as the poet. But, nevertheless, there is a meaning to the phrase ‘the poetry of Europe.’ Even the word ‘poetry’ has a meaning the world over. I think that in the world of poetry people of different countries and different languages acquire an understanding of each other which, however partial, is still essential. This is apparent only to a small minority in any one country.
I take the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature, when it is given to a poet, to be primarily an assertion of the supra-national value of poetry. To make that affirmation, it is necessary from time to time to designate a poet: and I stand before you, not on my own merits, but as a symbol, for a time, of the significance of poetry.” -Ron Price with thanks to T.S. Eliot, “Banquet Speech,” Nobel Prize for Literature, 1948.
There is something local here
in these words that I pour upon
the page and something global,
something of thoughts which I
have been associated with, on
the edge of, since 1953. There's
something familial, ideological,
national, sociological, historical,
psychological, poetic, as well as
anthropological, literary, personal,
autobiographical, biological, and
biographical, some voice that has
haunted me and with which words
must be harmonised, some mirror
of the future’s gigantic shadows
cast upon the present, some mirror
of the only true law, the law of what
is to be: for I must emphasize here (1)
that vision creates our true reality.....
(1) Frederick Nietzsche in Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, Oxford UP, 1973, p.55.
11/2/ '07 to 28/6/'13.
The Story Of Science: What Is The Secret Of Life
In a television doco I watched on 10/5/'11 Michael Mosley(1978- ) embarked on an informative and ambitious journey exploring how the evolution of scientific understanding was and is intimately interwoven with society's historical path. The Story Of Science: power, proof and passion tells the story of the forces that came together to create scientific knowledge, the practical business of making instruments and machines, and the great forces of history. Mosley weaves in the revolutions, the voyages of discovery and the artistic movements showing along the way the dogged determination of scientists and experimenters.(1) It was an immense pleasure to watch this programme, although I must confess to falling asleep by the end due to my medications and many hours during the day of writing, editing and attending to my domestic and social responsibilities.-Ron Price with thanks to ABC1 8:30-9:30 p.m. 10 May 2011(BBC 2010).
Michael Moseley tells the story
of how the secret of life has been
unravelled through the prism of
that most complex organism known:
the human body. The story begins...
with attempts to save the lives of the
gladiators in Rome, unfolds with the
macabre work and those near-perfect
drawings of Leonardo da Vinci during
the Renaissance, continues through
the idea of the 'life force' of electricity,
and on to microscopic worlds of cells.
It reveals how a moral crisis unleashed
by work on nuclear bombs helped to...
trigger that great breakthrough in biology:
the understanding of the structure and the
workings of life's master molecule: DNA—
it was a most incredible journey Michael
for which I thank your journalist, producer
and presenter skills and your knowledge of:
philosophy, politics, economics, psychiatry.
11/5/'11 to 28/6/'13.
SOME BIRD FLYING HOME
Philosopher and writer J.J. Rousseau(1712-1778) wrote that "Our errors in judgements produce the ardour of all our desires."(Emile, Chapter IV). The correctness of our judgements produce the ardour of some of our desires.(Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs)
Poets like Roger White(1919-1993) were exploring unusual and interesting ways in which a poem could say things in the half century from the 1940s to the 1990s. They wanted to delight and surprise their readers. Most poets still wrote traditionally; most did not surprise or delight, although obviously that was not true of all poets. People were getting surprised and delighted through so many other forms of the print and electronic media in those decades. A great deal of obscurity still prevailed and still prevails in poetry. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, 25 May 2011.
I reached a centre long ago,
one that will forever remain
mysterious, revered, profound
and alteratively close and distant.
This has not prevented carnal
dreams, nor obsessive questions,
nor the divisive pull of nature.
But, now, this centre is being
embellished far beyond my dreams,
a contemporaneity of sweet beauty,
whiteness, concrete, marble, human,
a great wheel of words: blood-red,
green and gold: His colours, where
my outer and inner landscapes meet,
my continent, my endless geography
where I have discovered, found, lost,
despaired and where I now find a unity
of my fractured, exiled self, like some
bird flying home, even if its wings are
torn, tattered, tired-worn, a celestial
bikey, come off too many times, given
it away. Don’t go near Niagara any more,
or the Rockies: pioneered overseas and
that has been enough for me epochally.
I kiss you on the cheek, caress you more
than I have ever done, but it is the kiss of
a generation that said “no”, and was such
a meagre inspiration, that wore me thinner
and thinner with my paper-thin biology and
sent me right round the world to burnout at
both ends where beasts raised their claws to
my throat, danced charms and gave me slow
images of pleasure, carving meaning.......also
devouring unity, dissolving life itself leaving a
drained field, a chiaroscuro of images for the
eye to play with in mediums of messages until
the darkness of midnight took all colour & all
shades away. After all this: serenity & stability
grew over me like moss out in many gardens.
I remain indecipherable, unique, obscure with my
freedom structured in this Order, an Order for this
Age...and happiness above and beyond the glitter-
and-tinsel, so enigmatic, and wrapped up in this
writing, in what is left of this long wandering self
from one end of the earth to the far other end.
6/4/'96 to 28/6/'13.
Some of my interent posts below in relation to the biological sciences:
(in the 'username' box type RonPrice to read my posts)
(this is a long and extensive discussion on the topic of predictability in biology