Science Group of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain
Newsletter – March 2001
(HTML version of print version)
Novalis’ 200th anniversary …………………………………….1
Membership & Finances……………………………..12
From Novalis’ Scientific Note-Books
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of his death
25th March 2001
[know thy Self] 1
There is but One thing, that man has sought at all times;
Everywhere, now in the heights, now in the depths of the world –
Under various guises – in vain – It continually concealed itself,
He was always sensing it close at hand – yet never able to have it within his grasp.
Long ago there was a man, who disclosed to the children
In kindly myths, the path and key to the secret lock.
Few could interpret the cipher’s simple solution,
However, these few have now become masters of the goal.
Long ages passed – the error intensified our sense –
That the myth itself had ceased veiling the truth.
Happy is he who has grown wise, and no longer muses through the world,
Who desires from himself, the eternal Philosopher’s Stone.
The man of reason alone is the true adept – transforming everything,
Into life and gold – eschewing all elixirs.
The holy retort steams within – the king is in him –
Delphi too, and finally he grasps: know thy Self.
Friedrich von Hardenberg
11th May 1798, Freiberg.
[From the: Chemistry Note-Book] 2 1. a. The synthetic course proceeds above all from the constituents (or better, from the elements) to the whole. b. the analytic course from the whole to the elements. Perfect synthesis and analysis are uno memento, just as exhaling and inhaling are connected in breathing. a. is the empirical path, b. the path a priori. Their union, cf. Laplace 3 – the mathematical method of proof is the empirical path.
It does not suffice to universalize the specific, the particular – rather, we must also endeavour to individualize the universal. Likewise, it does not suffice to compare, rather we must also know how to distinguish.
a. is the path from Nature to spirit.
b. the path from spirit to Nature. (The moral path).
2. If we possessed perfect descriptions and determinations of Nature and concepts, then we would no longer require any laws.
3. Simple thoughts – composite thoughts = thought-systems. Imperfect composite thoughts = irrational thoughts. Whoever is able to bring forth numerous living thoughts, is called a genius.
Individualization of philosophical operations and concepts.
[From the: Mathematics Note-Book] 4. The study of machines educates the mechanist – and accustoms the spirit to skilful discoveries and combinations.
(The forces are conversely related, like their velocities).
Mechanics is the mathematics of forces. Geometry is the mathematics of shapes. Optics is the mathematics of light. The thorough-bass is the mathematics of acoustics. Perspective – the mathematics of vision.
Is mathematics the art of finding and determining from datis and factis other dependent and related data and facta – analysis in general and synthesis.
Numerical system of nomenclature in arithmetic.
All the sciences should become mathematics. Up to now, mathematics has merely been the first and simplest expression or revelation of true scientific spirit.
The numerical system is the model for a genuine system of linguistic signs – The letters of our alphabet shall become numbers, our language, arithmetic.
What did the Pythagoreans really understand by the forces of numbers?
Spirit of mechanics – is surely the spirit of the world, without any connection to the parts – or the individuality.
(Poetics of mathematics.
Grammar of mathematics.
Physics of mathematics
Philosophy of mathematics.
History of mathematics.
Mathematics of philosophy
Mathematics of Nature
Mathematics of poesy.
Mathematics of history
Mathematics of mathematics).
5. Nature incessantly adds, subtracts, multiplies, raises to a higher power etc. The applied mathematical sciences show us Nature as a mathematician. Physics is real mathematics.
[From the: Large Physics Note-Book] 6. In a comparison every member of the analogy becomes stronger, more strikingly polar and individualized by another member (e.g. colours become brighter and darker by means of comparisons).
7. The system cancels all possible extraneous connections, and effects new, inherent connections.
8. We now understand anew why the actual thing is unknowable in itself – it is absolutely isolated – it is simple matter. Only in connection with something else is it definite and distinct – and therefore all our sciences are relative sciences. Every science is based on the simple science – on the simple – synthesizing principle – the ego.
9. Synthesis of a priori and a posteriori methods. Elastic mode of thinking – of philosophizing, from appearances to principles, and vice-versa, to pass from the one to the other – or better still, to simultaneously pass from there to here – to unceasingly proceed in both directions (vid. the magnetic current. A fluidium that is polar decomposed and moves immanently in opposite directions).
Astronomical method of treating astronomy – (vid. Laplace, 2nd part, p. 313).
10. Joining is simultaneous freedom. When neutral or at the point of indifference both opposites are completely free – one also works with the other and this makes both imponderable. Soul and matter are imponderable in their entire reciprocal penetration –
a = b
Both are usually linked in reciprocally inverse relations. The maximum and minimum are absolutely linked. Just as at the point of indifference both are only apparently mutually cancelled for a third in an absolute manner – are imponderable – so at the absolute point of difference both are in reality mutually cancelled and each apparently absolutely sensible. (Absolute stimulus) (Absolutely nourishing – and absolutely consuming).
Here absolute death becomes an absolute quantity – that can only be attained upon finite paths – absolute death contains the possibility of absolute life – Death is polar – life is thoroughly synthetic. Life arises out of the reciprocal satiation of a plus and minus-death. Death is what is simple – an element. Absolutely polar elements that are in a state of reciprocal satiation constitute absolute life. Moreover, imperfect elements, + and – elements, only constitute an imperfect life – because they are incapable of complete saturation – permeation, and therefore perfect harmony cannot take place.
Perfect life is heaven. The world is the embodiment of imperfect life. The insensible propter harmoniam is the substance – Hence, perfect life is the substance – the world is the embodiment of its accidentals. What is here called death is the consequence of absolute life, of heaven.
[From: Fragments on Physics] 11. If a spirit dies – it becomes a human being. If a human being dies, it becomes a spirit. Free death of the spirit – free death of the human being. What corresponds to human existence yonder? – The existence of daimons or geniuses – the body is to them, what the soul is to us.
[From: Studies on Schelling’s book On the World-Soul] 4
12. Natural is eternal – not vice-versa – she maintains herself via herself. Wherever she is prompted to something, she continually engenders in accordance with the laws of inertia. The foundation of temporality is to be sought for in the spirit. Perpetuum mobile.
[From: Studies on Murhard’s System of Elements of the General Theory of Magnitudes] 13. With regard to the essential, individual character of the mathematical method, Kant maintains that the mathematician is not discursive like the philosopher – but proceeds intuitively – doesn’t infer from concepts, but constructs concepts – presents them in a sensible manner – yet actively sensible – or fashions pure intuition [from Murhard, p. 28] 5
(Here too I believe that the mathematician’s procedure is not unique. He sculpts the concepts in order to hold them fast, to be able to take the clearly designated and secure course and return course. Shouldn’t the philosopher do likewise – as well as every single scientific expert – In every science one should self-actively sculpt. The sculptural method is the genuine experimental method. We shouldn’t merely be active in One world – but be simultaneously active in both – not think, without also reflecting, not reflect without also thinking. The converse method, the mathematical method, consists in the constructions of intuitions,6 in contrast to concepts – in the non-sensible, immediate presentation of intuitions – in active thinking – in the development of pure thoughts – in the fixing of intuitions (reflections) by means of thoughts – to likewise be capable of carrying out that certain progressus and regressus, that revision etc. The method of comprehending or the cognitive method is none other than the genuine method of observation.
Figures etc. are necessary in the former – words etc., in the latter.
In the former, reason delineates and reflects upon (external senses) its inner motions etc. – and vice versa in the latter.
There reason reflects from within – here from without.
Words and figures determine one another in constant alternation – audible and visible words are actually word-figures [or literal figures] – All figures etc. should become literal or linguistic figures – just as figure-words [or figurative words: Figurenworte] – are the inner images etc., the ideal words of other thoughts or words – they all should become inner images.
Therefore imagination, which fashions figure-words, especially deserves the predicate “genius”.
That will be a Golden Age, when all words become figure-words – myths – And all figures – become linguistic figures – hieroglyphs – When we learn to speak and write figures – and learn to perfectly sculpt and make music with words.
Both arts belong together, are indivisibly connected and will become simultaneously perfected).
[From the: Werner Studies] 7 14. As a consequence of these nota he [Werner] arrives at the question, whether or not the changes in the mixture can be determined by changes in the shape –
i.e. at the possibility of a symptomatics that can be applied to chemistry – a question, that is surely of the greatest importance, because the critique of a new higher science that embraces both begins with this very question.
However, his answer is very superficial – he says: – If we know the relations of the mixture, we can only draw a conclusion regarding their shapes ex post facto, a posteriori – thus this science is entirely impractical and merely gives the theoretician a theoretical satisfaction. In the end, only the transition and connection may be demonstrated. [Section § 10 note]
(He completely fails to discern the possible transition – from the external characteristics to the inner constituents, or from symptomatics to chemistry; and yet this is the main approach for solving this problem). Therefore Werner is wholly dogmatic here – He claims that the complete existence of the equation’s data is necessary. (Thing in itself etc.) Opposed to him stands the idealist, who believes he is capable (using the mere method) of determining the change in the mixture by means of a mere change in the shape – the magical knower – the prophet. (Their union.) (Their transitions).
[From: Materials to Crystallography] 16. All kinds of crystal-like formations – in the plant and animal kingdoms – in atmospheric – acoustic – electric – and snowy figures.
(Inner imaginary shapes and alternating observations, like in [Erasmus] Darwin’s colour studies).8
17. Isn’t all crystallization a genuinely synthetic and harmonious union of the solidum and liquidum; and hence, aren’t crystals a genuinely substantial and inspired being?
18. Crystallization of melted masses.
[From: Arythmetika Universalis] 15. The question regarding the possibility of mathematics divides into 2 parts – 1. Is mathematics possible? 2. How is it possible?
A well ordered solution to the problem of mathematics indirectly involves the solution to every other mathematical problem.
(Kant’s procedure with metaphysics – which for him is synonymous with philosophy. His famous question).9 (It is a question regarding the method for the possibility and construction of philosophical genius).
Fundamental problem of mathematics.
(Is there such a thing as a mathematical genius (life)? How is it possible? The solution to the first question furnishes the proposition – the solution to the second, the proof, the appropriate method of construction).
Genius is the synthesizing principle; the genius makes the impossible, possible – the possible, impossible – the unknown, known – the known, unknown etc. In short, it is the moral – the transubstantive principle. (Life and the inspired principle or genius are one). (Imperfect genius).
[From : Medical – Natural Scientific Studies] 19. The concepts: matter, phlogiston, oxygen, gas, force etc. belong within a logical physics – that has no knowledge of concrete substances – but rather, boldly and single-mindedly plunges a hand into the World-Chaos – and creates its own orderings.
20. Natural genius belongs to experimenting, that is to say, that wondrous ability to capture the sense of Nature – and to act in her spirit. The true observer is an artist – he divines the significant, and knows how to sensitively select the most crucial elements from out of the strangest, most fleeting mixture of appearances.
21. A thoroughly unique kind of love and childlike attitude, as well as the most lucid intellect and tranquil sense, belongs to the study of Nature. Only after a passion for Nature has been bestowed upon an entire nation, and a fresh bond fastened among its citizens – with natural scientific researchers and laboratories in every location – only then will we make any progress upon this colossal orbit. Trans. D. Wood
For a long time solely the domain of dedicated German scholars and lovers of esoteric poetry, suddenly it seems as if every scientific and academic discipline is claiming Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg) as their own. From mathematicians to semiologists, political to literary theorists, geologists to mineralogists, everywhere he is being elevated into their pantheon of modernity. Even his life has been made into the stuff of a critically acclaimed novel! While in recent studies of that incredible “constellation” of minds in Germany 200 years ago, we can see how some of the brightest philosophical minds in Europe and America have been championing his cause.10
Without doubt the most decisive factor contributing to this Novalis revival has been the historical-critical edition of his complete works in German, based on the hand-written manuscripts only made available to scholars in 1960. This has allowed the world to behold for the very first time not only the enormous breadth and depth of Novalis’ learning, but also the original form, order and arrangement in which his writings were written. The last volume of this complete edition will hopefully be published this year in time for the 200th anniversary of Novalis’ death.
The above selection of note-book entries was penned by Novalis in 1798/99 whilst a student at the Freiberg Mining Academy in north-eastern Germany. The Freiberg academy was the first institution dedicated to the study of mineralogy and geology in Europe, and renowned throughout the scientific world for its distinguished teachers. These included among others the chemist Wilhelm August Lampadius (representative of an anti-phlogistic chemistry), and the mathematicians Johann Friedrich Lempe and Johann Friedrich Wilhelm von Charpentier (father of Novalis’ second fiancée Julie). Yet chief among these was the famous figure of Abraham Gottlob Werner – considered to be the founder of systematic geology and mineralogy.
Novalis had been well prepared for the theoretical rigours of the sciences, for subsequent to Freiberg he had undertaken extensive and penetrating philosophical studies into the writings of Kant, Fichte and the Dutch neo-Platonist Hemsterhuis. – On the other hand, his practical nature now found great fulfilment in the experiments and excursions connected with the courses on chemistry, physics, geology, mineralogy and medicine. These scientific studies were also the basis for Novalis’ remarkable plan to find the common link between all the arts and sciences, which then found expression in his so-called romantic-poetic encyclopaedia – the Universal Brouillon.11
A further development and heightening of this project to “poeticize the sciences” may be discerned in the two short novels from the last years of his life: The Disciples of Sais and Heinrich von Ofterdingen. And in a poem intended for the latter novel (virtually the last poem he ever wrote), we can behold anew this future vision of Novalis: how the sciences ultimately become tempered and transmuted into poetry (poesy):12
When numbers and figures
Are no longer the keys to all creatures,
When they who sing, or kiss
Know more than the deeply learned,
When the world itself reverts again
To free life and to a (free) world,
When light and shadow too
Are wed again unto true clarity,
And one recognizes in fairy-tales and poems
The (ancient) true histories of the world,
Then, there flies away before a single secret word
This entire inverted existence.
And so even after 200 years, the star of this remarkable poet-philosopher of genius continues to rise ever higher in the constellation of our present time.
David Wood, University College Dublin
1. The translation of this poem is based on the recently rediscovered manuscript now in the possession of the Freie Deutsche Hochstift in Frankfurt. It deviates slightly from the text in the collected works of Novalis. This is particularly evident in the last line, where Novalis has modified (presumably as a result of his Fichte & Kant studies) the traditional Delphic saying “kenne dich selbst” (know thyself), to now become: “kenne dich Selbst” (know thy Self). – See the journal Jahrbuch des Freien Deutschen Hochstifts (1991), p. 346 & reproduction 12.
2. This selection is drawn from the almost 170 pages of notes found in the section: “Freiberger Naturwissenschaftliche Studien 1798/99” (Freiberg Natural Scientific Studies 1798/99), in the historical-critical edition of Novalis’ works: Novalis. Schriften. Band III: (Das philosophische Werk II). Edited by Richard Samuel, Hans-Joachim Mähl and Gerhard Schulz. (W. Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart, 1968) pp. 34-203. Nearly all of these notes were only published for the first time in 1968!
3. Peter Simon Laplace (1749-1827): System of the World. Novalis used the German edition, Frankfurt, 1797. (Also see entry no. 9 in the section “From the: Large Physics Note-Book”.)
4. F. W. Schelling (1775-1854), German idealistic philosopher, friend of Novalis and early member of the Romantic Circle in Jena. His book On the World-Soul (Von der Welt-Seele), was first published in Hamburg in 1798.
5. Friedrich Murhard, System der Elemente der allgemeinen Größenlehre. Lemgo, 1798. The Kant book cited is the Critique of Pure Reason (see “II Transcendental doctrine of method – chapter I: The discipline of pure reason, section: The discipline of pure reason in dogmatic use.” (Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 630-643).
6. “Intuitions” = “Anschauungen” – a Kantian term (also employed by Murhard) that is notoriously difficult to translate. The English word “intuition” stems from the fact that Kant also uses the Latin word “intuitus”. Cf. the Critique of Pure Reason, Cambridge University Press 1997. p. 757.
7. Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749-1817), Novalis’ mineralogy teacher in Freiberg. Became a scientist of world renown due to his book: Von den äußerlichen Kennzeichen der Foßilien (On the External Characteristics of Minerals), Leipzig, 1774). Novalis used the edition published in Vienna 1785. The German word “Foßilien” is an archaic technical term for minerals. The two sentences in small type are quotes from Werner’s book.
8. Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802): Zoonomia; or, The Laws of Organic Life (London, 1794). The edition in question is the German one from Hanover 1795 (cf. chapter XL on “Optical Illusions”).
9. The “famous question” of Kant is: How are synthetic judgements a priori possible? (see Critique of Pure Reason, Cambridge University Press 1997, p. 146).
10. The growth in Novalis literature in the last ten years has been astonishing to say the least. The following is a mere recent sample. – On science in general see: Novalis und die Wissenschaften (ed. Herbert Uerlings, Tübingen, Niemeyer, 1997). On mathematics: Howard Pollack, “Novalis and Mathematics Revisited” in Athäneum: Jahrbuch für Romantik (1997), pp. 113-140. Hans Niels Jahnke, “Mathematik und Romantik” in Disziplinen im Kontext (eds. V. Peckhaus & C. Thiel) Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich 1999, pp. 163-198. On geology and mineralogy: Irene Bark, Steine in Potenzen, (Tübingen, Niemeyer, 1999). On literary and political theory: Fredrick Beiser, The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics (Cambridge University Press, 1996). William Arctander O’Brien, Novalis. Signs of Revolution (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995). On his life dramatised in a novel: Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower (London, Flamingo, 1995). On Philosophy: The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism (ed. Karl Ameriks), Cambridge University Press, 2000. Andrew Bowie, From Romanticism to Critical Theory, Routledge, London 1997. Dieter Henrich, Konstellationen (Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart, 1993). And above all the writings of Manfred Frank. In English: “Philosophical Foundations of Early Romanticism” in The Modern Subject: Conceptions of the Self in Classical German Philosophy (Eds. K. Ameriks & D. Sturma. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995, pp. 65-85); and especially his monumental philosophical study: “Unendliche Annährung.” Die Anfänge der philosophischen Frühromantik (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1997).
11. An English translation of Novalis’ largest note-book dedicated to Fichte’s philosophy (among others) is forthcoming. See: Novalis. Fichte Studies (ed. & trans. Jane Kneller: Cambridge University Press). An English translation of Novalis’ Universal Brouillon is also forthcoming: Novalis. Universal Brouillon (eds. & trans. David Wood and Gerhard Schulz, with an introduction by John Neubauer).
12. This poem may be found in the notes to the continuation of Novalis’ novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen, in Novalis. Schriften. Band III: (Das philosophische Werk II). Edited by Richard Samuel, Hans-Joachim Mähl and Gerhard Schulz. (W. Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart, 1968) p. 675.
Human Cloning – The Embryo as a Tool by David Heaf
On 22nd January 2001 the House of Lords passed by a substantial majority an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 that will allow human embryos to be used and created for the purpose of furthering knowledge of embryo development and serious disease as well as enabling any such knowledge to be used in the development of treatment. The amendment does not permit actual treatment of disease by using embryos or bits of them, but that is the general long term aim of a powerful lobby which includes our government. Already Parkinson’s disease has been treated by using cells from aborted foetuses and campaigners concerned with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and a whole range of genetic disorders see ‘cannibalising’ the embryo as full of promise for future treatments based on stem cells derived from this early stage of human life. Stem cells are pluripotent, meaning that they can in a suitable environment differentiate into a wide range of cell types whether they be muscle, heart, skin or nerve.
Shortly after the announcement of the cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1997, legislators looked at the 1990 Act to see if it covered the application of the Dolly procedure1 – the creation of an adult animal out of a differentiated adult cell – to the human being and thus ensured that if anyone tried it without first applying to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) they would be breaking the law. It did – so no need for immediate legislation. The significance of the Dolly breakthrough was twofold. Firstly the method might be used for cloning adult human beings and secondly it could be used to create body cells genetically and immunologically identical to the body cells of a prospective patient, which, after induction of appropriate differentiation, could be used for transplantation purposes, say for repairing the spinal chord after a serious accident. Proponents of the technology were quick to differentiate between ‘reproductive cloning’ and ‘therapeutic cloning’. And it is the latter that MPs debated before Christmas and peers in January. The government repeatedly assured legislature and public that a bill will be brought in explicitly to outlaw reproductive cloning.
But what is the difference between the two categories of cloning? Very little. The techniques for making the living human embryos, which if implanted into wombs could develop into babies, is the same in both cases. But under the 1990 Act the experimental embryo must be destroyed at its 14th day of development and must under no circumstances be implanted. This is the stage when the primitive streak appears, the first sign of differentiation of the nervous system and thus the first hint of the possibility that the minute developing human being – less than the size of a full stop on this page – can have the rudiments of feeling, sentience. So the difference between therapeutic and reproductive cloning lies only in the fact that an embryo intended for therapeutic research and treatment ceases life at an earlier age than one allowed to grow into a new-born child. In both cases human beings are created.
But is a tiny clump of cells a human being? This is what several committees, MPs and peers agonised over for more than a year. Recourse was made to Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Catholic theology, on the one hand and on the other hand to the fact that most embryos created naturally either do not implant or they abort. Four Commons debates of varying lengths from half to five hours failed to reach consensus on that aspect.2 The approximately two thirds majority in both houses were apparently of the opinion that an embryo is not sufficiently human to deserve protection from enslavement in the way envisaged. It is an object, a resource with no personhood. The source of this attitude is easy to understand. It lies in a picture of the human as a being which uses its body as a tool which can be modified or replaced without interfering with the essential nature of its humanness. This dualistic picture can be contrasted with the holist or monist view which is given a thorough treatment by Heisterkamp in his article published this January and sketched only briefly here.3 According to a holistic picture, the body is an indispensable integral part of a given human individuality. The body is part of the essential manifestation of that human spirit. In the course of time the various metamorphoses of the body enter and leave the world of the senses at birth and death respectively. The physical form of the person, though of course not the actual substances nor their precise configuration in any earth life, has a certain continuity. The person cannot be thought of without his or her body. And it follows therefore that violating that body means also a violation of that individuality. We have no difficulty in picturing this in relation to children or adults. Indeed it is common knowledge that such violation can leave deep lifelong wounds on the psyche. But now the weakest human form of all, the embryo is open to violation.
Here a basic principle of human rights conventions, the inviolability of an individual human life, has been deliberately breached. Now the individual can be exploited for the good of the group whether it comprises Parkinson’s sufferers or people with genetic disabilities. Previously embryos could only be used as research material for a very narrow range of purposes connected with helping them develop into babies. Even this was already a morally highly questionable step as the debate preceding the 1990 Act showed and remains so for a substantial minority of the population. But now embryos can be legally created for purposes quite other than reproduction. They can be made in full knowledge that they must eventually be destroyed while fragments of them will live on, perhaps immortalised, in the test tube.
All this reminds us of one other way that the helpless human body can legally be plundered for the good of others, often without the prior consent of the victim, and that is where organs are ripped out of dying but not yet dead people for use in transplantation. I have examined this issue in some depth elsewhere.4 To this class of people our society has now added a further class who are denied personhood and thereby withdrawn from the ultimate protection that our society can offer. Will the incurably ill, the comatose or the severely handicapped be next?
1. Heaf, D. J. (1997) The cloning of Dolly the sheep. New View 4, 3rd Quarter, Issue 4, pp26-29 or http://www.callnetuk.com/home/heaf/cloning_of_dolly_the_sheep.htm
2. The Hansard transcripts of the commons debates on 15 and 19 December are at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200001/cmhansrd/cm001215/debtext/01215-01.htm and http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200001/cmhansrd/cm001219/debtext/01219-07.htm
3. Heisterkamp, J. (2000) Defending Freedom – Defending the Body. A philosophical Commentary on the invasion of the human being. http://www.ifgene.org/heisterkamp.htm
4. Heaf, D. J. (1997) Organ Transplants. New View 3, Spring 1997, pp25-29 or http://www.callnetuk.com/home/heaf/orgtrans.htm
David Heaf is UK co-ordinator of Ifgene – The International Forum for Genetic Engineering. Information about Ifgene is available at http://www.ifgene.org
Email: 101622.2773 at Compuserve.Com
A Personal Review of the EMBO/EMBL1 Millennium Conference on Science and Society – 10th to 12th November 2000 titled “Developing a New Dialogue” Judyth Sassoon
For those of us who didn’t know, the week between the 6th and 12th of November was European Science and Technology Week and several notable European cities were hosting Genetics in Europe Open Days (GEOD). The purpose? To educate that nebulous group of creatures known collectively as “the public” on the potential benefits, expectations and problems of genetic engineering.
In Heidelberg, the big event of that week was the EC sponsored Millennium Conference on Science and Society. It bore the catchy title “Developing a New Dialogue” and according to Halldór Stefánsson, who heads Science and Society activities at EMBL, contributed a “reflective, cross-cultural, multidisciplinary dialogue about the impact of the Life Sciences on the post-modern world.” The topic which ran through the whole conference was science communication and there was even a slightly “alternative” session dealing with science and theatre. Of the 250 participants who packed into EMBL’s “Operon” lecture theatre, I am told about half were not professionally involved in scientific research, though some did admit to coming from a scientific background, and these presumably represented “the public”. They included educators, journalists, TV presenters, lawyers, and government representatives from all over Europe.
The conference was broken down into four thematic sessions-each consisting of talks followed by round-table discussions. The opening theme “From science to society: case studies, risk studies” dealt with scientific responsibility and public perceptions of how science really works. It was chaired by Lewis Wolpert, and we heard two “case studies”, on HIV from Robin Weiss and BSE from John Collinge. These two diseases have impacted society in the fundamental arenas of social behaviour around sex and food. They were used to illustrate the importance of dialogue and demonstrated how far society relies on scientists for help in deciding how to conduct their lives. Weiss felt better education about HIV continues to be a priority, since the opinions of mavericks such as Peter Duesberg are still accepted especially in HIV danger zones such as Africa. With BSE, Collinge said we had an example of the breakdown in communication between researchers, government and society leading to a catastrophe which, he felt, was far from over. Both speakers agreed that a significant obstacle in achieving a decent dialogue was that society expects absolute solutions to these problems, while scientists are only able to answer “to the best of their knowledge”, the implication being that scientists would prefer not to be regarded as omniscient, omnipotent gods.
Brian Wynne and Claire Marris spoke next on “risk studies”. They stated that public reactions to issues such as GMOs were all too frequently shown as the opposite of “rational dialogue”. Marris, presenting results from the PABE (Public Perceptions of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Europe) survey said that scientists believe they can convince the whole world into accepting that what they do is right simply by educating people sufficiently with the facts. Discussing the GMO issue, she claimed her survey showed that in fact no amount of factual indoctrination altered the publics’ ethical, social or moral doubts about biotechnology. During the panel discussion entitled “How to restore public trust in science?” Lewis Wolpert, the most vociferous of the pro-science lobby, responded to Marris in his characteristically aggressive manner commenting firstly that anyone who thinks they know what the public want is wrong and secondly, as soon as the market begins to sell GMOs that are cheap, stop ageing, help people to lose weight etc. then all public doubts and ethical concerns will disappear. Evidently he felt he knew what the public wanted even if no-one else did.
The second and third sessions bore the respective titles: “Medical uses of genetic information” and “On Human Genome Projects: Uses and Abuses”. The discussions focussed on the potential uses of human genome information in the future. Chairman Jens Reich remarked that in the next few years we would experience a strong movement away from the reductionist view of the genome to a more integrated (he did not say holistic) consideration of individuals – as he put it, a move from genomics to phenomics. With the advent of phenomics a time would come when every individual phenotype would be re-conceptualized in terms of biochemistry, including enzyme activities, RNA and protein levels, along with the underlying personal genetic information. Somehow I cannot see this as a movement away from reductionism as chemico-centric, as opposed to a genocentric, definitions merely reduce the individual to a set of new parameters. Nevertheless, chemico-centricity seems to be the latest drift and was enthusiastically promulgated by the distinguished speakers in this session. Peter Goodfellow spoke vigorously about pharmacogenetics describing how in the future it would be possible to design drug treatments for individuals on the basis of their genetic and biochemical information. Goodfellow, incidentally, left the academic world to become the Senior Vice-President of Discovery at SmithKline Beecham, U.K. and he obviously sees the potential business opportunities in this area. Furthermore, he deplored the fact that some people may wish to keep their genetic information private, saying that society is responsible for making sure that new knowledge is used to benefit people not enslave them. The theme was then taken up by Andrea Ballabio who stated provocatively that within the next seven years, the genome and phenome of each individual would be documented. He also speculated how this might impact the health arena with doctor-patient contact being reduced to a minimum. Doctors would be able to assess each patient from their biochemistry and prescribe appropriate treatments without resorting to direct personal contact. We would have diagnosis in silico – efficient, precise and far less stressful and messy than a direct face-to-face encounter.
Next, Alexandre Mauron and Sheila Jasanoff attempted to re-balance the discussion by presenting views from the philosophical, ethical and legal angle. Both talked of the costs of reconceptualizing human identity in terms of genes and other small molecules. Mauron saw the latest developments as a genomic metaphysics, a belief that the human genome constitutes the ontological core of the human being as both individual and species. He was of the opinion that the genome has become the functional equivalent of the Aristotelian soul as it is believed to hold the essence of what it is to be human. Jasanoff added that the way genetic knowledge is related to conceptions of the human being is mediated by social institutions which are already full of prior ideas. She pointed out that science can’t just dump new ideas on society and expect them to be accepted without question, as the new knowledge and its consequences are being introduced into institutions which are already rich in modes of legal, ethical and moral behaviour. Charles Kurland replied to both these speakers saying that no scientist would ever say that the essence or soul is in the genome but he felt that science researchers were being obliged to integrate such old concepts, as well as the outdated views of social institutions, into their work. Thus, he felt, science was being controlled by old ideas.
Kurland also chaired the last session entitled “Biotechnology, bio-industry, and bio-business”. He introduced the subject by saying that the good, old fashioned “bottom up” planning and peer review in science was being replaced by “top down” control from government and industries. He called the new situation “command research” and deplored how science was now valued in political circles primarily as a means of accumulating wealth. Gone are the days of scientists being driven by pure desire to understand nature. Such lofty ideals are now regarded as naïve expressions of “mere curiosity”, with no practical application. These comments were followed by two talks offering the industrial perspective. Friedrich von Bohlen described how the European biotech industry is lagging behind the US, and the necessity for competition, emphasizing that the only way for small companies in Europe to survive was to make deals and collaborations with bigger companies. His own company, LION Bioscence, Heidelberg, has already made fruitful alliances with Bayer and Celera. Manfred Kern, from Aventis CropScience, took up the issue of the world food situation with the question “How can we feed everyone and keep human dignity?” He went on to explain how biotech companies were concerned with increasing the food security margin for the future. At the moment, only 0.26% more food is being produced than is required on a global scale. He announced that companies now have the technology to support world food security and stressed the importance of keeping up with food demand as the world population increases. He also stated firmly that food distribution was not the concern of biotech companies. It was a little strange, in that case, that he opened his lecture with the question “how can we feed everyone”. With 24,000 people dying of hunger every day in spite of the food security margin, world hunger is clearly a problem of distribution not production. To suggest that biotech companies will feed the world when they state categorically that food distribution is not their concern, was very misleading.
The final talk in this section was from Julian Davies and was entitled “Antibiotics for the 21st Century”. Davies highlighted the desperate problem of acquired antibiotic resistance in bacteria due to their overuse. He presented this as an illustration of what happens when society adopts a potentially beneficial discovery with cavalier enthusiasm, without realizing that there may be unforeseen repercussions. In this case, bacteria responded to the millions of metric tons of antibiotics that were thrown into the biosphere by becoming resistant to them. The situation is now irreversible because as well as gaining genetic information for antibiotic resistance, bacteria acquired compensatory genes which stabilized their new phenotypes. I asked Davies if he thought the removal of all antibiotics could change the current situation and he replied that certain experiments with Klebsiella showed that, though resistance would decrease, it would still remain at a higher level than before. What a marvellous example of natural selection due to human activity! In fact already in 1946, Alexander Fleming warned that we should be careful not to overuse antibiotics because of the possibility of acquired resistance but no one could have predicted either its extent nor its stability in the year 2000. It makes one wonder what the comparable consequences of the introduction of GMOs might be?
There followed a panel discussion under the heading “Biotechnology and its Discontents”, an interesting echo of Sigmund Freud’s work “Civilization and its Discontents”- a treatise on sexual frustration. Is it possible that Biotechnology now sees itself as equivalent to Civilization? Perhaps the “discontents” are merely expressing some form of curable psycho-sexual frustration disorder! Panellist and EC representative Mark Cantley made novel use of a passage from Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” to transmit his pro-biotech message. In her book, which in 1962 exposed the hazards of the pesticide DDT by eloquently questioning humanity’s faith in technological progress, Carson wrote that pest control solutions of the future must be based on a deeper understanding of the living organism. Cantley took this statement and argued that biotechnology was just that – a deeper understanding of the organism. This was a point that no-one disputed, not even Stefan Flothmann representing Greenpeace, even though it must have been obvious to everyone that more information about something is not equivalent to “a deeper understanding.” When speaking on behalf of Greenpeace, Flothmann presented his political views with dignity but, surprisingly, remained unchallenged. I would even go as far as to say he was largely ignored by the hard-core supporters of biotechnology. I suppose this shows that the views of Greenpeace are either too well known or simply considered to be of no real interest to this particular debate.
The keynote lecture of the conference was given by Carl Djerassi, famous for his pioneer work on the contraceptive pill. He described how during the last 40 years the pill and IUD had separated the sexual act from conception and, whilst the social focus to date had been on “contraception”, in the future there would be a greater emphasis on “conception”. With in vitro fertilization, new life can now be created without sexual intercourse. Djerassi spoke particularly about a technique called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) which allows selected single sperm to be directly injected into an ovum. The social and ethical consequences of this technique are enormous, ranging from sex pre-determination and pre-implantation genetic screening to post-menopausal pregnancies. He went as far as to say that the widespread use of gamete storage may make contraception unnecessary by replacing it with early sterilization.
Apart from being a renowned scientist, Djerassi is also the author of several works of fiction and plays. He was therefore invited to participate in the session “Science in the spotlight” dealing with the theme of science in theatre. His play “An Immaculate Misconception” was shown in full and was remarkably thought provoking, bringing home the social issues surrounding the invention of ICSI with enormous force. “You raped my egg!!!” screams the lady scientist to her colleague who has secretly injected his own sperm into her experimental ova. “You stole his sperm!!!” yells the colleague, dredging up the fact that she kept her married lover’s used condom in order to get a suitable sperm sample for her experiment. Here we are faced with a variety of novel social and legal questions such as cellular rape, micro-adultery, sperm abduction and above all gross moral and scientific misconduct, in vivo and in vitro, all within the pristine setting of a University Laboratory – and the reviewers loved it! It is worth considering Lewis Wolpert’s comment that “the whole of Western literature has not been kind to science and is filled with images of scientists meddling with nature with disastrous results”. He was implying that an image-makeover for scientists was in order. Well, this play has done scientists no favours presenting them (perhaps accurately) as a bunch of frightful, self-centred, controlling, immature individuals who would do anything to get their names on a paper. I will not attempt to comment on this play as a work of art, other than to say I found the style corny and the characters shallow, but the media have raved about it and as an educational tool it has considerable value.
Rather than giving me hope for the future, this conference presented a rather grim view of our brave new world. Many important issues were highlighted and discussed but I did not feel that anyone came close to achieving a really new dialogue with anyone else. I was, however pleased to see that the discussions generated a lot of interest among the younger, pre-doctoral students. When I spoke to them I found they desperately wanted to hear all the arguments from every side and were not prepared to take any view at face value. I hope, therefore, that these young scientists of the future will continue to listen and question the value of their work and come into their specializations with a developed sense of social responsibility and awareness.
Dr. Judyth Sassoon, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Berne, Freiestrasse 3, CH-3012 Berne, Switzerland, Tel: +41 31 631 4324, Fax: +41 31 631 4887, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: 1. EMBO: European Molecular Biology Organisation. http://www.embo.org/ EMBL: European Molecular Biology Laboratory. http://www.embl-heidelberg.de/. GEOD: Genetics in Europe Open Days. www.geod.org. For further details about the conference (incl. schedule, participant biographies and a follow-up page) please see: http://www.embl-heidelberg.de/Conferences/SciSoc00/index.html). For more information on Carl Djerassi’s books and plays, including excerpts from “An Immaculate Misconception” please see http://www.djerassi.com/icsi.html or visit his homepage http://www.djerassi.com/) For information about ICSI, see http://www.advancedfertility.com/icsi.htm.
The worm that turned…..into the human genome project Judyth Sassoon
John Sulston is the nice guy of human genome science. The Guardian duly reported that he wears old leather sandals, drives a second hand car and is married to a former Greenham Common anti-missile protestor. In keeping with this right-on image of service to mankind, he is now Director of the publicly funded Sanger Centre, Cambridge, UK. With their worldwide collaborators, the Sanger Centre made steps to sequence the entire human genome and generously made each new sequence available to the public as it was decoded, free of charge. Opposite the socially aware Sulston stands the American upstart entrepreneur, Craig Venter, who claims that his company Celera were the first to decode the human genome, but released nothing though their results are now available to subscribers. The battle of the gene-genies has been much talked and written about and provides a very interesting insight into the realities of scientific research.
On the 27th November 2000, Sulston received the Albert Wander Prize offered by the University of Berne, Switzerland for outstanding contributions to biomedical research and subsequently gave the “Wander Memorial Lecture”. The title was “Society and the Human Genome”, a lecture which he has given repeatedly to promote and justify the human genome project (HGP). Sulston positively exuded political correctness as he spoke about the HGP as something that belongs to all mankind. This time he did not rail against his rival Venter, saying instead that the time for bickering was over and that the next phase must be debate and collaboration between the public sector and Celera. After all, the ultimate goal was the “complete understanding of life” – a fine ideal unworthy of petty rivalry. With beneficence oozing from every pore, Sulston announced that the HGP “belongs to no-one and everyone”.
John Sulston has had a fascinating research career. For many years prior to the HGP he studied the Nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans. This 1 mm long creature is, in terms of gene sequencing, the predecessor of the human. It was the first multicellular organism to be fully sequenced and the results were published in Science (11 Dec. 1998 Vol. 282) and are available on the world wide web, URL http://elegans.swmed.edu/genome.shtml . It was the culmination of an 8 year effort, during which the 97 million bases of the genome were sequenced, and a technological milestone as it helped pave the way for the sequencing of the 3 billion bases that make up the human genome. It was the first time that all the genes necessary for an animal to function were mapped.
C. elegans develops from egg to adult in about 3.5 days, at which time it possesses about 1,000 somatic cells. It is transparent making observation easy, and its development has been followed on a cell by cell basis from egg to adult. The history of each cell is now known from birth to death, largely thanks to the work of Sulston and Sydney Brenner of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. Sulston, originally an organic chemist, was recruited by Brenner to study the worm and by 1983 he produced a lineage map, which traced the fate of each cell during growth from a single cell to a full-sized C. elegans. After this breakthrough the Cambridge group decided that the next obvious step was to track down the genes involved in controlling cell fates. So from a developmental map they started to make a physical map of the worm genome and when that was done, they made the giant leap towards mapping the human genome.
The early success of worm sequencing was instrumental in convincing researchers and funding agencies of the value and feasibility of large-scale sequencing projects. It is interesting, however, that even at this late stage, with the human genome virtually finished, Sulston still feels obliged to justify the question “why sequence whole genomes”. During his lecture he presented a much used slide listing reasons such as “it provides complete information and an archive for the future; it provides new material for biologists to work on; it provides information on genome structure and history and is useful for evolutionary studies”. While the slide showed the official line, Sulston himself admitted to having a liking for “grandiose, meaningless projects”.
At the end of the lecture, someone from the audience asked how many expressed genes there were in the human genome. Sulston answered that the exact number is still not established but that estimates oscillate between a minimum of 20 000 and maximum of 50 000. It is worth noting that the nematode worm has 19,000 genes-very close to the lower estimate. Is it possible that the human being and the worm both express a comparable number of genes? One wit from the audience expressed his concern about this estimate and suggested that, following the example of the American Presidential elections, we should have a recount.
Dr. Judyth Sassoon, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Berne, Freiestrasse 3, CH-3012 Berne, Switzerland, Tel: +41 31 631 4324, Fax: +41 31 631 4887, Email: email@example.com
An international conference investigating The Language of Water will be held in Bath, England, in the spring of 2001. The conference on the science and art of water and its significance for all aspects of human life will take place from 17 to 20 April. It will be accompanied by a four week exhibition ‘exploring and celebrating water as the dynamic context of life’.
Organised by Bath Bio-Art in partnership with Breathrough Technologies and The Interalia Centre, this event ‘will bring together scientists and artists with a shared aim of improving understanding of the importance of water in the evolution of life and the emotional and physical welfare of human beings,’ according to the founders of Bio-Art and conference organisers Dr. Alan Rayner from the University of Bath, and the artist Caroline Way.
The four day conference is organised around specific themes for each day, including ‘water, earth and evolution’, ‘water, life and health’, ‘water, language, thought and emotion’, and ‘water, philosophy and spirit’.
The list of contributing academics and artists includes authorities such as the physiologist Professor Susan Greenfield, Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, best known for her work on nervous system degeneration and the physical basis of consciousness, the writer and winner of the Whitbread Prize for literature Lindsay Clark, the flowform specialist John Wilks from the Virbela Institute for Rhythm Research and the water researcher Dr. Maseru Emoto.
For a full programme and registration contact: Dr Alan Rayner, Dept. of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY. Tel.: +44 (0)1225 323415; e-mail: A.D.M.Rayner@bath.ac.uk.
Ifgene – International Forum for Genetic Engineering May Workshop
This is an announcement about a workshop on the Intrinsic Value and Integrity of Plants in the context of genetic engineering which Ifgene will be holding at Dornach, near Basel, Switzerland from 9 to 11 May 2001.
Against a background of the Swiss constitution and draft ‘Gen-Lex’ making explicit the concept of the intrinsic value of living things, we shall look at the meaning and implications of this for our dealings with plants.
Contributions will be made by among others a biologist, a bioethicist, a philosopher, a legislator, a food processor, a food retailer, a plant breeder, an ecologist and a plant geneticist. The workshop will include guided observation of plants as well as ample time for discussion. More information about the conference can be found on the Swiss page of the Ifgene web site at http://www.ifgene.org/switzer.htm.
Contact: David Heaf, Ifgene UK co-ordinator, Hafan, Cae Llwyd, Llanystumdwy, Cricieth, Gwynedd, LL52 0SG. Tel/Fax: 01766 523181.
Email: 101622.2773 at compuserve.com. More about Ifgene can also be found at http://www.ifgene.org/.
Earthly and Heavenly Harmonies
4 – 7 October, Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Road, Stroud, Glos,GL6 7QW, Tel: 01453 759034, Fax: 01453 764607. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.hawkwoodscollege.co.uk.
Topics covered in this conference will include: The planets and metals; A mythology of Jupiter and Saturn; The Aurora; Sunspots; Agriculture in relation to the cosmos.
Tutors will include: John Meeks, astronomer and colleague of the Mathematical-Astronomical Section of the Anthroposophical Society in Dornach, Alan Brockman, a leading Bio-Dynamic farmer, Liesbeth Bisterbosch, an astronomer from Holland, Ron Jarman, Nick Kollerstrom, Maggie Salter, Henry Goulden and Robert Byrnes.
There will be an exhibition of John Salter’s sculptures on the zodiac. Further information on the conference will be available in the New Year. The concert on Saturday evening with internationally renowned concert pianist Bernard Roberts will be free for conference participants.
Lili Kolisko Quarter-Centenary Conference – Call For Papers
A group of people including members of the Science Section of the School of Spiritual Science are planning a weekend conference in November 2001 to commemorate the work of Lili Kolisko who died on 20th November 1976. Likely dates are 23-25 November and the venue will probably be Stroud Centre for Science & Art. The aim will be to have oral presentations, an exhibition of work, a visit to Kolisko Farm, a demonstration of capillary dynamolysis and opportunities for discussion. This conference comes at a time when there is a growing interest in picture-forming qualitative methods. Indeed, their application in food quality assessment was featured in a presentation of Ursula Balzer-Graf’s work to the Soil Association conference, Cirencester in 2000. The organisers would welcome contributions to the content and funding of this conference. Please direct all communications regarding the conference to Richard Swann, Orchard Leigh Camphill Community, Bath Road, Eastington, Stonehouse, Glos, GL10 3AY. Email: email@example.com.
Projective Geometry Classes
Weekly classes in Projective Geometry are in progress in Brighton, England at St Michael Creative Arts on Wednesday, 24 January at 7.45 pm, continuing at the same time each Wednesday through the Spring term. All are welcome.
St Michael Creative Arts is at: 16 Scarborough Rd (near Preston Park Station) Brighton Sussex
The classes are being given by Paul Courtney, who can be reached on 01273 556699.
Goethean Science and Further Educational Activities at Pishwanton
Margaret Colquhoun writes in a Christmas 2000 message from Pishwanton: “This year has seen the growth of small courses in Goethean Science at Pishwanton. There is a plant study every Wednesday morning for all garden and land workers, many seminars on landscape and an ongoing animal evolution course partly in Edinburgh at the Museum. I would like to develop this work much more now and also to do more research at Pishwanton. Heather Thoma will be the first longer term student. She will start in the new Year and will also help to set up and administrate the New Hibernian Way, which has now been rescheduled to start in the late Autumn 2001.”
Contact: Dr Margaret Colquhoun, Pedlar’s Way, Gifford, East Lothian, EH41 4JD, Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1620 810259.
The Schiller-File – Supplement to the Collected Edition of the work of Rudolf Steiner (Beiträge Nr 122, Summer 2000) The appointment of tasks by Rudolf Steiner for scientific research. (Format; 168 mm x 240 mm, 112 pages, illustrated, some coloured. Paper covers.) This is an important publication for all those with an interest in the fundamentals of “Anthroposophical Realism” (G. A. 220).
The Schiller-File describes experiments undertaken at the Research Institute (Stuttgart) until its demise, and further experimental work carried on at the Goetheanum and elsewhere – there are notes and letters as late as 1984.
In this volume experiments are described with observations and suggestions by Steiner. Many were undertaken by Schiller himself or with his assistance. For example Steiner was particularly interested in experiments with electrical discharge in a super-cooled vacuum, and remarked that here was a situation analogous to phenomena in the sun.
Descriptions of the work of other scientists is included, such as:– Dr Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, W. Pelikan, Dr von Dechend, Dr O. Schmiedel, Dr von Siemens, J. Bramsch etc etc.
The reports of Schiller are followed by a supplement with extensive notes and comments by Stephan Clerc, which is packed with bibliographical and other references.
The wide range of topics covered in the “File” includes: electricity and geo-magnetism, the four kinds of ether, radio, plant growth and the production of a peat based textile for protection against radiation. Altogether this edition of the Beiträge is a cornucopia of leitmotifs and germinal ideas for anthroposophical scientific research.
In 1923 Rudolf Steiner said it could take 50 to 75 years to bring all the fragmented areas of research together again. Surely the time is now ripe! In the opinion of the writer the publication of an English edition is of great importance. A sample translation is given immediately below. Henry Goulden
The Schiller-File – The appointment of tasks for spiritual research by Rudolf Steiner
A sample English translation of pages 10 and 11 by Henry Goulden, February 2001
Beiträge Number 122 Summer 2000, Published by: Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach.
Dr. E. E. Pfeiffer reported that he had had a series of conversations with Rudolf Steiner about experimental work in which he had taken part: Rudolf Steiner was asked whether etheric formative forces (Bilderkräfte) could be made available in the laboratory and also for technical purposes. This question arose from his lectures where the Keeley-Motor and the future use of oscillations had been referred to (e.g. 25. XI. 1917 G.A. 178). Rudolf Steiner had answered: In the first place it is necessary to find a reagent for etheric formative forces. One must be sure that the formative forces are active in any research arrangements. This could happen with phenomena of warmth and light or even with cultures of bacteria too, i.e. with living substances. (Pfeiffer suggested that Paramecium could also be used as a test-medium). Furthermore, for example, Life-ether could be obtained, so that animals (= bacteria, etc, Tr.) brought into the evacuated vessel would be killed. The Life-ether would then be extracted with ethyl alcohol.
Rudolf Steiner referred to the book by Rama Prashad: Nature’s Finer Forces. There are seven kinds of ether mentioned. Today, so said Rudolf Steiner, information about the first four kinds of ether only may be given. The premature knowledge and misuse of the three others could lead to the greatest catastrophes.
Rudolf Steiner recommended the study of resonance and wave motion (oscillation); likewise the influence of human rhythms on acoustic and magnetic phenomena. The transformation of delicate pulsations (Pulsschwingungen) into larger waves. This means, above all, that substances must be found which react very sensitively. Here copper came into consideration.
Human vibrations could also be measured; for example by using a fine copper strip in an evacuated tube (Geissler tube) and the influence of the light phenomenon observed (or measured with an electroscope). A telephone-receiver could also be used. There lies another possibility here: to set up a connection between the human tongue and a flame with a wire or thread (Faden) and observe the changes.
In connection with the above Pfeiffer had set up an experiment and observed that the approach (not touching) of a discharge tube to various parts of the human body produced colour changes and shifts in the dark regions. When an evacuated glass globe was brought near the human body he noticed light phenomena too. These light phenomena were different for different parts of the body. Pfeiffer told Rudolf Steiner about all this; Steiner said that the observed changes in the discharge tube could be traced in the first place to the influence of the astral body, that is to say not to etheric occurrences. However he ruled out the course of the experiments up to that moment because the time was not yet ripe for the etheric forces to be made to become operative. Pfeiffer asked: when would the time come? Dr Steiner replied: when the threefold social order and Waldorf school education were realised and humanity had another moral constitution. Until then these studies should be carried out in the greatest privacy and secrecy.
Finally Dr Steiner mentioned that electromagnetic experiments would succeed better in America because greater concentrations of magnetic forces exist there.
In a further indication Rudolf Steiner suggested research into the reaction of the human being with a motionless burning flame. (see Folio 10) Etc, etc
All these experiments will only succeed if the laboratory is made into an altar. Only when this requirement is met may one do experiments whereby the inner nature of the human being becomes outwardly effective; otherwise only greater mischief will be wrought. (end of page 11)
A Review of Research on the Biological Transmutation of Chemical Elements
Based on an unfinished paper by Prof. L.W.J. Holleman; Translated and completed with criticism by David Cuthbertson. The full review is available at www.vgv.ch/holleman/holleman.htm.
Translator’s foreword to the present version of this review: The aim of this critical review is (and was) to present the work of Professor Dr. L.W.J. Holleman on a series of experiments on the possible biological transmutation of chemical elements in cultures of the alga Chlorella vulgaris to as wide an audience as possible. It is hoped by this means that further research may be encouraged. This present work was commissioned by the Professor L.W.J. Holleman Stichting [Trust].
At the centre of this review lies an experiment that was for Holleman the culmination of a life long belief in the possible existence of the biological transmutation of elements. This experiment was written up (in German) and privately published and circulated by Holleman in 1981. He reported the provisional results of an experiment involving a series of closed Chlorella cultures and which demonstrated the disappearance (and subsequent reappearance) of the chemical element potassium. This report referred to a critical review article on the biological transmutation of chemical elements that was shortly to be published, covering both historical and modern experiments, including details of his own work. Sadly, this review article was never completed.
The present provisional review article is an attempt to translate [from his native Dutch] and complete that unfinished article. The first 5 and parts of the 6th and 7th sections of this present review article are direct translations of the surviving drafts of Holleman’s manuscript. Unfortunately these drafts were not extensive enough to make it possible to complete the article as Holleman presumably intended. The final form of the last half of the review was never fully sketched out. The final sections that I have written to complete this work are therefore mostly based on his surviving laboratory notebooks, notes and letters, as well as on his privately circulated report of his initial, intriguing potassium results that were obtained in experiment II of his experimental series with the alga Chlorella.
It is likely that Holleman wrote his surviving drafts over an extended period of time, certainly up to 1982. That he intended to write up his Chlorella work fully once the potential transmutation results of experiment II had been confirmed might help explain why his fourth main experiment, which was designed to confirm these results, was hardly written up at all. It was as if he were holding his breath for the analytical results of experiment IV, which were completed by the end of 1982, before writing anything down. The results were, sadly, negative. The blank pages in his laboratory notebook, which he had left ready for a description of the methods, materials and the full results, were never completed. Something had gone terribly wrong which he could not explain. Experiment V led to experiment VI and still no replication of the unexplained results from experiment II. Eventually, some 14 years after starting his Chlorella work, he lost his laboratory. However that did not stop him from wishing to continue. Old age and infirmity played a part, but I believe it to have been disappointment that stopped him in the end.
Nevertheless he made several things clear. Firstly that he had not lost his faith that biological transmutations may be possible. Secondly that his belief was not enough. It had to be proved under rigorous scientific conditions, and not once but many times. To this end he intended that this and related work must be written up so as to invite the criticism of others. This he felt to be essential so that the future research that he wished for might have the benefit of the wisdom of others.
In February 1995 I was invited by Wim Holleman’s daughter, Sophie Holleman, to continue her father’s research. This I tentatively accepted. It led, in May 1996, to the presentation of my initial studies of the literature and other sources relating to this subject in a colloquium to the Louis Bolk Institute of the Netherlands. Despite the colloquium’s positive reception I found myself unable to take on the tremendous burden of responsibility involved in conducting such revolutionary work [literally so for the conventional scientific community: Of note is that Holleman described this subject as precarious, even treacherous; the 19th century German transmutation researcher Herzeele, who provided Holleman with much of his inspiration, described it as a hopeless task. If the phenomenon of the biological transmutation of chemical elements was an easy one to prove, it would already be a generally accepted fact]. My wish here is to facilitate the possibility that others may continue Wim Holleman’s pioneering work. This I hope to do by means of a critical translation and review of Holleman’s notes and writings relating to his Chlorella research.
A few words may be needed on the style and content of this review. As was previously mentioned, the first 5 sections and parts of the 6th and 7th are direct translations of Holleman’s rough drafts of his intended review. Only occasionally [though more so in the later sections] did I find it necessary to rewrite individual sentences, though only where I believed that their comprehension might otherwise have proved difficult. Where I felt the need to comment directly on Holleman’s text [which I have freely done] I have chosen not to use footnotes. To distinguish his commentary from that of my own, I have identified mine by writing it in the first person and the present tense. I hope that this may prove acceptable to the reader. The final sections, covering Holleman’s work from 1982-1989, are entirely my own, though wherever possible I have drawn directly on the thought processes recorded by Holleman in his numerous scattered notes and letters. This has proved to be extremely challenging, though highly rewarding. This present review makes no claim to be complete; given more time and financial resources, many references quoted by Holleman could have been checked and further relevant literature referred to; during the writing many questions were raised for which answers might have been obtained. Comments would however, be gratefully received, either by myself or the Stichting.
I have taken quite literally Holleman’s request, in his own draft Foreword at www.vgv.ch/holleman/holleman.htm, to bring forth any criticisms that I have had during my studies of this work. This is a highly controversial area of science that I believe must be approached in a direct, open, but rigorous manner. The main criticism that both Holleman and myself have for other previous research, is not that the experimental results were right or wrong, but rather that the experimental methods were rarely published in sufficient detail to enable an independent assessment. I hope that this review of Holleman’s work goes some way in enabling both the lay reader and the scientific specialist to be able to assess much of the large volume of work conducted by Holleman on this subject.
Since writing this report, further notes and papers relating to Holleman’s work have been discovered. It is intended some time in the next few months, once funds become available, to review these in the hopes of shedding more light on Holleman’s as yet unexplained, intriguing, and challenging results.
David Cuthbertson, February 1999
The Spirit of Trees
Fred Hageneder, Floris Books, 2000. ISBN 0-86315-326-7. 251pp h/b. £16.99
Anyone who agrees with William Blake that a tree is not just a ‘green thing that stands in the way’ will find something of interest in this book. Its author, Fred Hageneder, is a man who was saved by a tree (a birch); appropriately enough, as he refers to it as the ‘tree of the beginning’ and its appearance marked the beginning of a passion for trees which has involved him in celebrating them in music and painting ever since.
The subtitle of the book is Science, Symbiosis and Inspiration. In the first of two parts, we are given an introduction to the evolution of ‘The Wildwood’ and its immense time scale followed by the properties of water and the way it defies ahrimanic (my word) abstraction. This part alone is a wonderful spur to the imagination and a reminder that other ways of being and doing are within our reach. I’m not sure that ‘As long as it can, water avoids the harmful direct light of the Sun by shielding itself under overhanging vegetation.’ But it would be a very hard hearted logger who wasn’t convinced by the description of the ‘trail of suffering’ which began at the mountain spring environment in Salzkammergut (p.28). As John Stewart Collis said of trees in ‘The Triumph of the Tree’ (1950) ‘Their work ramifies through the whole economy of Nature.’
When the author moves on to talk about the relation of trees to electricity, magnetism, light and colour however, things become a bit patchy. It was very interesting to learn how trees affect the earth’s magnetic field (p.36) and to read ‘not a star can move, but a plant responds’ (p.53) but there are examples of careless thinking in this section. For example statements such as ‘Like all matter and radiation, light has both a wave and a particle aspect’, (p.41) are mixed in with his generally holistic approach. ‘Green,’ he says,’ is also associated with energy, youth, growth, fertility, hope and new life’. I don’t think so, except to superficial observation. The section on light and colour, though interesting, could have benefited from being deeper and perhaps informed by some of Goethe’s observations.
Planets and Trees (near the end of Part One) deals mainly with Lawrence Edwards work on buds and this is followed by chapters on agriculture and then the ‘Sacred Grove’. It was when I came to the sentence: ‘The appearance of co-operation and the way structures come together to form more complex structures has inspired scientists to question whether there is a higher purpose working in nature’(p.45) that I felt like closing the book and going for a walk in the woods. I’m glad I didn’t in spite of also reading ’..some early civilisations did not confine their numbers; they overpopulated, and had no means of grasping the ecological consequences which they caused.’ (page 56) partly because the occasionally naïve text belies the exquisitely beautiful drawings, paintings and photographs which are on almost every page. Together with Part Two of the book, which gives us a picture of 24 ‘European’ trees, loosely based on the alchemical pentangle of earth, water, air, fire and ether and relating to appearance, healing, tradition and inspiration, they make the book well worth reading.
This is an important book because the massacre of trees is a deed of great ignorance and stupidity and we need reminding of that. Pat Cheney
21 years after Karl Julius Schröer’s death, Rudolf Steiner remarked: “one can hold the conviction that voices such as Schröer’s should again be heard in the present time.” Eighty years after Steiner uttered these words about his teacher, that it to say, now, on the centenary of Schröer’s death, one can justifiably ask: Is it still possible to learn anything from Schröer today? Are Schröer’s words still worth hearing in our time?
– In response to this we believe one can say the following:
- In the field of Goethe research Schröer was able to render explicit what was implicit and unconscious in Goethe. He raised this research to a new height by applying Goethe’s own method back to Goethe himself!
- In his sublime reflections on love, Schröer demonstrated the Platonic nature of Goethe’s striving, which above all has reverence and devotion as its basis.
- Educationally, it could be argued that his ideas and impulses were a decisive influence on the development of the Waldorf method of education.
- Philosophically, he propounded an objective idealism (he also termed it “invincible idealism”), which paved the way for the language and epistemological approach later adopted by Rudolf Steiner himself.
- In connection with his language and dialect studies on the Oberufer Christmas Plays, Schröer approached the sphere of spiritual reality, with his active and concrete conception of folk-souls and folk-spirits.
These are just some of the reasons why we have decided to publish in English a small, free newsletter entitled Schröer Studies. Here we intend to gather together translations of some of Schröer’s Goethean essays, various lectures and other diverse writings. Therefore anyone interested in receiving this newsletter simply email us at the following address: SchroerStudies@another.com – David Wood & Keith Eagle.
Waldorf Science Newsletter – Explorations in Phenomenology as Practised in Waldorf Schools
Edited by David Mitchell and John Petering, $5.00 each
Contact: Judy Grumstrup-Scott, Association of Waldorf Schools in North America (AWSNA) Publications, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site: www.awsna.org.
Volume 1, #1 Acoustics in Grade 6; Teaching About Alcohol in Grade 8, Chemistry; The Chemistry Curriculum: The Debate over Teacher Demonstration vs. Student Experimentation; Spiritual Aspects of 20th Century Science; Overview of Waldorf Science Curriculum; Characteristics of the Major Sugars; Goethe’s Meditation on Granite.
Volume 1, #2 The Characteristics of Drugs; Eratosthenes Revived; The Golden Number; Educational Guidelines for a Chemical Formula Language; the Properties of Acids and Bases; Walter Lebendörfer on Chemistry; What is Home?; Waldorf Environmental Curriculum.
Volume 2, #3 Grade 12 Physics by von Mackensen; Biology Teaching in the 11th Grade; Euclid’s Algorithm; The Logos and Goethean Observation; Nature Education; Aristotle’s Taste Spectrum.
Volume 2, #4 Current Research; Strange Theories; Science Education and Wonder; The Human Earth; Steiner’s Counterspace Examined; The Cow; Language and the Book of Nature.
Volume 3, #5 First lessons in Astronomy; Steps in the Development of Thinking (Power of Judgement); Computer Science and Computers in the Waldorf School; Technology; Computers in Education; Some Characteristics of the Computer; Computers and Consciousness.
Volume 3, #6 Space and Counter Space; New Eyes for Plants; Experiments of Academia dell Cement; Physics and Chemistry in the Grades; Goethean Science Credits; Chemistry Workshop; Table of Important Salts; Goethe’s Scientific Imagination; To Infinity and Back in Class 11; PI and Trigonometry; Science in the Waldorf Kindergarten; A Note on Pascal’s Triangle; Experiments.
Volume 4, #7 What is Goethean Science?; The Earth’s Interior; Giant Snowballs from Space; Cell Cosmology in Grade 10; Prototype Waldorf Computer Course; Monarch Butterflies; The Origin of Honey; Einstein’s Question; A River Watch Project; Thoughts about Science Curriculum Standards; Comments on the Building of a Waldorf School.
Volume 4, #8 Towards Holistic Biology; How DNA Computers Work; Solar System Facts; Tendril Perversion; What is Goethean Science?; Human Movement and the Nervous System; What is Science?; What is Meant by “Teaching the Children to Breathe?”; Experiments.
Volume 5, #9 Book Review: Quest for Meaning by L. Francis Edmunds; Understanding Blood and Haemoglobin; Science Literacy – Are We Below Average?; Song of the Rain, a poem by Howard Schrager; Cognitive Channels, the Learning Cycle, and Middle School Students; Suggestions for a Grade 8 Physics Block; Introduction of Advanced Arithmetical Operations for a 7th Grade Waldorf Class; Experiments; Waldorf Science Kits.
Volume 5, #10 Reading the Rocks; Why the Arts Are Important to Science; The Three Groups of Rocks; Introduction to Geology; The Rock Cycle; Mineralogy for Grade 6; Metals and Minerals, Precious Stones – Their Meaning for Earth, Human Being and Cosmos; Experiments.
Volume 6, #11 A Chemistry of Process; Sponges and Sinks and Rags; How to Read Science; Experiences and Suggestions for Chemistry Teaching; Experimentation as an Art; Biographies – Dmitri Mendeleev, Joseph Priestly, Marie Curie; Destructive Distillation; Experiments.
Volume 7, #13 (Autumn 2000) The view from both sides of a Waldorf Education. Pedagogical motives for the 3rd 7-year period.. Social education through mathematics lessons. A vision for Waldorf education: A personal appreciation of the works of Bindel and von Baravalle. Our approach to math doesn’t add up. Arithmetic and mathematics in a Waldorf school – curriculum suggestions.
David Mitchell, 1158 Quince Avenue, Boulder, CO 80304, USA. Fax 303/ 541-9244. Email: email@example.com.
Elemente der Naturwissenschaft
Nr. 73 (2000) Multilingual – Abstracts in English. Einfluss kurzzeitigen Erhitzens auf die gestaltende Vitalaktivität im Steigbild Uwe Löffler. Prozesse an Flüssigkeitsoberflächen: Wirkungen oberflächenaktiver Substanzen im Tropfbild und in den Alveolen der Lunge, Gero Leneweit, Reinhard Koehler, Andreas Wilkens und Michael Jacobi. Zum Verständnis des Kreisels — ein Beispiel für den Erkenntnisvorgang, Johannes Kühl. Johanneskraut (Hypericum perforatum L.) als lebendige Imagination der Depression, Torsten Arncken. Materialism is NOT a Mechanistic World View, Don Cruse. Abweichungen vom statistischen Verhalten beim radioaktiven Zerfall, Johannes Kühl. Die Kultur der europäischen Landschaft als Aufgabe – Eine Tagung als Prozess, Hans-Christian Zehnter.
Editorial board: Dr. Johannes Wirz, Birgit Althaler, Haijo Knijpenga, Johannes Kühl, Barbara Schmocker. Forschungslaboratorium am Goetheanum, Hügelweg 59, CH-4143 Dornach, Switzerland. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributor: Verlag der Kooperative Dürnau, Im Winkel 11, D-88422 Dürnau, Germany Tel: +49 7582 93000, Fax +49 7582 930020. Subscription 28.- DM/year for 2 issues, 16.- per single issue, inclusive of p&p.
Tycho de Brahe Jahrbuch für Goetheanismus
2000: Angelika Heinze: Vom Zusammenhang der Zygomorphie mit der Nektarblattverinnerlichung bei den Hahnenfußgewachsen (Ranunculaceae). Andreas Suchantke: Uber den Zusammenhang von Biotoptracht und Mimikry bei Schmetterlingen — Beobachtungen in Südasien und anderen Kontinenten. Wolfgang Schad: Spiral-Asymmetrien bei Tier und Mensch. Christian Heckmann: Neue klinische Befunde zur reaktiven Zirkaseptanperiodik. Gunther Hildebrandt: Tagesrhythmik der Thermoregulation. Wolfgang Schad: Für eine vernunftgemäße Chemie. Hans-Joachim Strüh: Alkoholische und rhythmisierte wässrige Pflanzenauszuge. Ulrich Wunderlin: Von der Wirkungskraft des Lichtes – Zur Chemie-Epoche der 8. Kiasse der Waldorfschule.
Edited by Rolf Dorka, Roselies Gehlig, Thomas Göbel, Angelika Heinze, Wolfgang Schad & Hans-Joachim Strüh. Tycho de Brahe Verlag GdBR, Am Eichhof, 75223 Niefern-Öschelbronn, Germany. Contact Dr. Roselies Gehlig, Email: Chemie.Carus@t-online.de.
Newsletter of the Society for the Evolution of Science
Vol. 15 (1) Winter 1999: 1997 Society for the Evolution of Science Conference Review, Teresa Woods Barnes. Progress Towards Complementarity in Genetics, Johannes Wirz. The Nature Institute Celebrates Its Founding Dedication! Teresa Woods Barnes.
15 (2) Fall 1999: Pondering the Seeds of a Theory’s Self-Destruction, Donald Ian Cruse and Robert Zimmer. Response from David J. Heaf to an Article by Donald Ian Cruse and Robert Zimmer Titled “Pondering the Seeds of a Theory’s Self-Destruction” David J. Heaf. Reply to David Heaf, Don Cruse.
16 (1) Spring 2000 On the Phenomenology of Heat, Friedrich Wilhelm Dustmann. Recent Publications Reviewed, Mark Riegner.
16 (2) Fall 2000 Summaries of presentations at the Society for the Evolution of Science Conference, July 2000: Mystery and Science, John Armstrong; The Trivium – Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic – as Three Skills of Childhood – Walking, Talking, and Thinking; Stephen Eberhart. Notes on the Quadrivium, Stephen Eberhart; The Brain as a Sense Organ for Concepts, Siegward Elsas; Understanding Plant Families – A Contribution of Goethean Science, Richard Katz and Patricia Kaminski; Wholeness in Nature: Meeting the Integrity of Plants and Animals, Craig Holdrege; Gestures of Metals in the Biochemistry of the Earth Organism, Maria Linder. Phenomenalism and Counterspace, Nick Thomas.
Editor/Treasurer: Jim Kotz, 3698 Dwight Davis Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32312, USA. Email: email@example.com.
Nr. 13 (2000): Strömung – Bild der Strömung, Georg Sonder. Vortrag: Die Herausforderung einer wissenschaftlichen Annäherung an die ‘Lebendigkeit’ des Wassers, Wolfram Schwenk. (Plus contributions on the privatisation of water debate.)
Price DM 3.00 per issue. Free to sponsors. Institut für Strömungswissenschaften, Stutzhofweg 11, D-79737 Herrischried, Germany, Tel: +49 (0)77 64 269, Fax +49 (0)7764 1324.
202, Michaelmas 2000: Der Elektronen- und Photonenspin. Erster Teil: Aufbau der Dirac-Gleichungen, Karl-Heinz Niklowitz. Zeitsprung rückwärts beim Übergang von einem Inertialsystem zum andern, Hermann Bauer. Das Jahr der Mathematik, G. Kowol. Gedanken und Erweiterungen zu George Adams Buch: Von dem ätherischen Raum, Kurt Pfister.
203, Christmas 2000: Der Elektronen- und Photonenspin. Zweiter Teil: Entstehung des magnetischen Momentes und Elektronenspins, Karl-Heinz Niklowitz. Ein geometrisches Problem von Jakob Steiner, Stefan Kocher. Zum Satz von Morley, Renatus Ziegler. Figuren zum Satz von Morley, Horst Kornberger.
Subscriptions are Sfr45/DM50 per year. Edited by Dr. Peter Gschwind, Mathematisch-Physicalisches Institut, Benedikt Hugiweg 18, CH-4143 Dornach, Switzerland.
Published by the Science Group of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain.
Issue 6, September 2000: Geometric Crystal Morphology on a Projective Basis: Towards the Complementarity of Morphology and Structure Theory, Renatus Ziegler (45pp). Review article: Capillary Dynamolysis, David Heaf.
56 pages, A5. Price: £4.00 incl. UK p&p (overseas p&p: EU add £0.50, elsewhere add £1.00). Orders to the editor, David Heaf (address at the end of this newsletter). UK bank cheques or Eurocheques payable to ‘Science Group, AS in GB’. No non-UK bank cheques please, apart from International Money Orders or Eurocheques. Foreign currency banknotes acceptable at current exchange rates.
All back issues are still available: please enquire or see archetyp.htm.
Science Group Membership & Finances
The Science Group is open to members of the Anthroposophical Society worldwide. At the discretion of the committee, non-members of the Society may join the Group as Associate Members.
The membership subscription is currently £5 (UK), £6 (Europe) or £7 elsewhere. This newsletter is issued to members in March and September each year. The membership currently totals 79.
The Group’s account at is £879 in credit (31 January 2001). This edition of the newsletter goes to 73 subscribers in 11 countries.
Copy for the next issue should reach the editor at the address below by 20th August 2001.
Dr David J. Heaf, Hafan, Cae Llwyd, Llanystumdwy, Cricieth, Gwynedd, LL52 0SG, UK. Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1766 523181.