SCIENCE: Information theory was useless in cracking the genetic code
- Written by Marie Neptune
Life's Greatest Secret, a 2015 work about the development of modern genetics, was reviewed in the New York Review of Books recently by H. Allen Orr of the Univ. of Rochester. -- Orr's review puts in historical context the recent development of powerful CRISPR technologies over the past few years, techniques that permit efficient reformatting of any genetic code, and thus astonishingly precise genetic engineering. -- In the fact that information theory contributed nothing to the development of modern genetics, Prof. Orr finds support for the notion that the genetic code as it exists is an almost completely arbitrary construct: "a half-decent arrangement arrived at by the imperfect, tinkering process of evolution by natural selection and, once settled on, it couldn’t be 'improved,' or made somehow more systematic. -- In such a situation theory is likely useless." -- Life's greatest secret, it would appear, is a message from an idiot...
BOOKS: US geostrategists differ on everything except that US will & must remain supreme
- Written by Henry Adams
Thomas Meaney is a promising Ph.D. candidate in Columbia University's Department of History who has already published a considerable number of pieces on U.S. and European intellectual and political history. -- In the Jul. 14 number of the London Review of Books, Meaney reviews John A. Thompson's A Sense of Power (Cornell UP, 2015). -- According to Thompson, the reason the United States chose to become a world power in the 1940s was because it could: "its leaders realized that it would cost them relatively little to bend the world in the political direction they wanted." -- Franklin Roosevelt, rejecting the traditional concept of "spheres of influence," told Joseph Stalin that "There is literally no question, military or political, in which the United States is not interested." -- Superior American military power backed up this view. -- "By war’s end no one was in a position to gainsay the broad shape of the Pax Americana." -- Similarly, another book under review, Perry Anderson's American Foreign Policy and Its Thinkers (Verso, 2014), holds that it was the sheer fact of American economic dominance that led a once modest historical particularism ('American exceptionalism') to merge with universalism (the exporting of 'American democracy') and become a form of "messianic activism." -- William Appleman Williams, Chalmers Johnson, and Andrew Bacevich may cherish the view that the U.S. can return to "a truer version of American republican principles," but Anderson's view is dark: "There’s no better republic to go back to, no way to roll back the messianism." -- Even the optimism of Williams, Johnson, and Bacevich can be seen as a form of this messianism, since "[w]hat strikes Anderson about the collection of American strategists he’s assembled is how -- despite their radically different worldviews -- they all agree that the U.S. will and must remain the supreme world power." ...
BOOKS: NYT reviewer cheers proposal to expand US military, bring back draft
- Written by Jim O. Madison