by Jay Whig
How long will the Biden gerontocracy, also known as Geezer’s Palace, continue to indulge Anthony Fauci’s mendacious reign of medical terror?
Gain-of-function research is a field in which an organism or pathogen is altered genetically in a way that increases its performance. To speak of “performance” in this context, of course, raises the question, “performance of what?” Performance is based on a goal, and in medical science, long cut free from the moorings of intelligible ideas about the good, that means viability.
When the organism in question is a pathogen, viability means new qualities of pathogenesis, transmissibility, or the types of hosts the pathogen can infect, leading to the greater propagation of the pathogen.
Human beings, blending techne and physis, have been manipulating the genetics of animals and plants for millennia. Creating environmental pressure by choosing which animals and plants will breed and prosper, man has enhanced, with purpose, the speciation of natural living things to produce such wonders as livestock, cereals, and house pets.
Want a dog that is aggressive with high jaw strength to be used in bull-baiting, rat-catching, and dog-fighting entertainment? The pit bull was developed by selective breeding in England in the 1500s. Want a docile dog that swims, retrieves, and doesn’t startle at gunfire? The Labrador retriever breed was selected by the same methods in Newfoundland in the 1700s.
Seeking a grain that grows quickly, with a high sugar content, suitable for human and feed consumption? Some 9,000 years ago, indigenous people in Mexico domesticated a type of grass, teosinte, pressuring the genetic structure of the plants by selective destruction of the seeds of teosinte with undesirable features, and promotion of the reproduction of teosinte with favorable features, to make corn.
Barbara McClintock, a reclusive professor at Cornell University, loved corn. Darwinian evolutionary and Mendelian genetics assumed that genetic variation was the product of accidental changes in the transcription of genetic material—leading, in most cases, to failure (i.e., death), but occasionally to a new variety more survivable than its competitor cousins or specifically survivable in an unfilled niche.
McClintock discovered that corn DNA actively participated in this process. In response to environmental pressure, plants are unable to run away. McClintock through painstaking observation learned that corn DNA has “transposable elements.” When threatened by a change in environment, including selective weeding for plant domestication, corn shuffles its DNA autonomously. Parts of the genetic code, which otherwise seemed to be superfluous, regulated this shuffling. These DNA “activators,” when triggered by environmental pressure, provoked the transposition of DNA, including the transposition of parts of activators.
The effect of this is to accelerate the evolutionary response to environmental pressures. McClintock’s transposable elements, also known as “jumping genes,” exist not just in corn but in other plants and animals. The human immune system depends on transposable elements to respond to pathogens. Every time you are exposed to a new pathogen, you are genetically altered, either gaining function to defeat the pathogen (sufficient immunity) or failing to gain that function and succumbing to the pathogen.
While human beings have been modifying plants and animals—and indeed themselves by their selection of mates and destruction of one another—for millennia, until very recently the methods for altering a microorganic pathogen were limited, error-prone, and unreliable. Bug manipulation was either crude or it was science fiction.
In 1987, Japanese scientists in Osaka discovered a family of DNA sequences called “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” or CRISPR for short. This led to the discovery of CRISPR-associated “protein 9,” which can be manipulated to edit genes. In 2020, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work in gene editing using CRISPR-Cas9.
Gain of function research is a head-scratcher. Editing the gene sequences of pathogens to make them more viable is obviously inherently dangerous. Yet, somehow, at the same time, it seems inevitable. The benign impulses to conduct gain of function research appear to originate in a kind of wargaming with disease. We make a new pathogen. Find a new way to defeat it. Make the world safe. Moviegoers who saw “War Games” suspect this is a questionable proposition.
Malignant impulses start with the premise that everyone else is working on a doomsday device, so why not us, too? As General Buck Turgidson of Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” said, “We must not allow a mineshaft gap!” They end with the specific desire to weaponize pathogens offensively.
The great crime of history, the Holocaust, happened through and with the cooperation of the German medical profession. The vast majority of German doctors were committed Nazis, and they implemented at Hitler’s request, Aktion T-4 program, which was the systematic murder of the incurably ill, emotionally distraught, elderly, and other persons deemed defective. The impulse and infrastructure of this program, and more importantly the authority (moral and command) of the medical profession, were used to carry out industrial, medicalized murder at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Treblinka. If there is anything the 20th century ought to teach us, it is to distrust doctors in or adjacent to politics. They are dangerous—some due to incompetence, and some because they are evil.
Fauci’s incompetence can be presumed from his age. His propensity for evil is becoming apparent from his correspondence.
– – –
J. Whig is an attorney practicing in New York and a resident of Connecticut specializing in insolvency and restructuring. Opinions are his own.
Photo “Dr. Anthony Fauci” by Georgia Tech.