By Richard C. Lewontin
Following within the type of Stephen Jay Gould and Peter Medawar, one of many world's prime scientists examines how "pure technological know-how" is actually formed and guided through social and political wishes and assumptions.
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An examination of the causes of death, first systematically recorded in the 1830s in Britain and a bit later in North America, show that most people did, indeed, die of infectious disease and in particular of respiratory diseases. They died of tuberculosis, of diphtheria, of bronchitis, of pneumonia, and particularly among children they died of measles and the perennial killer, smallpox. As the nineteenth century progressed, the death rate from all these diseases decreased continuously. Smallpox was dealt with by a medical advance, but one that could hardly be claimed by modern scientific medicine, since smallpox vaccine was discovered in the eighteenth century and already was quite widely used by the early part of the nineteenth.
The conclusion for Hobbes was that one needed a king to prevent this war from destroying everything. The claims that organisms, especially human beings, grow without bound and that the world in which they grow is finite and limited are the two basic claims that have given rise to the modern biological theory of human nature. They resurfaced in the Reverend Malthus's treatise on population, in his famous law that organisms grow geometrically in numbers while the resources for their subsistence grow only arithmetically, and so again a struggle for existence must occur.
On the average, the amino acid sequence specified by our maternally inherited and paternally inherited genes differ in about one every 12 genes. In addition, because of the nature of the genetic code, many changes occur at the level of DNA that are not reflected in genes are copied directly from the gene molecules that previously existed. Since no chemical copying process is perfect, mistakes are made, so-called mutations, but these happen about one in a million copies as a rule. The description I have just given of genes as determining the particular proteins that an organism can manufacture, as being part of the signaling system that responds to the environment in turning on and off the manufacture of protein, and as being the model for the manufacture of more of themselves, differs in a subtle way from the usual description of these relations.