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Re: [mythsoc] Digest Number 554

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  • Trudy Shaw
    ... From: WendellWag@aol.com To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2001 1:24 PM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Digest Number 554 It seems to me that
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 8, 2001
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: WendellWag@...
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2001 1:24 PM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Digest Number 554


      It seems to me that there's really no progress on this at all, so the whole
      news story is somewhat bogus. It reports a slightly new version of a medical
      experiment tried 30 or 40 years ago and tried again with no further results.
      All they can do is hook up the blood circulation system. Nobody knows how to
      attach the nervous system.

      ---------

      My "day job" involves working with medical research in genetics, which is ever-so-slightly related to this kind of stuff, so I probably know just enough to be dangerous. But I'd agree with Wendell on the body transplants (which is what the scientist seems to say this would be--not head transplants).

      There are other paths of research that are so much further along as far as helping people with spinal cord injuries, etc., that I can't imagine this guy getting much support. He may learn something along the way that could be useful in microsurgery, and contribute to the main body of research in that way.

      As was pointed out earlier, this whole thing assumes that our entire personality, psyche, and intellect resides in our brains and so would remain intact if our head was attached to a different body. The more we learn about how our thought processes are related to our biochemistry, glands, nervous system, etc., the less likely this seems. Even if, by some leap of speculation, we ask "what if" these transplants could be done, we probably wouldn't end up with exactly the same person afterward.

      Getting back toward books (although I wouldn't call it mythopoeic), this discussion makes me think of "Lives of the Monster Dogs." A strange little book that was marketed as mainstream literary, but was also reviewed in some places as science fiction. It was billed as a statement on what it means to be human, but my strongest impression was of the horrific picture of the psyche of the fictional scientist who spent his life attempting this kind of grafting in order to produce the perfect army. I hadn't thought of comparing it to That Hideous Strength. There would be some parallels, I think, in the life of the scientist, but the book is mainly about his "creations," who, whatever their faults, are at least innocent of their origins. And the closest thing to mythology in it is the reverence the monster dogs have for the memory of their creator--no Merlin in sight.

      -- Trudy Shaw


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    • WendellWag@aol.com
      The general bogosity of that article on attaching the head of one monkey to another s body inspires me to say something about placing too much confidence in
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 10, 2001
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        The general bogosity of that article on attaching the head of one monkey to
        another's body inspires me to say something about placing too much confidence
        in articles (even in fairly well-respected mainstream news sources) on new
        scientific discoveries. A lot of these articles are fairly bogus. You
        should always take them with a grain of salt.

        By calling them bogus, I don't mean that they're lies. No respectable
        newspaper, magazine, or TV network would deliberately misquote someone.
        Furthermore, they do a pretty good job of not quoting a random nutcase as if
        he were a famous scientist. They often make an attempt to quote a few other
        scientists about the discovery.

        Often though, the authors of the news article miss the significance of the
        discovery. I've seen this in articles about subjects that I know a fair bit
        about, and I've suspected it in other areas as well. There are several
        reasons for this. One is that the writers aren't top experts in the field,
        just journalists with (at best) the knowledge of the field that someone with
        a bachelor's degree in the subject might have. They can't call everyone in
        the field to figure out whether the scientist's claims are as new or as
        important or as well-established as he claims in his article (or often, as is
        claimed in the press release written by someone in the university public
        relations office that announces a discovery that hasn't even been published
        in a scientific journal yet). Another reason is that scientists have good
        reason to make their discoveries sound as important as possible, even if this
        distorts the context of the discovery. They have to get journalists to think
        their discovery is worth writing about. Third, journalists want to make
        their articles sound interesting, and they do that by making the discoveries
        sound like a major breakthrough. You don't sell papers by printing articles
        about trivial discoveries.

        This is probably worst in news stories about medical matters, where often no
        attempt is made to distinguish whether an announced result is a genuinely new
        and surprising one, or another experiment confirming a previous result, or
        another experiment on a subject in which there have been a number of
        conflicting results. Part of the problem is that readers like to hear about
        breakthroughs. Science does not, for the most part, consist of
        breakthroughs. Mostly it consists of the slow, patient accumulation of facts.

        Wendell Wagner


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