Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

“Linus Pauling and the Temptations of Evolutionary Ethics,” Dr. Chris Hables Gray

September 21, 2011

Video: “Linus Pauling and the Temptations of Evolutionary Ethics” 

1:16:46 - Abstract | Biography


Larry Landis: We've got a great presentation for you this afternoon. I want to give you a little background on the resident scholar program. For those of you that have attended our presentations, this will be a repeat. But the program was established in 2008 and has been supported since that time by Peter and Judith Freeman. They've been very generous with supported the program. I would like to take this opportunity—I'm hoping they'll show up eventually, but let's go ahead and take this opportunity to thank them for their support. [Applause].

Dr. Gray is actually, he's doing the fourth presentation this year, although he's the third member of the class of 2011. One of the scholars from 2010 actually did her residency in this calendar year. Well we're very fortunate to be able to support four scholars during 2011. I'm going—I'd like to introduce Chris Petersen from Special Collections, Projects Director, and the coordinator of the resident scholar program, who will introduce Dr. Gray. Chris.


Chris Petersen: Okay. Chris Hables Gray is professor at the Union Institute and University as well as lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He's written extensively on war, cyborgs and evolution, and when I first met him he, in the course of our conversations, described himself as a feminist, anarchist, post-modernist, at which point I knew we had an interesting guy in Special Collections working with our papers. And as it turns out, he's been a great guy to have around. Now the research project that he's been working on right now, he's given the title "Taking Evolution Seriously: Nature, Culture and Technology," which he describes as an examination of the political and social implications of contemporary evolutionary theory, especially evolutionary psychology. As resident scholar, he's worked in the Pauling papers and also with the Paul Lawrence Farber papers. Paul is here today, so I hope that we'll have a pretty good discussion afterwards. Dr. Gray. [Applause].


Chris Gray: Alright, thank you. So, in giving this talk, I don't mind if people have questions, or even if you want to argue a little during the course of it. Might make the movie more interesting. This particular talk is "Linus Pauling and the Temptations of Evolutionary Ethics." For those of you who don't know, Paul wrote a book on the temptations of evolutionary ethics. So that's why that's in the title, because, as you'll see, I use his book a great deal. And I want to thank OSU library, Larry and the Freemans, of course, especially Chris Petersen and Will, Christy and Trevor, who are the staff there that I've worked with. I know why it's called Special collections, because they made me feel very special. I mean sometimes I had two or three people just waiting for me to ask them for something. And of course I want to thank Paul Farber. When I was Fellow at the Oregon State University Humanities Center, back in the 90's, Paul was a great host. I was part of the history department and he gave me some teaching too, and I just learned a lot from how he ran his department and worked with people. It's been a great honor to know him, and then also to read his work.


Which, oh, and this is the abstract: Linus Pauling's activism was always in the context of his deep belief in evolution, which I think I can show pretty easily. It's unsurprising, considering he was also a major contributor to evolutionary knowledge, which I will mention, but I won't really go into, his more positive contributions to evolutionary knowledge. Still, when you look at his activism, you see that the danger of giving into the temptations of evolutionary ethics was shown by some of the things he did. And so I say that the—and then the last one, looking at Paul's book, trying to understand what we can get from evolutionary science to help us with our ethical and moral thinking, and what we can't get.

So when I first read Paul's book, I have to admit, I did not agree with it at all. I mean the conclusions. The historical text was flawless as far as I can tell. He gave a great exegesis of various attempts to use evolutionary science to come up with ethical systems, but in his conclusion, he came to these sort of very post-modern, you can say, limited conclusions about the efficacy of evolutionary science for doing ethical thinking. And at the time, I just really wanted something to base a normative ethics on, emotionally, I wanted this. I did not want it rationally, as it goes against my philosophical perspectives, which are existentialist and pragmatic, but I felt it as a physical desire. I remember reading the book and coming to the end, I was hoping, "oh yes, science will tell us what is ethically true," and at the end it's like "no, no it won't." But I think grown past that weakness, that temptation, I've surpassed it. And so now I've sort of given in and I agree with Paul wholeheartedly in what he argues at the end of his book, which actually fits more with my view of how we understand the world.


But before I go in there, into the details of Linus Pauling's use of evolution and show how Paul's analysis, I feel is accurate, you have to understand my point of view, because of my look on evolution now is under the rubric, as Chris said, of taking evolution seriously. And I do believe most people who work in the area of evolutionary science or who analyze how evolutionary science has worked and what it's contributed, do not take evolution as seriously as we should. And my two points are first, culture is no different than nature. Every time you hear the culture/nature distinction, or every time in your heart or head, if you say "well this is nature and this is culture," you're making a mistake. Now I know rationally you might say "well yes of course, human culture evolves like the culture of the ants did, and just as the culture of the monkeys who can learn how to wash sweet potatoes and share that with the other monkeys so they can enjoy the taste of grit-free sweet potatoes," but deep down, even those of us who believe in evolution, we do not go the full distance and just say outright "culture is evolved, culture is natural, culture/nature distinction is not only wrong, but it's dangerous." This is my latest hobbyhorse, which I'm prone to [inaudible].

And it goes on, my second major point—I have a lot of points out of this taking evolution seriously—but the second one is we are crazy monkeys. We are not naturally rational. And we are never totally rational. In the extent that we are rational, it's not exactly a byproduct, 'cause rationality certainly has its adaptation uses, it helps us with survival, but rationality is not what we're about. And actually we will see this with Mr. Pauling, who was brilliant, often rational science, but in certain areas he could show himself to be profoundly irrational. Because he gave into the temptation of evolutionary ethics. I will return to these at the end and feel free to express your displeasure at these comments anytime you want, 'cause that's what I like.


So of course I looked for a lot of graphics and this one I just liked. "Man Is But a Worm," it's from Punch. It just shows you have Darwin's ideas really have influenced a lot of very exiting art. I really don't have a good excuse for putting this in, except it's such a great image. All the other images are morbid [?]. So of course, as I think I can make clear when you look at Linus Pauling's work, and especially where I think is what was wrong, and use that to understand why the temptations of evolutionary ethics was so powerful and why we must dispute [?] this.

Oh, did I go too far? Alright, this is—I should have made this two slides—but this is the first formal writing Linus Pauling did. Not when he was this little, but this is such a cute picture, I had to put it in here anyway. There's pictures of him in college here, right? One where he's dressed up like a woman, actually, but—which would have been fun to put in, maybe I'll put that in a later talk, but I just put this one in, my dad this exact same outfit when he was growing up in Fullerton around the same time, so I thought that was interesting. This is a section of a speech he gave. The first text we have that he produced, called "Children of the Dawn." It only took second place. He represented the junior class. But still, I guess that was better than third or fourth. There must have been four places. So the text starts with this description of this dream he had, "my body slept, my mind soared." Then he goes on to realize "The earth is not the center of the universe, but merely a tiny part of the Great Design." From above , the dreamer watches life evolve on Earth, humans evolve, civilizations rise, and then the point of view character, which is clearly him, realizes "Man is not the ultimate goal of the evolutionary process, but only the present phase of a long development." And he goes on to talk about "The genius of Darwin enlightened the world...now it is generally believed that man is an evolutionary product with lineage extending back to the lowest form of life," but not generally believed by almost half of America, but still, generally believed by a lot of people, especially in Europe, generally.


"But though "we know that man is immeasurably superior now to what he once was, we do not realize the marvelous changes to come the splendid improvements yet to be made." And it goes on to become even more Nietchezian: "Efficiency is Nature's [goal]," he argues, and then he goes "man is but the child that is father of the superman that is to be." And so becomes incredibly optimistic about humans now, but especially their potential. And it ends with this, this is actually the last paragraph he wrote and it ends from a quote from someone else: "We are not the flower of civilization. We are but the immature bud of the civilization yet to come. We are the children of the dawn, witnessing the approach of day. We bask in the dim prophecies of the rising sun, knowing even in our inexperiences, that something glorious is to come, for it is from us that greater beings will grow; to develop in the light of the sun that shall know no setting."

So you can see he's deeply enamored by the idea of evolution, and I would argue that it's pretty much his religion at this point of his life. And maybe for his whole life. He never wrote anything quite so flowery later. And later he actually, and as I'll describe in some of his talks, he becomes much more nuanced in his arguments about evolution and humanity. But still, it remains a central focus of his view of the world, throughout his whole life.


Now, here we see his ideas on evolution's meaning also changed—I probably should skip that, okay. Now here in his 1959 Messenger Lecture number 6, which I think came in Buffalo, New York, he used this idea of evolution to really frame a lot of what he was trying to communicate to the students and faculty up there at that state university, New York at Buffalo. But he talked about how—this is what he said: "during the last hour"—he meant during lecture number 5. So his lecture 6 starts out "we discussed the process of evolution" and "700,000 years ago" is when he talks about one mutation happening, which is not what evolutionary science would say now, but roughly 700,000 years ago there's so many—probably some important mutations. "This mutation represented the origin of man." By the way, all the italics are from his speech notes. You can see he was a very accomplished speaker and he planned out how he was going to give his talks, and so the italics in this text are what he underlined, actually, in his notes giving his speech, which were often typed up by his assistant, but sometimes not. In this case, these were notecards. That's why they—this one paragraph is like four different notes probably.

"This mutation represented the origin of man. I pointed out...this mutation permitted the inheritance of acquired characteristics," and then he points out that what he really thought was important was the ability to learn and to communicate from one human to another, and that these "have not yet been incorporated into the germ plasm" and they're "not lost until their rediscovery"—I really am not exactly sure what he means by that—but are handed from person to person, from generation to generation." In part he's saying that it's carried on by culture. The actual mutation, I think, he meant was a neurological one. This results in "man's great powers of thinking and remembering and communicating, and later is "responsible for the evolution of civilization."


And then he points out that "now a man or woman is not truly an organism, in the sense that a rabbit is, or a lion or a whale; but that he is a part of a greater organism -- the whole of mankind, into which he is bound by the means of communication -- speech, writing, airplanes -- in the way that the cells of a rabbit are interconnected by nerve fibers and hormonal molecular messengers." Now just as an aside, this is a very interesting position to take. It is not unlike Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit philosopher who was saying at the same time. Who talked about the new sphere, that all of humanity was part of what we call the new sphere, that represented one organism that was reaching out towards becoming an organism that could speak to God almost directly. The Jesuits were not fond of this and then he was ordered to shut up for several decades. But I think he published his Phenomenon of Man before this.

Lately, a number of people, like Gregory Stock at UCLA, has talked about how the Earth is one Metaman, one giant creature, and we are just the cells in that Metaman, just as we have cells in ourselves. And my mentor, Don Haraway has talked about a cyborg Gaia, how Gaia, which is from ecological thinking, where thinking about the earth as one organic organism has actually been cyborged. So this idea, it's not unique, but is quite unusual, and he makes this argument, it comes up again and again, and I only cited this one place, but almost everything I talk about here, he talked about again and again. So one thing he gave massive amounts of talks, and he published a great deal. So he recycled his ideas to an extraordinary degree, and this idea of humanity being one organism was certainly something that he really felt explained a lot. Now how exactly he would say that's different than the whole community of rabbits or lions, I know so many ecologists who would disagree and say "well, all the rabbits of the world represent also one community." But Pauling would reply, as would Stock and Don Haraway and Telly Rod Fisher Dean [?], that actually no, all the rabbits don't communicate in the world, but all the humans now do. So that does, I think keeps more right than ecologists would be. That does represent a new level of evolution, per se.


"This great organism is now master of the earth," true now, which these other people have also pointed out, and "yet not master of itself; it is immature, irrational; it does not yet act [for] its own good but instead often for its own harm. I said we must now achieve the mutation that will bring sanity to this great organism, the organism [that is] mankind." And then he goes "I believe this is going to happen," because he was an optimist, as we can tell by his college speech, and I think he always was an optimist. He goes on to describe this mutation. "The attributes that must be transferred from the units"—I do not like being called a "unit"—"human beings, to the great organism, humankind, are sanity," which he described as reason, interestingly enough, "and morality," these ethical principles.

In his next step, he explains more what he means by morality. He argues it should be based on accepting two principles: "reverence for the world' and the 'minimization of suffering." Both of these he bases on evolution; "reverence for the world" is tied to our obligations to our posterity, which you could argue is, in Paul's book many people do argue at Pauling's point in time, that in fact we owe—this is what evolution's about, reproducing, so we can build an ethical argument from that, so clearly he's making an evolutionary ethical argument. And the second principle is harder to base on evolution, but he does try.

He discusses the "minimization of suffering is particularly interesting. From the standpoint"—I really messed up my quote marks there—"from the standpoint of the great human organism as a single unity, its survival or non-survival might be independent of the degree of suffering of some of its constituent units; but the consciousness that exists in the world is that of the units, and the organism is hardly more than the sum of these units, despite their interconnection and independence. I accept other human beings as equivalent to myself; they bleed as I bleed, they suffer as I suffer and they must, I feel, be treated in the way that I should like to be treated." And I missed the other quote mark.


With this argument I find very unconvincing. I guess you could say if a rabbit had its paw hurt, then the rest of the rabbits would not want his paw to be hurt. So if you go back to his analogy, it becomes an argument. But in no way do I find it a very convincing argument. And this just shows you how when people are trying to link what they feel deeply, morally, to evolution, they often succumb to quite illogical reasoning. Now maybe someone finds this a logical argument. I'd love to hear how it is truly logical, but in my point of view it's like so many arguments that Paul described in his book, it just doesn't really follow. Well one big organism, you know organisms, they shed their cells, we cut our fingernails, you know it's fine that some of the units die and suffer. The organism goes on. And actually a more logical argument would be—would lead to some of the things he does talk about later, the much more utilitarian or pragmatic approach to individual units suffering, then this argument that deeply cares about the suffering of others, which personally, it's quite clear that he did, when you look at his personal life, trying to keep his Nisei gardener from being put into camps in WWII and his constant political activism with his wife and so on, it's clear he was a deeply sympathetic and engaged person, a really—an example for all of us. But yet when he ties what he felt to evolutionary arguments, I do think he comes up short.


So Pauling went on and made many important contributions to evolutionary science, particularly the molecular clock and its collective [unintelligible]. For those of you who don't know, him and some people noticed that as proteins decay, and it's also that the complex molecules change over time, not decay, that's not the right word, but as mutations happen, you can actually tell how long it's been since different subspecies have diverged by looking at the changes in complex molecules.

And then, with Emile Zuckerkandl, he wrote this article "Chance and Necessity," which I found fascinating, it didn't really fit into this talk, and I really haven't quite figured out what they're trying to say with this amazing article. It was for—in honor of somebody else who worked on evolutionary issues and biochemistry and so on. But he takes Jacques Monod who wrote a very famous book called Chance and Necessity, which explains evolution, in my opinion the best materialist explanation of evolution. And it's called Chance and Necessity, and then they sort of made an argument based on that, which actually does not follow Monod's utilization of the terms Chance and Necessity. And it becomes a semi-defense of free will and also quite explicitly they reject quantum mechanics and at least four times in the article, express their support for Einstein, who resisted quantum mechanics, and quite famously said "God does not play dice with the universe."


And then they rather snarkily remark: but actually dice are not random, as we can predict how dice will come out. It's really quite an amazing article. So Pauling clearly, in his work, both his actual contributions and his thinking about how the world works and about evolution, is always engaged with the idea of evolution. But in two areas, his campaign of Vitamin C and his eugenic arguments around genetic diseases, he gave into the temptations of evolutionary ethics, with, I think, unfortunate results.

Vitamin C. Now, the reasoning behind his belief that humans do not consume enough Vitamin C was based on evolutionary science. He goes into this all sorts of real facts, like for example, half [the] primates, including our branch of the primates, we do not synthesize Vitamin C, as most animals do. He felt that this was because at some time—this was very sound reasoning—humans lived in a deep tropical environment with a lot of plant matter in our diet that had great amounts of Vitamin C, and so we let go of the need for synthesizing it because it was available in our diets. And in fact our closest cousins, who still live in that kind of environment—the gorillas, the chimps, the bonobos—they do not synthesize Vitamin C and they just eat a lot of greenery that has a lot of Vitamin C. And other creatures like bats and guinea pigs and some fish and a lot of birds, in all of their diets there's lots of Vitamin C. In most—as far as we know—this is something I really want to look into more because I suspect there's other creatures like humans who have moved away from using Vitamin C directly from their diet to the massive amounts like the gorillas do and yet who still do fine with the amount of Vitamin C that we do have.


He started arguing, once he became convinced of this—and this fits in with his whole idea of molecular diseases and the importance of these complex molecules for human health, and so on. In fact, plants synthesize all sorts of key nutritional elements that animals and specific animals like humans do not, because we get it from eating plants and so on. So it becomes a whole argument, which much of it is based on very sound scientific evidence. In particular he loved this research that Zamenhof and Eichhorn did in 1967, when they got these little bacterial beasties and some of them had a mutation where they could synthesize a certain key nutritional element, and they fed a lot to the petri dishes and the bacteria that could not synthesize the element, since it was being fed to them, they thrived, and the bacteria without that mutation died out. As soon as they removed that nutritional element from a combination of these beasties, then the bacteria who could synthesize that element thrived. And so the basic argument was that. And he in particular also often looked at how much gorillas consumed the Vitamin C, and often he made—oh goats, goats were his other favorite example, because they actually don't consume it, they synthesize it—and analyze how much Vitamin C they needed, and then argued "well we aren't getting that much, so we need more."

And so why—then you have to start asking yourselves why do people give in to the temptation for evolutionary ethics? Well we already saw that he had this tendency to want to explain his deep moral feelings in evolutionary terms. Here we see his desire to ameliorate human suffering, but also perhaps for his own health too, because once he decided this was important, he immediately changed his diet and started consuming megadoses of C and [unintelligible], at the end. I'm sure—and in fact he tried to get all his friends and so on to do this, and this was of course, I think, reflecting the basic human desire to live a long time, if not forever, right? And here's his book How to Live Longer and Feel Better.


This is interesting, this says "all of the—in practical terms, all of humanity suffers from a subclinical lack of ascorbic acid." And here we actually have Dr. Linus Pauling vitamins. I do not know if the Pauling family gets money from this, I don't know. Do they get money from it? Okay. That's good to know. But you see this—now that can't be good for your scientific objectivity, if you get money for it.

So, in a draft of a chapter for the book that he wrote with Ewan Cameron Cancer and Vitamin C, called "Evolution and the Need for Vitamin C," which actually changed and became not a whole chapter, but just a section. And in fact there's similar sections and in some cases chapters, where a lot of his popular books on Vitamin C and the Cold and so on, but this one manuscript of this draft chapter I looked at very closely. For one reason, I wanted to see what he wrote before it was edited out. And so he defends his analysis that all humans lack enough Vitamin C, and he uses—often he uses terms like "the only reasonable explanation," and "there is no doubt," for certain points of his argument, which actually there were other reasonable explanations, enough which there was considerable doubt. So I found that telling, that he felt the need to say what he couldn't prove, really. Some of that language makes it into the popular accounts. But then also, and here is the only place where I see him writing and this was not published, at least not in this book and not in the others I looked at, that humans and these other creates that developed—that lost the ability to synthesize Vitamin C, they "had the misfortune to lose this ability." To say "misfortune" is a very complicated thing to do if you're talking about evolution. Evolution is about fortune or misfortune, it just—you know if you take it seriously, as I would argue, you would not say something like it was a "misfortune" that humans lost the ability to synthesize Vitamin C.


It happened, evolutionarily it made sense, humans have done well despite it, I don't know how you could argue otherwise in evolutionary terms, dominating the planet, and that may change if we ruin the whole place and extinct ourselves, but at this point in time if you already have a criteria for evolutionary success, humans are kicking ass. And so why it's a misfortune, it's a real way of him saying that personally he feels this emotionally, it's a problem he wants to solve, and so that's not reason behind this, but other aspects of how humans understand the world, is driving that kind of an argument.

Of course most telling is that numerous studies have failed to show that all, or even most, humans have a massive Vitamin C deficit. It is true Vitamin C can be helpful, there's solid evidence that it ameliorates the severity of colds and perhaps flu, it can help in wound healing and other things, maybe for cancer treatment, but if you look at what the experimental evidence shows and what Pauling claimed, there's a massive gap, which has not been bridged as far as I can tell from a quick look at the research. If anyone knows—


Cliff Mead: Dr. Gray, if I can interrupt for a second.

CG: Sure.

Cliff Mead: You mentioned that it was revealing that this comment never made it to print, and yet what you're pointing from is actually an early rendition of this as he's writing this book, an early draft, and isn't it quite possible that he himself never intended this to see print because this is actually a how do you say—sort of quick and dirty comment that as he's writing the book it's as though he realized after he saw it in print that it was a mistake to say this?

CG: Oh, absolutely, I mean I totally agree.

Cliff Mead: So how is it revealing—


CG: Well it's revealing because once he read it, although he did not take out other language which I regard as almost as uncareful, and in fact it's interesting, having read a lot of his rough drafts for stuff that's published, he would just write out stuff and it would be 95% published. But clearly when he looked at it and he saw "misfortune"—well not clearly, but I really think you're quite right, that he must have—well no this—I can't say this. But that he originally wrote it I think is an expression of what he was feeling at the time. And I'm trying to suss out to what extent his beliefs around Vitamin C and other issues were reflections of emotion, not reason. So that's why I find it revealing, that even he himself—I assume he took it out, although he had a co-author, and I could not find in the papers any commentary. Often he'd have letters people wrote, but he might have been working in person with his co-author. So we don't really know why it was deleted. And it never came up again, because it was a very uncareful statement, especially if you understand evolution. So that's why I thought it was revealing. But you're absolutely right, he himself took it out, so.


And then also, even more interesting to my mind is he actually from almost the beginning—I could not really find out when he started doing this, but almost from the beginning he explains how humans might have thrived without this ability to synthesize Vitamin C, after he left the tropical environment that supplies our close cousins with such massive doses. And he goes into a long discussion, or relatively long, and more technical than in most of these books, about the different things that human bodies might do to make up for this lack of Vitamin C. And by the way, I didn't mention it, but animals need a lot of Vitamin C because it's such a key component in our biological processes, the very collagen that makes up our muscles and our body mass is dependent on Vitamin C. But he talks about how the intake of ascorbic acid might be increased by kidney tubules to pump the ascorbic acid into the blood, sort of a recycling of it, there's "an increased ability of certain cells to extract ascorbic acid from the blood" and that the adrenal glands "might act as a storehouse of ascorbic acid." One of the problems he had with his main argument is even though human consumption of ascorbic acid is much less than say the gorillas and so on, when you test human blood, it has levels of ascorbic acid, of Vitamin C, that are quite similar to our primates that eat a lot of this foliage that has a lot of ascorbic acid.


So our blood maintains this C level even though we don't consume as much Vitamin C as our close cousins. And of course this level that's in our blood is analogous to the level in goats and pigs and rabbits who synthesize it. So he has these reasons that explain that humans develop the ability. We could not really—his argument, to put it bluntly, if he was right, humans never would have left their tropical paradise. We could not have successfully expanded to take over most ecological niches in the world. We just couldn't have if he was right. But he obviously wasn't right, because we did. Because our bodies found ways perhaps, these ways that he speaks to for which there is clinical evidence and physiological evidence to overcome the fact that we couldn't synthesize Vitamin C and it was no longer in our diet. By using it more efficiently, basically. So I just think he was wrong.

CG: Yeah?


Tom Hager: Just a quick question about the definition of what is a necessary amount of Vitamin C. In this context you state that numerous studies have failed to show that all or even most humans have a massive Vitamin C deficit. What's the definition of "massive Vitamin C deficit"?

CG: Well actually, I would say if you have scurvy. But he argued in his—and of course we do know you need Vitamin C or you do manifest signs of scurvy. But he felt that all of us suffer clinically by not having enough Vitamin C. And in particular, he made some arguments, which I cannot find any real support for, he made—that Vitamin C—a lack of Vitamin C is a major cause of cancer. And in fact, he even went into a long analysis of doctor's accounts of scurvy patients and the kind of pustules and tumors that grew on them and said "these are like cancer," and so on and so forth—


Tom Hager: You know, the reason I ask is that there's a still active debate about the point at which Vitamin C is absolutely necessary, which is of course that that's the basis on which the government sets the RDA levels. And that's basically the prevention of scurvy level, and then no doubt that anything below that you're in deficits and you absolutely need that minimal amount. Pauling's argument, it seemed to me, was more often that, based on the idea of optimal health, rather than a single sort of a cut-off point, and rather increasing doses of Vitamin C would lead you more toward optimal health, rather than the fact that you're going to die if you don't get those higher doses. So to say evolutionarily that we could—to question whether humans could ever leave those high Vitamin C environments, under Pauling's view they could, because he's not talking about them dying en masse without that amount of Vitamin C; he's talking about suffering of degradation of your health, rather than sort of having the live or die point, that's all. So it's more of a continuum of that.


CG: He sort of goes through the whole spectrum, arguing that we need it desperately to we'd all be better off if we had a lot more.

Tom Hager: Exactly, yeah. That's the idea of optimizing health rather than saying you're going to die if you don't take your Vitamin C.

CG: Well when you read how, some of his comments about how Vitamin C causes cancer and it leads to a fundamental weakening of your immune system, and then when you compare it to the clinical evidence I found big gaps, and it's clear there's a lot of things humans could do to live more optimally and yet we've still been successful evolutionarily. But it's interesting he bases his arguments on his evolutionary arguments and then yet, when it gets down to it, some of them aren't evolutionary, because evolution does not look for the optimal health of individual units. It just looks for reproductive success and so on. In individual units, once they reproduce you know, if you're a praying mantis male, your head is gone and you're feeding the female. I mean, evolution is not—doesn't have any of these romantic or...


Tom Hager: Last follow-up, I'm sorry, you know on the—

CG: No go ahead; I love the conversation.

Tom Hager: I still have a question about this, has anybody—of course he was making these theories—you know he was thinking about this stuff in the sixties, seventies, and has anybody ever gone back and shown—have evolutionary disciplinary leaders ever gone back and actually proven that we lost the ability to synthesize Vitamin C because we used to live in a high Vitamin C environment? Has that ever been proven? Or is this—


CG: Well, what is shown genetically is that we contain the genetic code, pretty much, that most other animals have, especially mammals, to synthesize the Vitamin C, but its shut off. And Pauling's argument, which is very sound, is it's very easy evolutionarily for mutation to happen that shuts off this ability to synthesize.

Tom Hager: I understand that it makes sense, but I'm just wondering if there's been any additional evidence in the last thirty, forty years to support that. He made what I think was a reasonable assumption and it was based on other people's reasonable assumptions about the evolutionary theory. I'm just wondering has there been any evidence.


CG: Yeah, well people have found the actual part of our genetic code that does this.

Tom Hager: Okay.

CG: Yeah, so that is—now what I don't know he's right about, which I didn't have time to look into, is whether it is really so hard to turn it on after it's been turned off. See it seems to me that if a simple mutation can turn it off, a single change, a single change might turn it on again. And this is true, actually, of many—we see this throughout evolution, the capabilities that are turned off because they don't serve that particular organism, then later turned on. And he just said it's really hard to turn it on after you turn it off. But he had no evidence for that.

Tom Hager: Okay.


CG: Now, I think he was right that it's easy to turn it off, but I don't know if it's really so hard to turn it on again. But I don't know of any cases where it's been turned on again. But we saw mammals came onto the land and then the porpoises and whales went back into the sea, and obviously they turned on a lot of things that had been turned off to do that, that's one of the reasons it happened so easily.

Tom Hager: Yeah, I see where you're—absolutely.

CG: So that's one of the things I want to look into, is whether it's true that it's so hard to turn on this ability to synthesize Vitamin C.

Tom Hager: But that still makes the assumption, you know the whole theory depends upon this idea that we used to be in a Vitamin C rich environment and now we're not, and then we develop this mutation, and it makes logical sense that that's true, but you know you don't know that it's true.

CG: Well except that the humans and guinea pigs and the bats, all of these creatures lost their ability to synthesize Vitamin C. And there's also other cases with other—like Thiamin, B1 Vitamins [unintelligible] and there's more evidence for this. There's a definite evolutionary cost to keep an ability like to synthesize one of these complex molecules, then if you don't need to do it, you don't keep it. And if the mutation develops, it's an advantage as those two scientists showed in that '67 study. But no, your question's really great and I'll look into both sides of that.

But then at the end of pointing out the ways that humans might have evolved to deal with this inability to synthesize Vitamin C, he makes the statement "On general principles"—which in my mind is always very dangerous way to start an argument—"On general principles we can conclude, however, that these mechanisms require energy and are a burden on the organism." Well of course all mechanisms are, but if they serve this function of making it possible not to have to synthesize Vitamin C and actually if they're running the body more efficiently, I don't see the difference [unintelligible]. And so he concludes humans still need massive amounts of C. Not just supplemental, not just some people, although he does nuance his argument and talks about biochemical diversity, which I'll mention in a bit, but just that they do. And so I see, personally, again and again, in order to hold to his conclusion, he really works the facts beyond what they can bear. Just reading his account of the race with Crick and Watson that they figure out the DNA helix, and when he's trying to make triple thing work and he's trying to cram the proteins in the middle and other things like this, he was a very determined and stubborn guy, and he did not like to let go of things. Now when he was faced with the evidence of the double helix, he quite graciously admitted that he'd been wrong, but in this area, even though there was a lot of resistance, to put it mildly, from the medical community and there were no studies that really profoundly validated his point of view—no studies that replicated and so on, he never let go of it, till the end.


And I don't know enough about his personal history and his relationship to his wife who did die of cancer and so on that I would think as a crazy monkey like the rest of us, I would argue that he just was not rational about Vitamin C. And in some ways he was even less rational around eugenics.

This up in the corner is a thermal chip that's been developed for putting in people, carrying medical information and so on, but it could easily be the kind of thing that Pauling advocated in a more crude way, which we'll get to in a second. Now to understand his position on eugenics, keep in mind he had this idea of molecular disease that became molecular medicine. But here he's talked about this, and this is a paragraph I do not know what he means. "Molecular disease is closely connected with evolution." Okay. But then he goes "the appearance of the concept of good and evil that was interpreted by Man as his painful expulsion from Paradise probably was a molecular disease that turned out to be evolution." I just—really I don't know what that means. I plan to look at that a lot and really try to figure it out. And I read the whole speech the comment came in, it's a speech he gave at Columbia University in 1962, but what it led to was clear. His work on sickle cell anemia was framed in this way and he put forward these startling solutions to the problem. I'm going to play this little file; we have to leave the presentation. But I want people to listen to this, and especially I'd love input from those of you who know more about Pauling in terms of...


Linus Pauling: "I think, I forgot to mention I think of course that something ought to be done about this disease, sickle cell anemia. Here you have 1,500 children born a year with this disease, and doomed to a pretty poor life. And Dr. Zuckerkandl and I made a proposal. First Harvey Itano and I developed a very simple test. This drop of blood. One drop of blood with this—it was just a little variant of an existing test, but it's no job at all; when blood tests are carried out, required for marriage licenses say, why not check for sickling, too? And then we suggest that every young person have his genotype tattooed on his forehead so that young people would recognize at first sight that they are incompatible in this way. In fact, we said in this paper, and then you see they can refrain from marrying one another. Because if they marry one another, a quarter of their children will inherit these two genes and will grossly defected—be grossly—well, will die young, suffer and die. But they could marry normal people, and then if they marry normal people, half of their children will have inherited the single gene, will be carriers like one of the parents. And so they should be encouraged to have a smaller number of children than normal. To be satisfied with one child, and then that way the gene, which is no longer needed because malaria is controlled by the antimalarial drugs and the destruction of mosquito ponds and so on, in that way the gene would be got rid of. And we said that this chance, 25% chance of giving birth to a defective child is too large to allow a combination of ignorance and free enterprise in love to take care of the matter. I think that's the way to handle that problem. Just that the heterozygotes would not marry one another, not have children. And there's a possibility—this is being done, of course, for other abnormalities—there's the possibility that you could take a little, stick a needle in and get a little sample of amniotic fluid and look at the cells and see whether the sickle cell gene is present in the developing embryo and abort it if it is. But this is a complicated process and would be hard to do with the sickle cell gene. It's easy to do the trisomy, with the extra chromosome of mongolism but—and of course should be done then, especially with older women who have a higher probability of this nondisjunction that produces a child with 47 chromosomes, should be done with them. Especially one who—with mothers who have already given birth to a mongoloid child."


CG: So when I heard this, I thought does he know people are laughing? Doesn't seem that he knew—well he knew they were laughing, but it doesn't seem like he was trying to make this a joke. What do people think? Some of you might know more about Pauling. Was he just being deadpan, like a good Monty Python cast member, or did he just really—I'd just love to know more about that. The other thing though, notice how there's normal and abnormal. Now sickle cell—sickle cell anemia, the genetic change that led to it was not abnormal from an evolutionary point of view, it was profoundly utilitarian in terms of dealing with the threat of malaria. I mean it helped people thrive in areas where there was malaria. To say normal and abnormal is really eugenicist and not even very thoughtful in evolutionary thinking. And of course he was quite wrong about the malaria issue, because the massive use of DDT and destruction of swamps and so on, wetlands, did not lead to a collapse of malaria, which I think is still one of the most deadly diseases in the world, although Bill Gates, to his credit, has put a lot of money into dealing with it.

Now actually I do—I did start asking the people at Special Collections "well, did he have a sense of humor?" and then Chris was great, he gave me this book that has this hilarious story, or a lot of stories about Pauling's sense of humor and how careful he was to work an audience. And by the way, I looked up in the newspaper Chris also gave—Trevor I think gave me the—because he wrote this part of the Pauling blog on eugenics, and he gave me the bios from the Buffalo talk, which was the talk he gave in Buffalo, and he was actually the—a reporter of the student paper said he had a gentle humor and so on and then there was this joke from the book that Chris gave me where he was he was in the office of his friend—one of his colleagues, and there was this complicated little apparatus and Pauling just picked it up and he looked in it, and there's a picture of a naked woman in a stream on a big black rock, so Pauling just went "hmm. Basalt," you know. Didn't say anything else. The guy was just stunned, it was very clever, very funny, and it was indeed basalt, too. So he had a sense of humor, I think we've established that, and yet he did not find the tattoo on the forehead funny.


He also proposed enforced genetic testing and even abortions during this period, even though he knew—'cause he wrote about this too—dietary and other treatments for sickle cell anemia were known. And now they're quite effective. So there was not this need for this kind of enforced negative eugenics. And yet for a number of years he pushed for this and then he pretty much dropped it at some point. And although I've asked people why he dropped it, I don't know. Here's an image, probably quite unfair, but I just threw it in because I love this monkey with a gun. And so, before I forget, I want to encourage people to look at the Pauling Blog. I've worked in a lot of papers, a lot of archives; I've never seen papers that have been so well set-up so that you can access them, and the staff of Special Collections have written all these little essays, like this one on "Mastering Eugenics: Pauling and Eugenics." It's really a state of the art utilization of a tremendous resource. I just want to give people compliments for that. And it helped my work tremendously. I did two weeks of research up here, then I went down back in Santa Cruz and I could keep working on a lot of different papers and continue my research, because so much of it is online, and these little essays that they posted, four or five of them are really crucial for me, getting to the right resources and understanding things and discovering things like that audio file, which I never would have had time to discover, except that it was right in this little essay. So I really want to thank people for doing such great work.

In the Messenger lecture, which is a different lecture that he gave, Pauling frames these authoritarian interventions as a "civilized" way of accomplishing the evolutionary necessity of eliminating "grossly defective genes" from the "pool,"—but as I've mentioned, this is not a grossly defective gene—instead of the "uncivilized" means of "birth, suffering, and death" currently in play." But I'd just comment many "civilized" proposals are of course profoundly immoral, and this is one of them. And it's no one I've talked to, and there's a number who are much more expert than I am on Pauling's life, no one I've talked to really knows why Pauling stopped putting forward his eugenic ideas. But he definitely did. It just disappeared. Could have been he moved on to other things. I would be shocked though if political allies, perhaps even his wife, friends, did not say "you gotta drop this." Maybe even he noticed the audiences' reaction. They thought he was joking, but he wasn't, I don't think. So we have to be more careful than Pauling was in applying evolutionary thinking to our ethics.


And so here I have a number of quotes from Paul's book, because he said it better than I could. "Is the attempt to extend evolutionary insights into the real values an example of the quest for unified knowledge? Can we live better without such crusades? Should we put away our Leibnizian playthings and try to fashion a pluralistic worldview"—this comes after he gives a description or sort of a summary of how many of these evolutionary ethical proposals obey—were putting forth totalitarian sort of worldviews. And in fact you see this with the mobilization of science to defend your ethical or moralistic or political belief. When you do that you end up doing violence both to science and often to other human beings. "A humbler attitude might help us avoid facile readings into nature of our own values. Similarly, a comparative study of the history of evolutionary ethics might instruct us on the extent to which we in the past have projected our own opinions into nature," and that's what Paul's book does so well. And he goes on to say "the fundamental problems dogging earlier attempts remain unresolved: the over simplification of the conception of ethics; the lack of an independent justification for values; the lack of a rational justification of one's obligation to comply with those values; and the enormous gulf between actions that promote survival and actions that are deemed moral. Although an understanding of the evolutionary significance of morality and knowledge of the behavioral tendencies of humans may someday provide relevant data for ethics"—and I would say we do have relevant data for ethics from evolutionary science—"to date our understanding has not provided an adequate base on which to build a system of ethics." And I actually think it never will.


I don't think evo—because nature is not ethical. I don't think evolutionary science will ever provide a base—that's what I said. The ideas and actions behind the Holocaust are as natural as those behind the Civil Rights movement. Everything we do is natural. This gets back to my thinking evolutionary [unintelligible]. We can't say "oh, these people did nasty things, so that wasn't natural. We know through evolution we should do this nice thing. No, evolution isn't nice. Evolution just is. We just have to accept it. It's like taking physics, trying to derive an ethics from physics. Physics doesn't have an ethics. And nature doesn't have an ethics, evolution doesn't have an ethics.

"By understanding the evolutionary origins of altruism and cheat"—so here's a number of...what I'm getting to now, I'm trying to apply my own thinking on taking evolution seriously to this. But this is still a quote from Paul. "It can be evaluable"—oh maybe it's not a quote from Paul. No it's not, this is a point of mine, but I referred to something he wrote. "By understanding the evolutionary origins of altruism and cheating, it can be invaluable in analyzing ethical systems in terms of what is possible, impossible, and desirable. Evolutionary science can be profoundly useful pragmatically but it cannot be prescriptive because it doesn't give a damn about good and evil." I'm repeating myself. Paul's discussion of Dewey was really very powerful and helpful to me just regarding—and encouraged me to look at Dewey again, which I will soon. I've read Dewey before, but I was really struck by how thoughtful Dewey was.


So, if we take evolution seriously we have to let go of totalizing schemes for perfecting humanity, as much as the dream of perfection appeals to young chemistry students and profoundly moral famous scientists alike, even if they're the same person. But evolutionary science can be useful in our quest for a better world, and here are some examples.

Any ethical system based on a literal reading of a holy text with a theistic specific creation story is wrong. Just wrong. And it's amazing how this—maybe it's because it's common in our culture, even many scientists say evolutionary "theory." But evolution is not a theory. Evolution is scientific fact. And some people are saying this more and more, and I think all of us who accept that, and I don't know how—why you wouldn't if you believe in science, just have to say it. And if it's an evolutionary fact, then a literal reading of the holy texts to create your ethics is not going to cut it, it's just wrong. The same goes for any secular epistemological claim that is totalizing. It's not just from understanding how evolution works that we know this, but we know this from Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and Gregory Bateson's work in cybernetics. No formal system is actually without paradox or limits of both. So we just have to let go of that. And Paul's language about having less pride, less hubris, exactly speaks to this. Epistemologically, we do not have the ground to make totalizing claims.

So this doesn't mean you can't believe in God. "God throws the creationists a curve: 'let there be evolution." I have many religious friends, actually from all these religions; Hindu, Moslem, Jewish, Christian, Utilitarian, Unitarian, which is really [unintelligible] Christian, and Native American. I have all sorts of friends who believe in evolution and they each believe this Holy Spirit began this process or is part of this process. So it doesn't mean—it's not an argument for atheism. I mean if you take Occam's razor profoundly seriously it's an argument for atheism actually, but it's not a definitive argument for atheism. You could be religious and believe in evolution. But you cannot be a fundamentalist and believe in evolution—a fundamentalist who takes these creation stories seriously. And I love this Darwin-Jesus image here. I have to find a better use for it, but it seems sort of fitting.


"Humans did not evolve to be rational," as I said at the beginning, we are crazy monkeys. "There is a relationship to rationality," but we just are not. We did not evolve for that. In Paul's book he talks about how a lot of these great scientists are profoundly irrational beings. I love the discussion of Wallace's belief in spirituality. And there's a hilarious quote from Huxley saying he believes in spiritualism of that time as a great argument against suicide and he found it all so banal, what everyone was saying. I laughed out loud when I read that again. And Pauling was aware of this to some extent in his talk and writings, actually one of the great things he had was this little revision of the Golden Rule he has. He's talking about honesty as the first principle he said you need, and objectivity is the other attribute you must have. "Freedom from bias." And then he goes "For years I have expressed it in words of my own that I call the Golden Rule," his showing his great modesty just like, kidnapped the Golden Rule and made it his. But it is "Do unto others twenty percent better than you expect them to do unto you," and the twenty per cent is to correct for subjective error.

One of the things I notice with evolutionary scientists is they assume—they will point out how we evolved as crazy monkeys, we aren't rational, we don't have a perfect command of everything we argue and so on, and then they turn right around and argue as if they had a perfect understanding and do not frame what they're saying with any kind of modesty. And yet Pauling did that, at least in this one case. He did not only claim "Do unto others," because he knew that your subjective bias, you think "oh yeah, I did the dishes most of last week," and your partner is going "no you didn't, I did the dishes most of last week." And both partners are sincere. Both of them think they did the dishes most of the time. This is just how we understand the world, because we did not evolve to understand it rationally, we understood—we evolved to understand the world in an effective way but also as social animals. So a lot of our cognitive errors that are built into how we think are all about making social systems work well. But Pauling's passion of Vitamin C and eugenics showed he was just as capable as anyone of being a crazy monkey.


And then this speaks to the diversity of humans. Back in the day when evolutionary theory was first being formulated, there was a strong belief that attributes—inheritable attributes were universal. And clearly some are. I mean all birds that have been survived have wings. Unless they're penguins or ostriches or flightless birds. But many aspects, especially of humanity, but I would argue of other creatures, represent a massive diversity. Because in fact evolution works best when there's much variation, right? And humans in particular generate a tremendous amount of variation, which Pauling even recognized, because one of the reasons he used to explain why Vitamin C was very effective for some people and not others was what he called "biochemical diversity" or "biochemical individual diversity," because in fact you might need a lot of Vitamin C, but I might not, because we're so different.

This is particularly true in terms of cognition. People think profoundly differently. I'm not just talking about the three to five percent of people who, for example, are social or psychopaths, who have no empathy, which is well-documented and well-studied, both in criminal justice and by the military, for different reasons. Military wants to find a way of giving you a drug to make you that way if you're a soldier. But then we have a wide range of different cognitive abilities and they all serve a role in creating a lot of variation and making our culture strong. Now some of these are very deleterious in the abstract, in particular units, but that's just the way it is. Inherited traits are often not universal, which makes sense, as I say. And since all of us have many layers of moral reasoning and ethical impulses, often contradictory, that humans continue to evolve at a very fast rate, thanks to the Lamarckian power of culture, we will never have perfect ethics.


So if you take evolution seriously and culture evolves, then culture is Lamarckian, which a lot of evolutionary scientists now say. You see this coming up all the time. And in fact, Pauling even, at several points, talked about conscious evolution. But if that is true, that culture is natural, then in fact you're going to see humans evolve much quicker than almost any other complicated organism. I mean fruit flies are very fast, for example, but they don't give out the kind of weird things we do, like Lady Gaga or something.

So here's my bibliography, which I'll leave up if you want to look at it, and that's it. Any comments, brickbats? Questions? Yep.


Tom Hager: I just want to say this opens up for me a whole new areas of thought about Pauling and the deeper motivations for some of his thinking. You know there was the period of time right after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in which he went down to the Institute in California, he quit his job at Caltech.

CG: Oh, went to Santa Barbara.

Tom Hager: Yeah and he was working on this system of ethics based on scientific principles, which he alluded to in the talk about decreasing the amount—total amount of suffering, which I think was a constant theme throughout his life, he was trying to find a certain rationale, I think, for it. For that, that attempt to create, I think he really tried to make a systematic moral, ethical system based on scientific principles. That was his goal. And I think he failed, I think he recognized that he failed in that attempt. And so you see a lot of sort of work along that line that never really reached full fruition, and I think you picked out some great examples of where he was going with that thinking. But he had planned a book at one time, didn't he Chris, he talked about writing a book on a moral system based on science?


Cliff Mead: I don't remember it being a moral system, a book similar to the Polanyi book on ethics of scientists.

Tom Hager: Yeah, it was sort of—I thought it was a magnum opus, he was thinking some—

CG: I know—I have never found anything that he wrote when he was at Santa Barbara. Is it in the Special Collections?

Tom Hager: Well you know, it's all—it's real fragmentary. And it would be interesting now, because the collection is much more complete now than when I was using it myself, it would be interesting to see what those bits and pieces add up to, because it was a failed project as far as I could tell. But it was trying to tie together a lot of this stuff that you unearthed here. And so I just want to say thank you for a very interesting talk.

CG: No I—thank you for mentioning that, because I didn't see anything from his time at Santa Barbara.

Tom Hager: You know, and I would have to look back at it too. I just wondered—


CG: Well I wonder if they have stuff in Santa Barbara.

Tom Hager: Possibly. It was that—

CG: That center is still there I think.

Tom Hager: Yeah, this was that group that Hutchins was having...

CG: Yeah, Center of Democracy...

Tom Hager: Democratic something. And the other thing that I wanted to say is the clip, the audio clip, I vote for humor.

CG: You think he was being...

Tom Hager: Yeah, I think he was joking. I think the audience knew he was joking. And I think that Pauling had a very dry sense of humor, that would be my opinion.


CG: Well, you're an expert, but what does the audience think how many think he—

Linda Richards: Absolutely, he was joking.

CG: He was joking?

Linda Richards: And he's talking about authoritarianism, this is—he's not saying, he's not asking for enforced abortions or any of those things, he's trying to get people to think about ways to eliminate suffering before it happens and just as you've said, his main operating principle is a spiritual evolution, not a biological one. And once you understand his motivation is spiritual, then the facts that you've gathered here look different. And I think that's a piece that you really need to bring in to really get a fuller picture.

CG: Why do—I didn't find him thinking any kind of spiritual arguments once after that speech. You know, if there's writings where he does give scripture, I'd love to see those.


Linda Richards: He's very spiritual in lots of things he says and you have to maybe be looking for it to see it there, but his interactions with audience, he is present with the audience. You talk to anyone who met Linus Pauling, they'll talk about how amazingly present he was with them. He is paying attention to his audience, responding to them and working with them to get them to think about the ways he's thinking about focusing on eliminating suffering.

CG: Uh-huh. Well like I said, I can't really tell, but I will listen to more of his speeches and try to see if he delivers jokes in the same way.

Tom Hager: You know, the key to me was the phrase "tattooing the forehead."

Linda Richards: Yeah.

Tom Hager: To know Linus Pauling and to know his history in terms of human rights, his anti-Hitlerism, anti-Nazism, his sensitivity to the Jewish predicament in World War II and his wife and his work on Japanese internment is to understand that referring to tattoos on foreheads is nothing that he would do seriously.

CG: Yeah, I would think—

Tom Hager: That was absolutely a clue to me that he was trying to use humor, in a way that was awfully dry, but...


CG: But he did advocate tests for marriage licenses, you know.

Tom Hager: He did yes, he was—I'm not saying he was not into eugenics.

Linda Richards: That's something that's already existing. That's something that's already existing. He was a total anti—I mean you called yourself, well you were introduced as someone who had anarchist tendencies?

CG: No, I'm just an anarchist.

Linda Richards: Oh just an anarchist, okay.

CG: No tendencies about it.

Linda Richards: A complete package. And as an anarchist, maybe you would see in Pauling through time, he really, I mean he was very much opposed to authoritarian things coming in and he had a lot of credibility to question those things because he did it in public so many times, from the loyalty oaths on. So he could make a crack like "we should stamp it on their foreheads" and everyone's going to laugh, 'cause that's Linus Pauling who did so much against authoritarianism.

CG: Yeah well, it did stun me and like I say—

Linda Richards: --You asked for comments.

CG: -- I'm open. I'm open to opinions.

Linda Richards: I had other comments, but I'll be done now.

CG: No, no—


Tom Hager: –I just want to say, that was a great clip and it's also great, the folks at Special Collections who do put up—it is an amazing resource, because as you pointed out rightly, the Pauling Blog and all of the website activities, there is such a rich amount of material that is publicly available.

Paul Farber: Also, that was in the sixties, right?

CG: Yeah, that talk was in the sixties.

Paul Farber:Yeah, I mean that's far enough away from the second World War that you could start to kid about that thing.

CG: Sure.

Paul Farber: The fifties, you couldn't, I don't think.

Linda Richards: Yeah, probably not to that extent.


Paul Farber: Julian Huxley also says things about that time that he wouldn't have said earlier. [Unintelligible] eugenics.

CG: Okay, well I'm swayed by you, I'll definitely lean towards the humor, but I will try see if he delivers more jokes and look more at his specific proposals about marriage licenses and his comment of encouraging people to only have one baby, I guess that fits in. But also—

Linda Richards: --Well yeah, lots of talk about population.

CG: I don't think he was being humorous when he used the language of "normal" and "abnormal." I think he was just being revealing—

Linda Richards: –Well he's a scientist, scientists use those words constantly.


CG: But that was very unscientific utilization. There is no "normal" or "abnormal." The sickle cell gene is not abnormal; it's a very normal adaptation for those people. It's not abnormal. So if he was being a scientist, he's not being a good one.

Tom Hager: The eugenics thing too, Trevor you—maybe you could speak to this, you know this stuff in the sixties and the seventies, we've talked about this before, the thing I believe there's stuff going back to the twenties and thirties with Pauling when eugenics talk was much more accepted in scientific circles. And certainly at Caltech with Thomas Hunt Morgan's genetics group and that kind of stuff. I mean there's a whole bunch of very casual unacceptable talk going on about all kinds of stuff among scientists during this period. I think that's where Linus got a lot of that stuff. Do you remember any stuff going back that far?

Trevor Sandgathe: I don't. I wouldn't be surprised if that was there, but I can't speak to anything specific, unfortunately.

Tom Hager: I don't know, now I got to go look.


CG: But he did have, when he worked with Shockley and he had never really—there's no comments he makes pro or con about Shockley's racial theories that I know of.

Tom Hager: And I absolutely believe that Linus was saying what he thought when he was talking about people choosing not to marry people who might—this the decreasing human suffering parable. You know, if you going to have children and there's a high chance of them suffering then don't have the children, that kind of approach. Absolutely, he spoke about that seriously a lot.

CG: Oh sure, that was the just constant theme of sort of his central idea of his ethics. And I'd love to find where he tried to find a scientific basis for that. I'm going to look into that more. And if the Special Collections people find anything from his work in Santa Barbara, I'd love to hear about it. I might write them myself and ask. Oh Paul wanted to say, and then we'll get back to you.

Linda Richards: Okay.

Paul Farber: Well two things, one just to follow up on—you know the marriage licenses, that's a very serious issue and there certainly are laws regulating who can get married, certainly [inaudible]—

CG: But the blood tests were usually about sexually transmitted diseases, right? They were not genetic tests.

Paul Farber: Or first cousins. Or something like that.

Paul Farber: But to move to genetics, to molecular disease, would represent a very significant shift in [inaudible]. But anyway, thinking about the ethics, so we should take evolution seriously. Do you have a positive statement as to what we might garner, even if we don't have a total ethical system with the...can we learn anything ethically?


CG: Well like I said, we took ethical approaches we can rule out.

Paul Farber: Rule out, okay.

CG: And other things, like—I find it hilarious that many other evolutionary scientists argue about altruism. Is there real altruism and so on. This is because they don't take culture being natural seriously. If you look at human culture and how most humans behave, you see the overwhelming majority of people are profoundly altruistic, often do altruistic acts that have no relationship to propagating their own genetic line. I mean this bazillion cases, and yet evolutionary scientists just don't consider what humans do culturally—most of them don't—they don't take it seriously. But if you take that seriously, as seriously as they take chimps washing sweet potatoes and ants and bees and their queens and stuff, and ants farming little aphids, then they would have a much different approach, like the question of altruism. I'm struck again and again because I've started going to these conferences so that I get to study scientists as if they were ants or bees or chimps. And I've been going to their conferences and they make these sweeping claims. I mean when I look at Pauling's work, he's much more careful than the vast majority of evolutionary scientists. They find one little potential thing and it becomes a God gene or the homosexual gene or the alcohol gene. They're just out of control with their claims. It does not—the science does not back it up at all. And they—plus not taking culture seriously, culture as nature, as evolved, they will continue to get caught in these complicated arguments about—like altruism is the best example—where they're just talking through their hats and making no sense because they're sort of arguing like they're out to proof that it exists. But if you take culture as natural, you don't have to prove it exists. You just have to explain it, but it's all around you, profoundly unselfish behavior by humans, because we're such profoundly social animals. And it had led to great success, too. You cannot deny the incredible evolutionary success of humans, just judged by how much we've proliferated.


So that's something I really plan to spend a lot of time in, looking at how evolutionary scientists do not take their own limitations as evolved instruments for understanding the world seriously and how they do not take the fact that culture is evolved and is natural seriously, and that they waste a lot of time putting forward a lot of nonsense. So I plan to make a lot of people unhappy.

Linda Richards: No, I was—

CG: Oh you had more comments, you said?

Linda Richards: I was just muttering them. I think, I think...


CG: No, I'd like to hear them. I mean this is how I learn.

Linda Richards: Okay, well my one—the comment I mostly wanted to make was you say that there is a gap between Linus Pauling's claims about Vitamin C and the evidence. But that's what everyone says. I want to hear something that really shows—shows the gap or discusses the gap in a different way. Your premise is that there's a gap there because Pauling isn't aware of what he's doing, he's—

CG: He wanted so much to believe.

Linda Richards: He's not conscious of his own motivations. So I need you to really pull that piece out and show it to me and I'd be very interested in seeing that.

CG: Yeah, well that's a very good point and I'll look harder for a smoking gun.

Linda Richards: Thank you.


CG: I wasn't happy to find that "misfortune" comment he made, but that was the only thing—and I don't know why he or someone else took it out.

Linda Richards: But he talks—one thing about Linus Pauling, he's so prolific. You can find so many things he says and so many words he says, if you're going to just to pull out phrases, that doesn't tell me what he's really thinking.

CG: But if you look at a lot of his drafts, most of his drafts went straight into print. Like I said, he was a brilliant man and he would just write out longhand things that became articles—

Linda Richards: Yes. And then he'd write it over and over and over.

CG:—so I literally read that draft and that was the only sort of comment—some of the other uncareful things he said, and many other things he said made it through, so if I can find who edited that out, that would be revealing to me.

Linda Richards: But I think to really understand motivations you're going to need to know him in a much more in-depth way. Someone who's talking all the time makes a lot of mistakes with their words. So—and it may not be what they really meant. So I'd really encourage you to really see him as more of a—a more complex person that you've presented him here.


CG: Oh really? I thought I was presenting him as more complex than maybe people would want to...they make him sort of perfect.

Linda Richards: And I'm saying it's more complex than words he's...it's much—to understand some of his motivation is very, very difficult. Isn't it?

CG: Well yes, but for a scientist you know, and he was a stubborn man, so you could just say well, there wasn't the clarity of the evidence to show he was wrong in his model of DNA, which he quite graciously and immediately admitted that he was wrong, once—

Linda Richards: Yes, he did.

CG: But in Vitamin C, it went on for decades. And the evidence never came in that supported him so he could win his arguments against masses, not just doctors, but all sorts of other scientists. And he did have his allies and create his little institutes. Pretty much standing back, he lost. Pretty much the consensus now is that what he advocated in terms of what was needed by Vitamin C, he lost. Now sure he was right that these supplements can help with many peoples' health and so on, but his sweeping claims of mega doses...he lost. Now there's no other way I can see it. I've looked more into it. But that strikes me as interesting, that he just—and also it's perhaps revealing that this is the last sort of thing he did in science, was the Vitamin C, right? And as we get older, I see it with my parents; I don't see it with myself, it's probably happening to me too, but I'm a crazy monkey. You know you get—it's harder to change your mind, it's harder to admit you're wrong, it's harder to let go, and so...


Linda Richards: Well, every time I pass by the Linus Pauling Science Institute, I don't think he was so wrong. Forgive me, but...

CG: Yes, well being here in Oregon State might affect your point of view a little, because there were not Linus Pauling orthomolecular institutes all over the place. There's only this one here, as far as I know.

Linda Richards: Well there's lots of people who still believe in Vitamin C.

Tom Hager: Yeah we did, you know, [unintelligible]—

CG: Yeah, it's a peace of mind, peace of mind—

Linda Richards: People will take it.

Tom Hager: We discussed this a little bit beforehand too, and I think it's, you have to be—with the whole Vitamin C thing, there's no doubt that Linus overstressed his case, absolutely, and he made a lot of—he may have made a lot of critics very happy by doing so, because he gave a lot of opportunity for criticism in reverse. But, on the other hand, I believe that scientifically across the board, to a great degree the jury is still out. Unless you're among that group that made up your minds about Linus Pauling back in the seventies when this was an active controversy, a lot of people decided he was a kook back in the seventies, and they've never changed their—there's a lot of people who've never changed their opinions. I believe—in just my reviews, we were discussing the scientific evidence is inconclusive. I—yes he was wrong to claim that it could cure cancer, that's wrong—

Linda Richards: It's an overstatement of the evidence.


Tom Hager:—In most cases, in most cases—an overstatement, absolutely. But—

Linda Richards: We agree.

Tom Hager:—But the health effects of Vitamin C on any number of bases are being proven all the time.

CG: sure.

Tom Hager: And it's true that this is a hotbed of Linus Pauling-related research. I hear it [unintelligible]. However, there's plenty of stuff going on internationally that continues to keep the pot bubbling. So it's not what he said, but neither was he completely wrong.

CG: No, I don't think—and I think a lot of the reason he was labeled a kook was because of his politics.


Tom Hager: Well, and that entered into it too very great degree as well. But also he was a publicist and he was a very good public speaker and a writer and his books, early books, Vitamin C and the Common Cold, I think were a little bit overboard. Yeah.

Cliff Mead: I'll say another thing too, that as far as editing—you don't know who edited Linus Pauling—at that point in his career, nobody edited Linus Pauling.

CG: Hmm. That one comment though was—he was co-writing with someone.

Cliff Mead: Ewan Cameron.

CG: Yeah. But I did notice that article on evolutionary theory, that his co-author wrote all these things to him, saying—well he argued "this is wrong," and "I don't think we should say this" and when we look at the final draft, it's like 97% of what the co-author says is not in there. It's still the way Linus Pauling wrote it, so. Yeah, I think you point's very well taken. But he pretty much said what he wanted to say. He did listen to a few points, what he co-other Emile said, but in several key places, he just, he either ignored him or said "no, we're going to say this," and said it how he wanted it and not what his co-author wanted. Well, if people want to talk to me later, that's fine, but let's end this so people can leave politely and...thanks so much for coming.



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