Sunday, August 22, 2010

Monday Mop-Up: More on Genes, Carnival, Podcasts and Internet Privacy

A Retrospective About Posts that I Posted and Posts I Meant to Post

Grannies and Genes: A Set of Blogs

At various public meetings, the Vermont Yankee "Raging Grannies" hand out a quote from Alice Stewart. This quote is basically a summary of eugenics. Over the past week I have had four blog posts on the subject. The first post described the grannies. The next three posts talked about how the quote fits into the eugenics agenda, and why we should care.

My first post, Older and Unthinking, described the Grannies trespassing and arrest at Vermont Yankee. Some of the women have been arrested at the plant nine times, but charges are never brought against them. I suggested that being old shouldn't give you a pass on repeated lawbreaking.

My next three posts were about the Alice Stewart quote and its implications. The quote is distributed at public meetings by the grannies. Stewart claims that any mutation will spread through the population and contaminate the gene pool. A "bad seed" will build "defective genes into the population" and these will "never be rooted out."

This is the standard form of the eugenics argument: discrimination against people who are "defective" and have "defective genes." The argument has been used to forcibly sterilize imbeciles. Often, "imbecile" is defined as "person of another race" (such as the Abenaki First Nation in Vermont).

When I objected to receiving the eugenics handout at a Public Service Board meeting, I was roundly booed by the plant opponents.

My first post on this topic described the prinicples of eugenics: Grannies and Eugenics, the Cruelty of Ignorance.

The second post talked a little about Alice Stewart and her philosophy, and also explained why Vermonters, especially, should avoid making the eugenics argument. Eugenics frequently starts by trying to rid the world of "defective" genes and people, but it usually moves on to outright racism. That is what happened in Vermont with the Abenakis. My post: Alice Stewart's Work. Also, How Eugenics Affected Vermont.

My third post described modern genetics, and why "defective" genes don't actually build up in a population: Genes in Populations: A More Modern View.

The bottom line on all of this: The eugenics model is not how genes spread. Believing that eugenics is the correct model is cruel and eventually racist. The grannies should stop handing out eugenics literature at public meetings.

A Retrospective on the Posts: What About the Grannies Themselves?

There is another bottom line. Do I think the Grannies themselves are racist? No. I think they are ignorant of what they are doing, rather than racist.

They found a quote from Alice Stewart, and it fit with their ideas about how bad radiation is: "See, one bad gene can ruin the whole gene pool!"

I think that the Grannies:
  • know very little about science (modern genetics)
  • know even less about the history of science (the rise and fall of eugenics)
  • know very little about many aspects of regular history (Hitler and eugenics, Vermont and the Abenaki and eugenics).
I think they simply don't know they are distributing a quote that summarizes the world-view of eugenics, from a person (born in 1906) who may have written these words during the hey-day of eugenics in the 30s. That's why I titled my first post: the cruelty of ignorance, rather than the cruelty of racism. That's also why I refer to them as the "eugenics grannies" not the "racist grannies."

Ignorance can lead to very bad results, however. Including racism.


I announced the Fifteenth Blog Carnival of Nuclear Energy in one of the eugenics posts. It was pretty well buried in the post, so I repeat it here.

The Fifteenth Blog Carnival of Nuclear Energy is up at Next Big Future. Nuclear Townhall notes that the Bellefonte plant at TVA is set to move forward again (construction was stopped in the 70s). Dan Yurman discusses the license process for Small Modular Reactors, and Charles Barton has a post about Australian climate scientist Barry Brook and his move to nuclear. Steve Aplin reviews the movie Countdown to Zero, about nuclear proliferation, including important insights about Iran's program. Brian Wang has put together a very interesting and eclectic mix of blog posts. Thank you Brian.

Come to the carnival! You always learn something, and it's fun, too!

The Atomic Show Podcast

I was honored and flattered to be on Rod Adams Podcast yesterday evening. Three of us discussed various topics, including the slowdown of the nuclear renaissance in this country. The three participants were Rod Adams of Atomic Insights blog, Charles Barton of Nuclear Green Revolution blog, and myself.

Download Atomic Show Podcast #160, Bumps in the Renaissance Road to hear what we said about the Renaissance, nuclear art, and more.

Internet Privacy

Yes. I'm off topic and talking about our daughter again.

In a previous post I noted that our daughter Julia Angwin is a Wall Street Journal tech editor. She just finished spearheading a major WSJ investigative project on "What They Know." This project explores what Internet marketers know about you. The WSJ web site for the project has databases and interactive graphics so you can explore your own experience.

Since then, Julia has been on several radio and television programs, talking about the project. Here is a link to see her on C-Span (forty minute interview). And here's a link to her appearance on the the NPR radio show On Point. This episode had the intriguing title of Creepy Commerce. In this program, Julia was on a panel that included an internet advertising executive. Nothing like controversy to make a show exciting!

Carnival Image is the Carousel in the square at Avignon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually, offensive early twentieth century eugenics aside, the facts on the occurrence of natural radiation suggest that the very opposite effect actually occurs.... if there were indeed any eugenic effect, it would be a beneficial one.

Activists attempt to suggest to listeners that a radiationless world is somehow possible. Actually, granite, bananas, PC's, brazil nuts,and a host of every day items give off radiation.The natural radiation from taking an airplane trip is about 3-5 millirem. In states with large granite formations...Vermont prominent among them... radioactive radon gas continually arises out of the ground into the cellars of most houses. Tritium is found in all oceans on the planet.
Being more wise than activists, our bodies have adapted to this ever-present natural radiation.
Residents of naturally radioactive regions in Kerala India & Ramsar Iran are found to have 25% less cancers than nearby populations not living on radioactive ground.Constant Low doses of radiation actually immunize people against further harm from radiation. That effect is called hormesis.

link to:

for a very complete explanation.

Background Radiation Studies
1-In an Indian study, it was observed that in areas with a high-background radiation level, the incidence of cancer and also the mortality rate due to cancer was significantly less than similar areas with a low backgroundradiation level (Nambi and Soman 1987).
2-In a very large scale study in U.S.A, it was found that the mortality rate due to all malignancies was lower in states with higher annual radiation dose (Frigerio 1976).
3- In a large scale Chinese study, it was showed that the mortality rate due to cancer was lower in an area with a relatively high background radiation (74,000 people), while the control group (78,000 people) who lived in anarea with low background radiation had a higher rate of mortality (Wei L 1990).

Our current radiation protection policy is based on linear extrapolation from the dose-response data of Hiroshima victims. According to the results of many worldwide studies, this assumption is not compatible with observed health effects of low levels of radiation. Obviously "Linear-No-Threshold" assumptions and current radiation protection regulations exaggerate the risk of low level ionizing radiation (in the range of 1-50 cGy) and cause radiophobia (Yalow RS 1990). It is concluded that according to new findings, the existence of radiation hormesis and adaptive response are not deniable and abandoning the LNT theory in low dose risk estimations will be a real nessecity in the near future.

G. Murphy