Monday, January 4, 2010

Potluck and Genetics

When Howard and I walked into the community building for the potluck and the debate, we felt right at home. There were about fifty people there, perhaps less, and many of them were "the usual suspects"--people we had seen at many hearings.

By the way, this isn't a youth movement. Most of the people were on the far side of fifty (as I am, myself). They may be remembering their days as college-age protesters, but they aren't college-age protesters.

Howard had debated against Deb Katz in the past, and she greeted him nicely and asked if he wanted to be on the platform with her. "Of course," he answered. She never invited him up there. She had arranged to debate with a comedian, after all. I saw some people I knew, including an anti-VY man who is getting interested in thorium reactors for the future. We email occasionally, and greeted each other with honest warmth. People made sure that we had food, soup, cookies.

We sat at the table. At each place setting, there were two handouts. One was a short yellow piece containing a poem and a quote. The quote was from Gayle Green's book "The Woman Who Knew Too Much."
"And cancer is not the worst of it. Alice Stewart warns. Even more dangerous than cancer is the threat to future generations That's what you really need to be afraid of. It's the genetic damage, the possibility of sowing bad seeds into the gene pool from which future generations are drawn. There will be a buildup of defective genes into the population. It won't be noticed until it is too late. Then, we'll never root it out, we'll never get rid of it. It will be totally irrevocable."

A sentence at the top of the page stated that Alice Stewart, M.D., was born in Great Britain in 1906 and investigated the dangers of exposure to radiation.

This piece gave me the chills. First of all, it had that early-20th-century tang of eugenics (those irrevocable bad seeds) and eugenics led to untold misery. Second, it seemed to imply that radiation from un-natural sources was the main cause of mutations, and without such radiation there would be no bad seeds! Forget about crossover patterns between chromosomes and every other source of mutation that has been operating since the dawn of life. I leaned over to Howard, desperate to discuss this. But we couldn't talk, because the debate was about to begin.

1 comment:

Steve Darden said...

Meredith — in case any of these are useful, here are three accessible references on radiation in the specific context of nuclear power generation.