Reflections on the Status Quo by Robert Kane Pappas

April 5, 2010

Robert Kane Pappas at Circle Beach, in Southampton

I have been reflecting on  the connection between the individual metabolism and the outside world, the Status Quo, and what evolution may have to say about the first part of this sentence.

I know that Lenny Guarente would refer to what I am about to say as “parlor talk”.  But I think there is a place for the generalist, the amateur, in the province of scientific inquiry.

Often, ignorance can  be a strength.  To paraphrase Aubrey de Grey, 

The more you know about something the harder it is to put aside all that knowledge and think laterally.

Metabolism is this vast thing, the more you drill down, the more complexity.  Yet at the same time, the macro and micro are related, and, there are also some simple rules. Much like the outside world.

Aubrey was discussing the problem of cancer and at one point he said,

‘Part of the difficulty is that cancer wants to survive and flourish, even if its survival ultimately brings about the death of the body and hence itself.  And, not only does it evolve but sometimes pretends to be something else so as to avoid a given targeted therapy.’

When he said this, for some reason I thought of Bernie Madoff, the person who engineered the 50 billion dollar Wall Street ponzi scheme.  Everyone thought he was a great guy with their interests in mind, etc. His ability to pretend to be what he was not  allowed him to diabolically flourish under their radar.

Consider the “Status Quo” – a term we use to refer to many situations in society, economic or otherwise.  We often can recognize that a given status quo is in fact a desperately bad trend that needs to be changed.  But it is still hard to change. Part of the answer is various interests are flourishing in that status quo. Those interests want to survive and flourish, even if it does massive harm to many people or to society and will ultimately hurt that interest as well.

Evolution is in a battle with the Status Quo.  I will enlarge upon this subject in the near future.


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