This morning we feature part nineteen of our series on the global brain from an important book by Howard Bloom. See: 1) Biology, Evolution and the Global Brain, 2) Creative Nets in the Precambrian Age, 3) Networking in Paleontology’s “Dark Ages”, 4) The Embryonic Meme, 5) Why Birds and Humans Flock Together, 6) Mammals and the Further Rise of Mind, 7) Tools of Perception and the Construction of Reality, 8) Reality is a Shared Hallucination, 9) The Conformity Police, 10) The Huddle and the Squabble, 11) Ice and Fire, 12) The Dance of Attractors and Repulsors, 13) The Birth of Boundary Breakers, 14) The Guesswork of Collective Mind, 15) The Pluralism Hypothersis—Athens, 16) Pythagoras Subcultures and Psycho-Bio-Circuitry, 17) Swivelling Eyes and Pivoting Minds, 18) The Kidnap of Mass Mind. Reposted from Telepolis.
Science and the Warps of Mass Psychology
|“the British neurobiologist Charles Sherrington spoke of the brain as an enchanted loom, perpetually weaving a picture of the external world…. The communal mind of literate societies – world culture – is an immensely larger loom. Through science it has gained the power to map external reality far beyond the reach of a single mind….”|
|Edward O. Wilson|
|“And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.”|
|“Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience.”|
|Admiral Hyman Rickover|
Dr. Gilbert Ling’s life story reveals a paradox. It shows the progress the global brain has made in the era of modern transportation and communications, yet it also uncovers a thought-throttler hidden in the very workings of mass mind. Ling was born and educated in China and received his graduate education in the United States in a field developed largely by Germans. His intellectual heroes included Lao-Tzu, Confucius, Socrates, Joseph Priestly, Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday, and Japan’s Saburo Ienaga. He became influential in America, Europe, and Russia, then fell afoul of authoritarian mind-closers – ironically those within science itself. Should he overcome the obstacles hurled in his path, he feels strongly that his research could aid us in an intergroup tournament with a global brain which we managed to beat for a short time, but is threatening to leave us in the dust again – that of our bacterial brethren.
To understand the puzzle and the stakes, let’s move back a bit in history. When scientists like England’s Peter Russell, France’s Joel de Rosnay, Germany’s Gottfried Mayer-Kress, Belgium’s Francis Heylighen, America’s Gregory Stock, and Canada’s Derrick De Kerckhove predict the coming of a global brain sometime in the 21st century, their minds are often fixed on electronic communication. They see satellite-relayed beams, fiber-optic cables, and next-generation technologies as neuronal axons in a cyber-cortex spanning continents. But trade and stone-tool technology-sharing had produced early versions of these far-stretched threads over two million years ago.1 The pace at which these interconnects grew after 3,000 B.C. was nothing to sneeze at. The Egyptians used the Nile to unite one long strip of towns into an Empire which endured fourteen times as long as the United States has been a nation.2 River boats provided remarkably quick and easy intercourse between one center and another.3 And foreign merchants offered interconnectivity all the way to Asia.4 In 800 BC the Phoenicians used agile craft capable of handling more turbulent waters to sail the Mediterranean and the Atlantic waves, shuttling goods and ideas from Britain and Spain to Argos and Assyria, 2,400 miles away.5 Shortly before the time of Christ, Greeks6 and Arabs tapped the monsoon winds7 to power their water craft on yearly trips to India and China, 8 then hauled back wondrous cargos of pearls, Malabar pepper, perfumes, and jewelry. The Romans quickened the growing connective skein by building roads, 9 copying Phoenician ships, 10 and refining Egyptian and Persian forms of long distance data exchange into a 170-mile-per-day long-distance mailing service called the cursus publicus. 11 St. Paul, a master of his era’s form of internet promotion, used this postal system to send his Epistles throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, then took advantage of regular shipping12 – a powerful innovation – to carry his gospel as far as Rome and Spain.13 Paved highways and post-horses were so effective that young Constantine, according to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, left the palace of Nicomedia in the middle of the night, travelled post through Bithynia, Thrace, Dacia, Pannonia, and Italy, “and amidst the joyful acclamations of the people, reached the port of Boulogne in the very moment when his father was preparing to embark for Britain.”14 This trip at breakneck speed had covered over 1,600 miles.
The Chinese pulled together over three million square miles of Asia by founding their Empire, another whose antiquity makes the nations of Europe look like flashes in the pan. Land routes and river transport ribboned together this vast entity. Then came such enterprises as the 600-mile-long Imperial Canal, which provided express access for 500-ton freight barges from the Yangtze to the Yellow River.15 In the Americas, the Incas used roadways, llama caravans, and canals to pull together a domain 2,700 miles long by a few hundred miles wide.16 Data flow was vital to such massive meshes of city and countryside. The Romans spread a common language and culture to make communication easy. The Chinese spread a common alphabet to do much the same. The Incas instituted a uniform accounting system based on knotted ropes.17 And all three Imperial powers smoothed things further by regularizing such things as weights and measures, and, in China’s case, decreeing a common span between wagon wheels so that vehicles from one province could travel the wheel-rutted highways of another with ease.18 Meanwhile Chinese merchants carved a silk road through the Takla Makan desert to carry their wares to Rome,19 where the great matrons of history like Livia one-upped each other with their shimmering imported robes. To pay for these Far Eastern luxuries, the Romans used slaves gathered from every continent they could reach to scrape metal from the silver mines they’d snatched in their conquests. So heavy was the semi-globalization of commerce that Rome ran a ballooning negative balance of trade with the commercial tigers of India, Arabia, Spain, and Sichuan.20
Ideas surged and blended as these connective tissues quickened in vitality. Greek philosophers like Pythagoras were influenced by ideas from the Hindu Ganges. India soaked up artistic traditions from descendants of the generals of Alexander the Great, who carved out kingdoms in the country’s northern territories.21 In turn, India’s fairy tales became European common currency.22
After Rome fell in 410 AD to the Goths,23 the Mediterranean sea lanes which had fed the citizens of Rome and Gaul with grain from Egypt fell to pirates and were cut. The roads bringing Cornish tin were snipped by bandits and by pillaging tribes. Europe would not rebuild its interconnectivity to Roman levels until the late 18th century. But sprouts of reconnection grew from 1100 AD on, when pathways into which roads had crumbled were sufficiently crime-free to allow a fresh rebirth of continental trade.24 In the 15th and 16th century, Portugal and Spain spread the threadwork of oceanic exchange to Africa, India, and the Americas, introducing the sweet potatoes of Mexico to the Philippines,25 the chili peppers of Peru26 to Hunan,27 and carrying African culture from the Congo river to a Caribbean which would soon echo to the conga drum.28 At the same time, Europe’s long-dead postal service was resumed.29 Now Erasmus could become a snail-mail junkie, using a stream of letters30 to unite a community of international eccentrics into a movement which downgraded religion’s death-ride to heaven and exalted earthly humanity.
But Homo sapiens were not the only ones to gain from this growing global weave. Bacteria and other microorganisms travelled the trade routes of Greece31 and ancient Rome poking about for new possibilities. And they found them, spawning waves of plague in Athens and the Empire the Caesars ruled.32 Infectious epidemic hitchhiked from the Himalayas and India to Constantinople in Justinian’s reign and killed off 10,000 of that glorious city’s inhabitants a day.33 Smallpox34 took to the ocean waves with the conquistadors of Spain and gorged on a native American population which had no barriers of immunity, sweeping an estimated 70 million Indians to their grave.35 And tuberculosis, a disease which had first trekked across continents with primitive hunter gathers in pre-Ice Age days36 , carried both the parents of Gilbert Ling away.37
Ling begins the telling of his own tale with China’s Boxer Rebellion, an event born of the worldwide web at the end of the 19th century. The development of ships driven by steam in 180738 along with breechloaders (1838), Gatling guns (1862) 39 , and light artillery40 freed western nations like England and the United States to escalate intergroup tournaments – both those of conquest and the more peaceful ones of trade. China was brimming with export goods the West demanded, but the Middle Kingdom showed little interest in the woolens and other commodities the West offered in return. The result was a serious balance of payments deficit, one the English made up by peddling a product manufactured in its Indian provinces – opium.41 Sales were brisk – eight million pounds of the narcotic were smuggled in during just one year, 183642 – and American merchants like Warren Delano, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s grandfather, wanted in on a good thing. 43 Many of America’s elite families had made their initial fortunes shipping sea otter pelts from North America’s frontier to Chinese ports. Now the Coolidge and Forbes clan followed the British lead and took up drug dealing in Canton. The Chinese counter-attacked against this traffic in addiction with a series of crusades they couldn’t win. One was the Boxer Rebellion.44 When it was over, China was milked for “reparations.” America made up for such unconscionable exactions by providing money for a university in Peking and by establishing fellowships which would allow over 100 of China’s top students to study in the U.S.A.
Battle had proven a synapse builder, and in 1945 one of those synapsed was Gilbert Ling, who showed up at the University of Chicago during the Christmas season to go for his graduate degree. Ling chose to focus on the field of cell physiology, one which would carry him further into the meshwork of minds which binds together the collective intellect of humankind.
Cell physiology began in England in the 1600s when a young scientific jack-of-all-trades got his hands on a new lens-based device with many a peculiar property. The magnifying lens had first appeared in ancient Assyria,45 had been forgotten, then had been reinvented in Florence in 128046 as an aid to reading for the privileged classes – clerics and noblemen. Within five years, wearing spectacles had become a craze. Early in the 1600s, an obscure Dutch spectacle maker, Hans Lippershey, discovered that by combining several lenses in a tube he could craft a long-distance-viewing device which he believed would allow The Netherlands’ military defender, Prince Maurice of Nassau, to spot attacking Spanish armies long before they appeared clearly to the naked eye. Lippershey’s secret weapon – the telescope – soon leaked to Paris, Frankfurt, and London. Galileo, a Pisan teaching university courses in Florence, made one of his own with some beefed-up properties. In an act of diversity generation which literally horrified fellow scholars and churchmen, he turned his telescope away from the fields of potential battle for which it was intended and aimed it at a territory sacred to religion and philosophy – the heavens.47 There he discovered that the planets were not orbs on crystal spheres moved by angels, but were globes of matter much like ours.48 Another university lecturer in Bologna diversity generated in reverse. Marcello Malphighi used the device to look down, examining such hidden things as the inner layers of skin, the bumps on the tongue, the capillaries carrying blood, and the outer tissue of the brain’s cerebral cortex.
As snail mail spread, it upped the speed with which pre-Age-of-Reasoners could data-swap. Malpighi was a member of one newly-formed local chat group – the Accademia del Cimento. Englishman Robert Hooke was a member of another which had used the mails to go intercontinental – The British Royal Society. Hooke picked up on the Galileo’s innovations, built his own telescope, used it to discover a new star in Orion and to sketch the planet Mars, then turned it on its head to look at snowflakes, mosquitos, feathers, and fungi. But he hit the jackpot when he pointed his lens tube at a slice of cork, for here he spotted what he described in his bestselling book Micrographia as “the first microscopical pores I ever saw.” Because they reminded him of the chambers in which monks slept, Hooke called these micro-rooms cells.
The human network continued its arch. Two hundred years later, a pair of German labmates, Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, took the work of Hooke and turned it to a theory which would form a platform for the understanding of bacteria, animals, and almost all biology. Every plant and animal was composed of cells, the southern German and the Prussian said.49 And cells were what had been assumed until their time – water-filled cubicles, walls enclosing a passive “homogenous, transparent liquid.”50
This led to a mystery – molecules of sodium were locked out of a cell51 and potassium was locked in,52 a fact which defied the laws of physics. How could two chemicals which should have spread with equal density on either side of the cell membrane be kept from flooding through the cellular barricades? In the 1860s, German wine merchant-turned-physiological-chemist Moritz Traube53 proposed that the membrane had some sort of “atomic sieve” pushing one molecule out and trapping the other inside. Alas for Traube’s notion, 20th century work with electron and x-ray diffraction showed that the idea was full of holes – but holes of entirely the wrong kind. 54 Modern biologists would up the power of Traube’s sieves and turn them into bilge pumps studding the cell membrane.
Meanwhile Gilbert Ling built an edifice of evidence indicating that one could take large steps ahead by recognizing that the passive liquid in a cell’s interior was active as could be, and because of its busy nature, no wall pumps were necessary. 55 Ling’s proposals would eventually amount to what Cambridge University’s Lancelot Law Whyte called “one of the most important and advanced contributions to the understanding of the structure of living systems which I have seen.”56 They would provide what Ling feels is “the only verified, unifying theory of cell physiology.”57 And Ling himself would be hailed by the Nobel-prize-winning discoverer of Vitamin C’s oxidative properties, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, as “one of the most inventive biochemists I have ever met.” This is where the word of caution comes. Group brains move forward by see-sawing forth and back. The damage done by a Dark Age is eventually overcome. But these moments of constriction have their victims – and Gilbert Ling was one.
Networks, Networks Everywhere and Nary a Drop to Drink
Complex adaptive systems are geared, not by reason, but by biology. This can be a blessing and a curse. Take resource shifters, which can build you up then knock you down again. Because Gilbert Ling’s ideas were considered extraordinary, they brought the good things of this world tumbling his way. When Ling finished post-doctoral work at the University of Chicago in 1950, he was given funds to teach and do research at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Medical School. Then came a proposition from the University of Illinois’ Medical School, an offer which would allow him to forego teaching responsibilities and plunge into his research full time. Ling’s work sparked an escalating level of attention. When Philadelphia’s Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute established a Department of Basic Research, it invited Ling to design and run his own laboratory. Next came the chance to build a lab58 at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Hospital.59 Attention begets more attention. Says Ling, “bright young science students flocked to my laboratory to work toward a higher degree or otherwise participate in the exciting research.”60
Ling’s work rapidly penetrated the global data-flow. He recalls lecturing “all over the world,” receiving standing ovations as he went. In 1957, he reports that he was visited by “the Soviet scientist, A.S. Troshin, another anti-membrane-pump cell physiologist and Director of the huge Leningrad Institute of Cytology,” who had apparently been following his work avidly.61 Along the way Ling’s concepts of salt-water biophysics knitted together with a Nobel-prize-winning thread of theory created by Isidor Rabi, an immigrant who had come to the U.S. from the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the age of three,62 helping to produce one of modern biology’s most powerful tools – the NMR imager used today to probe the body and the brain. Once Ling’s ideas were acted on further, he was confident that the bacteria which had killed his parents would take a beating. Armed with a better theory, humans would be able to build new tools with which to battle the microbial invaders anxious to turn the cells of which we’re made into their private banquet halls. Here’s a taste of why Ling may be right.
The liquid of a cell’s interior is anything but random slosh and splash. An atom is a network of quarks and leptons – there are three quarks and a lepton in even the simplest atom that we know. Molecules are networks of even more complexity. Each has plugs and sockets on its exterior. These can produce a hyper-sensitive mesh which physicists call a “cooperative state.”63
For example, Ling points out that a water molecule is not the placid stuff of our imaginings. Its two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms are arranged in such a way that one end of the molecule is charged positively and the other charged negatively. The positive charge of one water atom docks with the negative charge of another, impelling water molecules to knit together in vast skeins. A loose molecular weave keeps water liquid, a tight one turns it into ice. The webbed tapestry of water, proteins, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates of a cell’s interior swings in an in-between-state we call life.64 Ling’s Polarized Multilayer Theory of Cell Water65 helps explain the how and why.
Says Ling, “Jello is almost all water and yet in Jello, water can ‘stand up’ as no normal pure liquid water ever can. This ability of the water in Jello to stand – -which ice can also – -indicates that the water-to-water interaction in the Jello water has been altered by the only other component present, gelatin.” The key to this mystery, according to Ling, is gelatin’s main ingredient, collagen, a protein which pulls coats of water molecules around itself as if it were dressing in layer after layer of winter clothes.66 When these water-bundled collagen molecules velcro together, one has Jello.67 Or one has the flesh of which you and I are made – for collagen is what gives the networked water of our muscle and our fibers strength and shape.68 So powerful are Ling’s molecular meshes at holding on to their water-molecule constituents that they can be chopped up, then centrifuged with a force a thousand times that of gravity and not lose a drop, despite the fact that water makes up 80% of their raw material.
Like humans interacting, each dovetailed water molecule shifts the interior balance of its neighbors. This tilts the total mesh into a far from ordinary linkage, turning it, in Ling’s words, into a “functionally coherent and discrete cooperative assembly.” So vigilant are Ling’s molecular webs that the smallest push from a triggering molecule called a cardinal absorbent69 can switch a net from rest to hyperactivity.
Ling’s concept of latticed molecules driving each other to cooperative alertness70 may have seemed strange when he proposed it in 1962. But since then, other researchers have shown that a cell’s interior is a hive of structure and activity, replete with a framework of architectural girders and a bureaucracy of messengers, receivers, administrators, and gatekeepers.71 The interactions of these cellular constituents make the workings of the largest human city look simple by comparison. The result is one of the most intricate complex adaptive systems ever seen. For example, some researchers propose that the microtubules of the cell’s frame (its cytoskeleton) have the computational power of a computer.72 These living beams and crossbars operate according to complex adaptive systems rules. Assembly centers called kinetochores generate new tubules helter skelter. This is diversity generation. The tubules are mass produced along similar lines – conformity enforcement. Each operates as a probehead, exploring the possibilities of the cell’s interior space. This power to test hypotheses is one gift of diversity. The microtubules which find a connection point are triggered internally to become robust. Those which do not find a docking site are triggered internally to self destruct. The mechanism inside the tubule adjusting its vigor or forcing it to throw itself on the scrap heap is a utility sorter. The microtubules which find their way to connecting points critical to the operation of the cell become superstars in the cytoskeleton. Resources are fed to them by economic centers in the cell’s interior near and far. Some of these goods are influence, others are materiel. The impulses moving other cellular components to shove assets their way are resource shifters.73
Cells are probeheads too, but they act on behalf of the organism of which they are the building blocks. Like microtubules, competing cells are subject to complex adaptive system rules. They search the possibilities around them and compete for connections, for the power to make copies of themselves, for building material, and for fuel. The intergroup tournament between cells has a potent impact on the life or death of the microtubules which have competed to form a single contestant’s skeleton. If the cell within which the microtubule resides is a fetal neuron and finds connections, the cell thrives and the microtubules it contains survive.74 If the fetal neuron fails to find a hookup, its utility sorters kill it off, and the microtubules – no matter how successful they were inside the cell – eat dirt (or are eaten by bio-cleanup-fluids). The same complex adaptive system rules power the immune system, organisms, bacterial colonies, and human societies – as Ling would learn at first to his delight and later his dismay. 75
Ling demonstrated with a series of compelling experiments that pumps aren’t necessary at a cell’s periphery.76 The busy meshwork of the cellular inner city excludes sodium quite easily. Do away with membrane pump theory, and drugs could be conceived which would do far more than current pharmaceuticals to battle a bacterial foe, or so Ling was convinced. But before this possibility could be tested, Ling would become a sacrifice to conformity enforcers.
Some stranglers of the mass mind’s creativity – neo-Nazis, militant Fundamentalists, and left-wing peddlers of anti-science – signal their danger openly. But others who would halt the mass mind’s progress are harder to spot. These hidden killers of collective thought also must be found out and stopped. The advocates of the sodium pump embarked on a subcultural struggle – a crusade for control of the scientific consciousness. The opening salvo came in 1966 when Cambridge University Professor of Physiology Dr. Richard Keynes declared in lecture and in print that Ling was “responsible for a major heresy in this field.” The scientific ethos says that there is no such thing as heresy – every concept is a hypothesis up for questioning, improvement, and replacement. The very use of the word heresy implies that those who’ve uttered it are about to hit below the belt, punishing someone for disagreement with a position on which their personal power base depends. This is how inquisitions grow. Alarmed, Ling strove for open debate. His adversaries preferred to work in the shadows, utilizing political manipulation instead of airing ideas in the marketplace. In 1967, the president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology77 planned a debate at the Federation’s annual meeting. To extend its outreach, the public airing of the exchange was to be broadcast on closed-circuit tv. Dr. Ling agreed to pit his evidence against that of his critics. Six proponents of the membrane-pump theory were approached. Though the symposium was a year away, says Ling, every one of his attackers claimed he had other commitments for the appointed day. Scientists of the 19th century, Ling says, felt honor bound to appear at forums of this kind.78 However, as any of us in science who champion unconventional ideas know, this was not the late 20th century way.79
Instead there was a campaign of behind-the-scenes pressure to silence those who agreed with Ling’s “Association/Induction” approach. In 1969, Dr. Ludwig Edelmann of Germany’s University of Saarland read one of Ling’s books,80 designed an ingenious experiment on guinea-pig heart muscles whose results supported Ling’s theories and trounced the concepts of the membrane pump school soundly, then was told by his professors that in spite of Edelmann’s evidence, membrane-pump theories were correct and Ling’s had been disproved. Ignoring this pronouncement from his elders, Edelmann presented his results before a group of referees in 1972, received no refutations of the validity of his findings, but in October of 1973 was told he no longer had a job. Says Edelmann, “One referee wrote me a private letter suggesting not to follow a fixed idea further and to look for another scientific field.”81 He was forced to switch from biophysics to electron microscopy.82
In 1971 a student of biophysical chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania became curious when Ling’s alternative to the sodium pump model was mentioned briefly in class, then was ignored for the rest of the semester. When he brought the matter up with his professor after class, the pedagogue explained nervously, “If I consider Ling I’ll hear repercussions, and my position is threatened. So, I won’t consider Ling – I have a wife and children. …even now I can’t get most of my stuff published.”83
Ling fought back against the stifling of scientific originality. In 1973 he was appointed to a seven-person committee established at the request of Texas Congressman Bob Casey to examine the creativity-smothering peer review processes used by government agencies.84 (Ling cites a bit of advice given to those applying for grants to the National Institutes for Health: “the author of a project proposal must learn all he can about those who will read his proposal and keep these readers in mind constantly as he writes.”85 In other words, forget fresh insights – conform, or better yet, kiss up). And in 1975, Ling was able to testify on the obstacles being tossed in his path to a Congressional Committee.86
However one of Ling’s adversaries, a sodium-pump advocate who had once co-authored an article Ling had criticized, made a far more vital move. In 1973, he took over the chairmanship of the Physiology Study Section within the National Institute for Health, the source of Ling’s funding. In a stroke, Ling discovered that the money which had supported his efforts for nearly 20 years was slated to disappear.87 He was saved at the last minute by two NIH officials who saw the merits in the objections he filed. But the ad hoc group erected to maintain Ling’s research air supply was fragile, and lacked the power to finance others who might have wished to follow the leads Ling was uncovering. The resource shifter had been commandeered and was now taking away what it had previously offered up so generously. Ling was disturbed by what he calls “the terrifying power of coercion” leveled against him. Then he recalls being “deeply shaken when (virtually) all my graduate and postdoctoral students suddenly left en masse.”88 Later, in an apparent attempt to demonstrate their allegiance by aping the top dogs in the winning camp, most would publish work attacking Ling.89 Meanwhile the flow of money to membrane-pump-theory-based projects grew ever more substantial.90 The complex adaptive system was following its primary dictum: “to he who hath it shall be given; from he who hath not, even what he hath shall be taken away.”
In a maneuver much like the coup of perceptual engineering Mrs. Salt had pulled off in Elm Hollow, the supporters of the sodium pump model created the impression that there were no dissenters from their point of view. In 1975 an article purporting to provide a review of studies which might bolster or sink the sodium pump theory appeared.91 In it, reports Ling, “I.M. Glynn and S.J.D. Karlish from the ‘Mecca’ of cell physiology, the Physiology Laboratory of Cambridge University…cited 245 references, all in favor of the sodium pump hypothesis.” They mentioned none of the research against.92 As Ling sees it, “Documents after documents of experimental evidence against the sodium pump hypothesis were… made to look as if they had never existed. So were the identity of those scientists who had made these critical contributions.” By projecting an illusion of unanimity, the sodium-pump faction intimidated those who might have raised objecting voices into a frightened silence. The strategy worked so well, according to Ling, that during the ensuing years, “Six prominent reviews and symposiums unanimously let their trusting readers know only one side of the story, while withholding from them all references telling the other side of the study.”93
Along with this gagging of free speech went a growing choke-hold on the flow of money for additional research. The attendants of just one pro-sodium-pump symposium had received 44 NIH research grants to support their work promoting the model. Despite roughly 200 papers and other published works supporting his position,94 Ling had been reduced to a non-entity.95
This should have been the worst, but it never is, thanks to our utility sorters – the internal emotional and biological shut-down devices which sweep us away when the signals we’re receiving from the social beast within which we live tell us we’re no longer needed. In Ling’s words, a small number of scientific supporters “stood their grounds, often paying the price of great personal hardship. On October 10, 1982, [one of them, Dr.] Freeman Cope, then at the height of his scientific creativity, took his own life.”96
In 1988, Ling was forced to close his lab at Pennsylvania Hospital and become a scientific refugee.97 Actually he was more fortunate than most. What he calls his “little group of three” – himself and two research colleagues who had remained faithful despite the travails – made the migration to yet another place of work. Because of his role in developing Nuclear Magnetic Resonance imaging, Ling was offered haven on Long Island at the headquarters of the Fonar Corporation, a maker of NMR devices run by Dr. Raymond Damadian,98 originator of whole-body NMR scanning, winner of a National Technology Award, and developer of a cellular theory complementary to Ling’s, one which also discredits the sodium pump.99 Though Ling was often forced to buy chemicals and lab animals out of his own pocket, his isolation from the mainstream allowed him to lay out what could be an important mathematical expansion of his theories and to continue research on the cellular mechanisms of cancer and of drug activity.100 However Fonar could not afford to underwrite a full program of research, one able to train a new generation of scientists in the pursuit of fresh discoveries. Ling continued publishing new studies – 100 of them from 1966 to 1997 – however they increasingly appeared in just his own journal, Physiological Chemistry and Physics and Medical NMR. And Ling’s main contact with the general public was reduced to a website.101
In China Ling had learned the values of Western science. Now, he says, “It is excruciatingly painful to witness the West’s magnificent contribution to human civilization dragged in mud by some of the highly respected members of the scientific community.”102 To agree with Ling, one had to go behind closed doors and fasten the shutters tight. The kidnap of science’s mass mind was complete.
Ling had benefitted in his early years from the axons of a global brain spread through China, Russia, Germany, England, America and all points in between. This was no longer the sluggish collective mind which had clung to the same stone tools for millions of years before making a major change. It was one whose shifts took place in generations, decades, or, in the case of the about-face which had turned Ling to a pariah, could flash across continents in days. But despite the switch from foot power to modems and planes, the underlying mechanisms remained the same. Biology had long since knit together humanity’s global brain. The result was a planetary mind which even in its finest form is riddled with irrationalities.
Ling – a victim of that brain’s intergroup tournaments, contends his loss will cripple us in yet a larger intergroup battle, that between drug-resistant bacteria, viruses, and humans. If new breeds of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant enterococci,103 and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have their way, the struggle between the microbial global brain and ours may be the Great War of the 21st century.104 And Ling’s ideas, though suppressed today, may later prove a necessity.
Whether Ling’s theories are right and those of his opponents are wrong or vice versa, ultimately each belief, individual, clique, movement, and nation is a hypothesis in a larger pondering process. Through the interplay of hypotheses – their battles, their rapes, and their miscegenated offspring – the mass mind grows and learns, even when it does so by taking a mistaken turn.