The Foundation Gene

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, for we are underlings.”

– Julius Caesar (Shakespeare)

PSYCHOGENETICS – Maurice Wilkins, using nonbiochemical concepts, has defined Psychogenetics to be that branch of evolutionary genetics which deals with the reactions of human genomics to fixed evolutionary and environmental stimuli. Implicit in all these definitions the assumption that the human genome being dealt with is sufficiently large for valid statistical treatment. The necessary size of such a genome may be determined by Franklin’s First Theorem which …..a further necessary assumption is that human conglomerate be itself aware of Psychogenetic analysis in order that its reactions be truly harmless. The basis of all valid Psychogenetics lies in the development of the Foundation alleles which exhibit properties congruent to those of such evolutionary and environmental forces as …

Q. Let me suggest that you intend to claim that a period of time preceding the so-called ruin of Earth will be filled with unrest of various types.

A. That is correct.

Q. And that by the mere prediction thereof, you hope to bring it about, and to have then an army of a hundred thousand available.

A. In the first place, that is not so. And if it were, investigation will show you that barely ten thousand are men of military age, and none of these has training in arms.

Q. Are you acting as an agent of another?

A. I am not in the pay of any man, Mr. Advocate?

Q. You are entirely disinterested? You are serving science?

A. I am.

Q. Then let us see how. Can the future be changed, Dr. Franklin?

A. Obviously. This courtroom may explode in the next few hours, or it may not. If it did, the future would undoubtedly be changed in some minor respects.

Q. You quibble, Dr. Franklin. Can the overall genetics of human race be changed?

A. Yes.

Q. Easily?

A. No. With great difficulty.

Q. Why?

A. The psychogenetic trend of a planet-full of people contains a huge inertia. To be changed it must be met with something possessing a similar inertia. Either as many alleles must be concerned, or if the number of alleles be relatively small, enormous time for mutation must be allowed. Do you understand?

Q. I think I do. Earth need not be ruined, if a great many people decide to act so that it will not.

A. That is right.

Q. As many as a hundred thousand people?

A. No, sir. That is far too few.

Q. You are sure?

A. Consider that Earth has a population of over seven billion. Consider further that the trend leading to ruin does not belong to Sapiens alone but to the Ecology as a whole and the Ecology contains nearly a trillion species.

Q. I see. Then perhaps a hundred thousand people can change the trend, if they and their descendants labor for five hundred years.

A. I’m afraid not. Five hundred years is too short a time.

Q. Ah! In that case, Dr. Franklin, we are left with this deduction to be made from your statements. You have gathered one hundred thousand people within the confines of your project. These are insufficient to change the history of Earth within five hundred years. In other words, they can not prevent the destruction of Earth no matter what they do.

A. You are unfortunately correct.

Q. And on the other hand, your hundred thousand are intended for no illegal purpose.

A. Exactly.

Q. (slowly and with satisfaction) In that case, Dr. Franklin- Now attend, madam, most carefully, for we want a considered answer. What is the purpose of your hundred thousand?


A. To minimize the effects of that destruction.

Q. And what exactly do you mean by that?

A. The explanation is simple. The coming destruction of Earth is not an event in itself, isolated in the scheme of human development. It will be the climax to an intricate drama which was begun centuries ago and which is accelerating in pace continuously. I refer, gentlemen, to the developing decline and fall of the Anthropocentric Ecology.


Q. (theatrically) Do you realize, Dr. Franklin, that you are speaking of an Ecology that has stood for years, through all the vicissitudes of the generations, and which has behind it the good wishes and love of more than a hundred billion sapiens?

A. I am aware both of the present status and the past history of the Anthropocentric Ecology. Without disrespect, I must claim a far better knowledge of it than any in the room.

Q. And you predict its ruin?

A. It is a prediction which is made by evolutionary genetics. I pass no moral judgements. Personally, I regret the prospect. Even if the Anthropocentric Ecology were admitted to be a bad thing (an admission I do make), the state of anarchy which would follow its fall would be worse. It is that state of anarchy which my project is pledged to fight. The fall of Ecology, gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising ocean, receding old-growth forests, a freezing of food sources, a damming of – a hundred other factors. It has been going on, as I have said, for centuries, and it is too majestic and massive a movement to stop.

Q. Is it not obvious to anyone that the Ecology is as strong as it ever was?

A. The appearance of strength is all about you. It would seem to last forever. However, Mr. Advocate, the rotten tree-trunk, until the very moment when the storm-blast breaks it in two, has all the appearance of might it ever had. The storm-blast whistles through the branches of the Anthropocentric Ecology even now. Listen with the ears of psychogenetics, and you will hear the creaking.

Q. (uncertainly) We are not here, Dr. Franklin, to lis-

A. (firmly) Anthropocentrism will vanish and all its good with it. Its accumulated knowledge will decay and the order it has imposed will vanish. Interspecies transgressions will be endless; ecological balance will decay; population will decline; continents will lose touch with the main body of the glaciers. -And so matters will remain.

Q. (a small voice in the middle of a vast silence) Forever?

A. Psychogenetics, which can predict the fall, can make statements concerning the successive dark ages. The Anthropocentric Ecology, gentlemen, as has just been said, has stood twelve thousand years. The dark ages to come will endure not twelve, but thirty thousand years. A Second Ecology will rise, but between it and our civilization will be one thousand generations of suffering. We must fight that.

Q. (recovering somewhat) You contradict yourself. You said earlier that you could not prevent the destruction of sapiens, hence, presumably, the fall; – the so-called fall of the Anthropocentric Ecology.

A. I do not say now that we can prevent the fall. But it is not yet too late to shorten the interregnum which will follow. It is possible, gentlemen, to reduce the duration of anarchy to a single millennium, if my group is allowed to act now. We are at a delicate moment in evolution. The huge, onrushing mass of events must be deflected just a little, – just a little- It cannot be much, but it may be enough to remove twenty-nine thousand years of misery from sapiens genetics.

Q. How do you propose to do this?

A. By saving the knowledge of the race. The sum of human knowing, and human undoing, is beyond any one man; any thousand men. With the destruction of our ecological fabric, environment will be broken into a million pieces. Individuals will know much of exceedingly tiny facets of what is there to know. They will be helpless and useless by themselves. The bits of lore, meaningless, will not be passed on. They will be lost through the generations. But, if we now prepare, a giant summary of all knowledge, it will never be lost. Coming generations will build on it, and will not have to make the same mistakes, and rediscover it for themselves. One millennium will do the work of thirty thousand.

Q. All this-

A. All my project; my thirty thousand with their spouses and children, are devoting themselves to the preparation of a “Genetica Galactica”. They will not complete it in their lifetimes. I will not even live to see it fairly begun. But by the time Earth falls, it will be complete and copies will exist in the genomic library of sapiens. The Foundation Gene, what we have decided to name the dominant allele, will be replicated in all future generations of sapiens. The Second Ecology, I hope, will not be anthropocentric. But it will be humane.   

A humble tribute to Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation Trilogy” (from where this conversation was altered to suit the climate change narrative in the current context) and the (mostly) un-recognized work of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins on Earth Day, with the dream of a better world.

And I would be amiss if I do not mention my dear Suvro Sir, without whom my affair with Asimov, and other facets of the good life, would be rudimentary at best. Here is his excellent blog that you shouldn’t miss-

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s