On the occasion of his introduction to the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco
Mr. Permanent Secretary,
Director of Seance,
Honored Colleagues and Guests:
I am deeply honored to have been chosen to join you as an Associate Member of the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco, and to
share in its high purposes. Over the past few years, I have had the good fortune to become acquainted with Morocco in all
of its seasons. This has included opportunity for the establishment of strong friendships with many of the people, and discovery,
through them, of the rare qualities of this land.
I wish to express my highest respect for His Majesty, King Hassan II, from whose hand I received the invitation to this investiture.
His wisdom in establishing this institution and, thus, creating a unique place where the search for intellectual and spiritual
union may continue, will be much rewarded by history.
I also have been paid a high honor today in being introduced by Professor Jean Bernard. I know him as a friend and as one
of the most distinguished citizens of France. Professor of medicine and hematologist at the University of Paris, a member
of the Academie Francaise, and one of the world's finest physicians and medical scientists, he is a true natural philosopher
in the best sense of that term. Above all, he is a man of delicate sensibilities, vast intellectual compass, and strong moral
conviction. His introduction graciously invests with luster the pale impact on this body of my membership.
Like Professor Bernard, and doubtless like many other Members and Associate Members of the Academy, I claim more than one
profession. First--and last--I am a physician. He who is trained in the arts of diagnosis and prescription and once has
felt the satisfaction of restoring function or relieving pain finds it very difficult to abandon the healing role in the rest
of his life.
The physician's art has long been a complicated one. In the Canon Avicenna wrote:
Galen's art heals only the body,
But Abou Amram's the body and soul.
With his wisdom he could heal
The sickness of ignorance.
Today, the physician must work ever harder to avoid ignorance of ever increasing new knowledge of sickness and health. More
advanced training in the sciences is required for all who would heal. It also is necessary that some physicians must achieve
a more complete synthesis of biology and medicine, both for purposes of teaching science to physicians and also for carrying
out research on biomedical problems. Sometimes it is difficult to perform well in both roles. In the role of a scientist,
one must respect the laws of probability. In the role of physician, however, one must believe that his hands might sometimes
work a miracle. Science always has a statistical viewpoint which tends to see the individual only as a blurred image. Its
laws are derived from observations of populations and apply to single persons only in a probabilistic way. Medicine, on the
other hand, must have consummate concern for the individual. In the interest of his patient, the physician often must work
to defeat the law of the average (mean) which is derived from the population as a whole. Thus, I am among those whose profession
became a hybrid between scientist-and-physician. There are great satisfactions and some special problems to be found in such
As a physician and scientist, my interests early fell on the question of how fats are transported in the arteries--the extracellular
waterways--of the body. As you know from observing the behavior of oil and water, we are dealing here with a major problem.
They do not mix well, and their mutual enmity must be overcome if the internal commerce of the body and life itself is to
proceed. The fuel economy of all higher organisms, and the maintenance of a healthy condition of the arteries in man, depends
upon a harmony between these unmiscibles. As the work of my colleagues and I helped to demonstrate, this blending is accomplished
by special proteins whose structure is amicable with both oil and water, enabling them to achieve diplomatic chemical agreement.
Much of my biological work, then, has been related to identification of the specific proteins siding transport of fat in the
blood. We who work with complex mixtures, like circulating blood plasma with its hundreds or thousands of different proteins,
must take care to be sure that our observations are meaningful and correct. For this purpose I chose some infallible models
for instruction. I confined my studies largely to discovering and observing humans with genetic differences affecting one
or another of the fat-carrying proteins. A genetic change can alter its protein product so that the protein loses its natural
function. The resultant disturbances in body function certify both the essentiality of the protein and provide leads to discovery
of how the protein carries out its functions.
Those of us who began work in human genetics within the last 40 years have been very fortunate. We were the children of the
"biological revolution." This term is given to the series of discoveries of the chemical nature of genes (DNA), and
how sequence of the DNA bases dictate the amino acid chain structure of proteins. The further elucidation of how DNA replicates
and how the gene structure--and therefore the vital structure of proteins--can be changed has provided opportunity for understanding
how the characteristics of all species are transmitted from generation to generation, and how tiny molecular alterations can
sometimes express themselves in much human misery.
It was only a few years ago that so-called recombinant DNA technologies were developed. These extraordinarily powerful technologies
opened the way to deliberate substitution of highly specific pieces of the complement of genes (the genome) of an organism.
Thus far utilized only in bacteria, such technology undoubtedly will be applicable to plants and higher organisms. Perhaps
they someday will be useful to men.
Such remarkable discoveries in our time have many practical and philosophical implications. On the practical side, biological
products of value to men and animals are already being created more efficiently by genetic technology. There soon may be
created new plants to make the deserts bloom and to feed the hungry children of the world.
It may be possible to make beneficial changes in the genome to cure severe genetic abnormalities in man. Doubtless, the new
knowledge from the biological revolution will help us understand cancers and give us new vaccines to eliminate some of the
parasitic as well as viral diseases. It may, perhaps, place within our grasp the technology to give to every person born
the full span of years intended.
Powerful new technologies also breed ethical and moral dilemmas about how they shell be used. What may be beneficial for
all can be put to destructive use by a few. Physics experienced its last major revolution at least 50 years ego but nuclear
fission still presents civilization with a terrible choice. The uses of recombinant technology arising from the present revolution
in biology need not create so acrimonious a debate among nations. Yet, the capability of bringing about change in the inheritance
of even one men has raised profound spiritual questions which the learned and thoughtful people of all nations must endeavor
to understand and answer for themselves.
In the past decade, I have spent much time in the higher functions of government, helping to explain the implications of science--its
powers and limitations--to its leaders. These experiences have given me opportunity to reflect upon the interface between
science and society, upon scientific institutions, and upon science itself. One of the most interesting observations, now
obvious to many, is that separate revolutions in the physical and biological sciences within the last 100 years have exposed
and exaggerated differences among these sciences as profound as those between disparate cultures in human society.
The physical sciences have acquired a holistic, theoretical unity in the last century. They gradually have evolved from the
classical mechanics of Newton and Galileo and, in the early part of this century, incorporated the relativity of Einstein
and then quantum mechanics. It is undisputed that the physical sciences are subject to mathematical expression of universal
laws. Predictability and order are at a maximum. All the molecules of a given inorganic compound are the same.
Consider biology by comparison. All of the biological sciences deal with a quantity called life, which has yet to be defined.
These sciences are descriptive, empirical, and deal with seemingly endless heterogeneity. No two persons, no two organisms
of the same species are absolutely identical. The capacity for variation within the genome seems almost infinite. Even for
identical twins, the imprint of environmental adaptations is never precisely the same.
Yet, there are those who see in the steadily emerging knowledge the outlines of a biological theory of unity. In all living
organisms there are qualities which suggest order within their vast heterogeneity. There also are elements of selection--"holistic
memory"--which suggest that biological systems, too, obey quantum mechanisms. Someday, then, we may be given mathematical
expressions for biological unity.
The rapidly expanding body of knowledge offers us hope for unity of the sciences or their theoretical bases. Can we expect
less then to strive toward greater understanding of the fundamental unity of all people? A condition of science for its progress
and the success of its method is universality of the scientific community. The same condition no doubt applies to the solution
of certain practical, political, and cultural differences which divide humanity across our world.
Man is individual--everywhere different superficially--and unpredictable. Yet, man also is fundamentally the same and perfectly
predictable in his striving everywhere for equivalent basic needs.
The enlightened auspices which have created this Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco have provided a rare place to search for
understanding of universalities. It is located at an ancient crossroads on the earth's surface and in the world's
history. The Islamic culture was not only the bridge between Hellenic ideas and the European Renaissance. It also added
important ingredients to the further development of civilization. Consider the Arabic contribution of AL-JABR (ALGEBRA),
meaning the binding together of disorganized parts.
Islamic science has always had a penchant for order and unification. It did not concern itself only with man's physical
being and environment. It also mounted analyses of man's spiritual being and of his societies. In Arabic, knowledge
of the universe has been called FALSAFA. It embraces all knowledge within the grasp of men, theoretical and practical alike.
The Islamic legacy to science and human understanding is exemplified by the classical writings of Ibn Khaldun. He set a standard
of scholarship which will serve our deliberations.
If we are to gain one grain of greater understanding of the universe where have we a better place to begin that search? I
look with pleasure upon the opportunity to join the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco in that quest.