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Biotech's Public Image: How to Provoke Regulation

By | December 15, 1986

Genetic engineering is never far from the headlines and the evening news. But most of the recent news has been dismaying for those who keep hoping that biotechnology will start learning from its own history that it has an image problem. Earlier this year, three different U.S. government agencies rebuked biotechnologists for conducting product testing outside the existing regulatory framework, sometimes in secret. In a separate incident, it was revealed that the Pan American Health Organization,

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Good Science Needs Good Reporting

By | December 15, 1986

Today's major research universities routinely “buy” scientists to help turn their most promising research programs into world-class ones. Why, then, after spending so much money to woo these big time scientists and their research entourages, don't more institutions do a better job of telling the world about the success of their research activities? Of course, many universities do try to publicize their researchers' work. But few devote as much attention to promoting re search resul

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The Revenge of the Soft Scientists

By | December 15, 1986

I have nothing against the hard sciences, mathematics, physics or chemistry. Sadly, however, some philosophers take physics as the measure of what science is all about: you measure and count and weigh and perform experiments, which you can do over and over again. Biology hovers uncomfortably between the two worlds—the hard and the woolly. Hard biology tends to be molecular, physiological, experimental, while at the other extreme is woolly natural history— bug collecting and such like

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Who Caused Chemistry's Toxic Image?

By | December 15, 1986

Chemists are beginning to recognize that chemistry, or at least chemicals, frighten the average person. “Chemical” is used to mean “unnatural,” and is usually preceded by “toxic.” How did this bad public image of chemicals and chemistry develop? I believe chemists themselves are primarily responsible for the public image of chemistry. First, we all are more or less responsible for our choice of project. In academic re search, we can work on almost anything fo

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Creationism: Out of the Mainstream

By | November 17, 1986

Science, above all, is a methodology for acquiring testable  knowledge about the natural world-the "art of the soluble" in Sir Peter Medawar's apt phrase. It is not and cannot be a compendium of certain knowledge. If the vernacular word "fact" has any currency in science, it can only be defined as "confirmed to so high a degree that it would be perverse to with-hold provisional assent." By this definition, evolution-the observation that all organisms are connected by unbroken ties of geneal

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Let Science and Religion Stay Separate

By | November 17, 1986

The theory of evolution asserts  ' that evolution has occurred  and explains how it occurred.  Biological evolution is a fact established beyond reasonable doubt. Living beings descend from other organisms more and more different as we go farther back into the past. Our ancestors of many millions of years ago were not human. We are related to the apes and other animals by common ancestry. Biological evolution is a fact established with the same degree of certainty as the rotation

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Statute Attacks All of Science

By | November 17, 1986

It is most important that the U.S.  Supreme Court affirm the decision  of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the  Fifth Circuit, which threw out a  Louisiana statute mandating the teaching of "creation science." That statute would require that in the public schools of Louisiana the teaching of certain parts of science (which concern "origins" and thus appear to conflict with the claims of particular religious sects) would be selected for special pejorative treatment and would have

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The Gift-Wrapped Genome

By | November 17, 1986

For other articles on sequencing see THE SCIENTIST, October 20, pp. 11-12. Mapping the human genome (let's call it MHG!), is being popularized as the attention-focusing Big Science Project for the 1990s. Like another technological big fix in the military field, MHG! means different things to different people, which is why much of the debate is at cross-purposes. One extreme technocratic version (or is it a caricature?) would suspend all other DNA research in favor of a single centralized machine

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OPINION: CREATIONISM Creationism: Out of the Mainstream Stephen Jay Gould  p.10   Statute Attacks All of Science Murray Gell-Mann p.11 Let Science and Religion Stay Separate Francisco Ayala p.11 An Urgent Need to Fight Creationism Dorothy Nelkin p.11   Date:     November 17, 1986 On December 10 the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Edwards v. Aguillard, the suit arising from a 1981 Louisiana law requireing a balanced  treatment" of evolution and "crea

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Urgent Need to Fight Creationism

By | November 17, 1986

After years of studying the creation-evolution controversy, I  have no doubts about the religious intent of the  creationists. As Ayala, Gould and Gell-Mann suggest, creationists are simply using science to bolster their credibility as they seek to bring their religious theories to the public schools. In fact, this goal is made explicit in a creationist newsletter, which advises their vanguard to "sell more science. . . . Who can object to teaching more science?" Yet the creationists h

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