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So They Say

Scientific speculation about the biological basis of human value judgments has not, as many scientists and philosophers now argue, eliminated the philosophical distinction between facts and values. Exploring the social and spiritual implications of their work, biologists have not acted in the disinterested fashion of scientists from another planet, as they so often claim. They have instead been powerfully motivated by an identifiable set of earthly philosophical commitments, social concerns, and

March 9, 1987

Scientific speculation about the biological basis of human value judgments has not, as many scientists and philosophers now argue, eliminated the philosophical distinction between facts and values. Exploring the social and spiritual implications of their work, biologists have not acted in the disinterested fashion of scientists from another planet, as they so often claim. They have instead been powerfully motivated by an identifiable set of earthly philosophical commitments, social concerns, and mythological ambitions.
—Howard L. Kaye
"The Uses and Abuses of Biology"
Wilson Quarterly, p. 90
January 1987

Working Women

Before (and even shortly after) World War II, the proper priorities for women [scientists] were widely held to be marriage and motherhood first and science second, and science was believed to be all-consuming. The notion that women could simultaneously be traditional wives, traditional mothers and productive scientists seemed to be patently absurd.

This climate of opinion meant that women determined to have serious research careers often did not marry. In the words of one biologist now in her seventies, "marrying was not considered the thing to do [for women scientists]. In science, you're dedicated. You go into a shroud, you don't wear normal clothes. . . you shouldn't get married; you shouldn't have children."

—J. Cole and H. Zuckerman
"Marriage, Motherhood and Research Performance in Science"
Scientific American, p. 121
February 1987

Messages to Capitol Hill

Mr. [Erich] Bloch, [director of the National Science Foundation]... has turned out to be a good fund raiser as well as a cost cutter. He has stumped across the country, speaking to business people and academics about the need for academic research centers to save the American economy. He got Raymond E. Bye Jr., the N.S.F.'s director of legislative and public affairs, to write to 5,000 scientists asking them, in turn, to write their Congressmen to get "the maximum funding support available" for the N.S.F.

Mr. Bloch's critics were outraged. In fact, such a letter may have violated a Federal law that restricts Federal officials from spending Government money in lobbying Congress. And it did violate an unwritten law that prohibits agency officials from encouraging voters to pressure Congressmen to act favorably toward their agency.

But Mr. Bloch is unrepentant. "We probably overstepped our bounds, but I have been told that most people are doing just the same in other agencies, just hiding it better," he said. "We won't do it again, but there is nothing wrong with getting the scientific and engineering communities together and petitioning Congress for money."

—John W. Anderson
"The N.S.F.'s Maverick Chief, Erich Bloch:
Pushing Ivory-Tower Scientists Into the High-Tech Race"
The New York Times, p. F6
February 15, 1987

Dirty Money

There aren't many [British] scientists who favour taking SDI money because they think it's going to help construct an 'impenetrable shield', but there are some who will do so for other reasons:

It's such a small amount of money that refusing to take it isn't going to halt SDI…. Better that SDI money is used for research by competent scientists, than have it wasted…. 'Star Wars' technology is at the leading edge. We must be involved for the spin-off, and also to stop the brain drain of bright young researchers to the USA…. My government (or industrial) lab has applied for an SDI contract— we should take it to help avoid redundancies…. The large amount of money that the SDI programme is throwing at, for example, infrared sensors will enable much more rapid progress to be made in basic infrared astronomy....

Science and scientists should look the 'Star Wars' gift horse very carefully in the mouth. Even from the most selfish point of view, it's unlikely to aid healthy development of any subject area. With their wider responsibility as citizens, scientists are able to appreciate that the President's dream of 'an impenetrable shield', however noble it may have been in conception, provides no answer to present insecurities. Instead, it gives an-other particularly vicious twist to the spiraling arms race.

—D. Caplan and J. Hassard
"Star Wars—Money From Heaven"
Physics Bulletin, p. 20
Volume 38, 1987

Presumption of Honesty

Reputable peer-reviewed science journals generally do a good job in selecting the best work submitted to them, but they probably will not detect an adroitly fraudulent study. That is because in science there must always be a presumption of honesty … this presumption is not invalidated simply by the discovery of numerical errors or inconsistencies in a manuscript. To challenge an author's trustworthiness on such bases is to confuse infallibility with integrity and to allow no room for honest error. That would create an atmosphere of intolerable suspicion and distrust and would threaten the viability of the entire research enterprise. Unless the culprit's acts are detected by his own co-workers or supervisors, fraudulent studies are not likely to be recognized until other scientists try to duplicate or extend the work.
—Arnold S. Relman
Letter to the Editor
The New York Times, p. 26
February 8, 1987

Computer Power

For a fail-safe career, try a doctorate in computer science and engineering. David Gries, chairman of Cornell University's computer science department, says fewer than 400 such degrees are awarded each year, 1,200 jobs are waiting, unemployment is less than 1% and salaries range up to $110,000 a year in universities and higher in industry.
"Employment News"
Seattle Professional Engineering Employees Association Newsletter, p. 5
January 16, 1987

Out in the Cold

Wearing only swim trunks, I am lying on an air mattress inside a walk-in refrigerator. The temperature is 29 degrees Fahrenheit. My toes curl and clench with cold. My fingers go numb. I shiver wildly.

"Try to stop," says a voice through a small hole in the foam and steel wall. The technician worries that I will shake loose the temperature sensors on my skin. I go rigid, then try to relax. Neither method works. I stare at the two overhead fans and wonder when my 30-minute session in the "cold box" will end.

It could be worse. Here in the basement of the University of Minnesota-Duluth medical school, some students stand for hours in tanks full of ice water; outside, others are paid to jump into frigid Lake Superior and turn themselves into "human ice cubes." These are the sorts of things they do here at the Hypothermia Research Laboratory, which operates under the watchful eye of Robert S. Pozos, the head of the medical school's physiology department.

—Richard Gibson
"People Lie in Fridges, Stand in Ice Water To Help Study Cold"
The Wall Street Journal, p. 1
February 9, 1987

Undoing Keyworth's Damage

Let us hope the damage George Keyworth has done to the role of White House science adviser will be shortlived … Keyworth has transformed this role from giving advice to the President to selling the President's programs to the scientific community, from providing technical information to politicians to purveying political propaganda to technicians.

The problem is not so much the creation of this new role as the loss of the old one. If anything, the President needs sound technical advice now more than ever, and he does not appear to be getting it.

Nothing stands out more here than Keyworth's role in the SDI program; his public statements give no indication that he understands the technical objections to strategic defense, nor has he conveyed any such understanding to the President. As the Reagan Administration continues to pursue this massive, costly program, there appear to be no channels for independent technical criticism to reach the Administration. Keyworth ought to have provided such a channel, and it is to his great discredit that he did not.

—Mark Goodman
Physics Today, p. 110
January 1987

AIDS: Open the Lines of Communication...

Did Liberace have AIDS?

The question asks much more than it might appear to. Society is faced with a disease that says something not just about a person's death, but also about his or her life.

Why is it so important when a person dies to state publicly that the cause of death was AIDS? Hasn't the victim suffered enough from the disease? Hasn't the family? Aren't there some things in a person's life about which the public does not have a right—or need—to know?

For AIDS victims to get the kind of medical, economic and social support that they need, the disease must be humanized, and that can only be done by writing and talking about real people.

That AIDS is becoming a household word attests to the wide dimensions of the tragedy. A greater tragedy, however, will occur if discussion of the disease is not completely open and honest.

—A. Trafford and P. Berg
"Faces of an Epidemic"
The Washington Post Health Magazine, p. 6
February 10, 1987

And Close The Book on Theory

A senior advisor on AIDS to the British government says that it is possible to disprove the theory that military scientists made the AIDS virus in a germ-warfare laboratory. Anthony Pinching, a clinical immunologist at St Mary's Hospital in London, who is also a member of the government's working party on AIDS, says that the virus existed as long ago as the late 1950s. This was before scientists had perfected the techniques of genetic engineering they would need to create such a virus.
—Steve Connor
"AIDS Could Not Have Come From Germ Lab"
New Scientist, p. 18
January 22, 1987

Opening the Door to Abuse

Human growth hormone, long available in minuscule amounts to help abnormally short children reach normal adult height, is finally being produced in mass quantities by genetic engineering techniques, opening the door to a wealth of potential new medical uses. But experts fear that plentiful supplies may also encourage abuse—that practitioners of "cosmetic endocrinology" will use the hormone to increase athletic prowess or to increase height of children in the belief it will improve their social and economic prospects.

"There is no question that growth hormone is already being abused in the United States and potentially on a much larger scale in Europe," said Don Rosenfeld, associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University.

—Sandra Blakeslee
"Supply of Growth Hormone Brings Hope for New Uses"
The New York Times, p. C1
February 10, 1987

Let Them Have Chips

'He told them he would give them and all other subjects of the Queen much legislation, great prosperity, and universal peace, and he has given them nothing but chips … Chips to the British farmer, chips to the manufacturer and the artisan, chips to the agricultural labourer, chips to the House of Commons itself.' No, not Kenneth Baker [Britain's secretary of state for education and science] after his time as information technology supremo, but Lord Randolph Churchill speaking in 1884. But it seems to me a perfect description of the tenor of our times; the current rage for making machines do what people have always done until now. For there seems hardly a sphere of activity today in which one can't find computer scientists and software engineers busying themselves to invent ways by which human activity may be automated.

The rationale behind this drive is supposed to be self-evident. We have become convinced that, in Charles Lecht's words: 'Machines can do everything better than people.' But what is not so obvious is that this is a matter of faith rather than demonstrable truth.

—Paul Kriwaczek
"Machine Madness"
The Listener, p. 35
January 22, 1987
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