A Word From the Frost Fighters ...
Protesters have gone to great lengths to make the field test of genetically altered bacteria into a science fiction soap opera in which men in white coats from Advanced Genetic Sciences, an Oakland-based biotechnology firm, are the mad-scientist villains.
They have called the test a shocking and scandalous development that will make guinea pigs out of innocent men, women and children. They have acted out guerilla theater in which people have dressed up as strawberries and been attacked with "Frost ban," the name of the product to be tested. They have called on Brent-wood residents to throw their bodies down—in front of what, we're not sure. They have likened the test to a nuclear holocaust.
The only thing that members of the Berkeley Greens, Earth First and other protest groups haven't done is give the public any reason to take their claims seriously.
One Earth Firster says, "We're opposed to playing God." One suspects that a mystical fear of science and its achievements are at the root of the protest against testing a new weapon against crop-destroying frost. But if mankind hadn't attempted to better himself through science and technology, the frost test protesters would still be wearing loincloths and it would take them a day to get from Berkeley to Brentwood—if indeed, their short life spans hadn't already cut them down.
...And the Frostban Fighters
The Berkeley Greens and Earth First! are calling upon the supervisors of Contra Costa County to follow the example of the Monterey County supervisors and pass a one year moratorium on the open-air release of any genetically altered organisms until the state sets up a regulatory system in the Department of Food and Agriculture which, among other things, re quires adequate liability coverage by the owners of these organisms. Otherwise our health, the safety of our agricultural producers, and the integrity of the environment are at too great a risk.
We are also calling upon the EPA to clamp down on AGS and establish regulatory practices that assure that our health concerns are adequately addressed. The EPA should require that more tests be performed and that all cultivated and endangered plants known to be vulnerable to Pseudomonas be tested with ice-minus (and these tests must be done properly!). Currently any pesticide which is developed must undergo much more rigorous testing than is required of genetically altered organisms. Pesticides don't reproduce.
Living organisms do. Biotech must be regulated AT LEAST AS MUCH AS chemical pesticides.
Science vs. Technology vs. Humanity
And, as we've learned in the last 50 years, science and technology in and of themselves are neither good nor bad; how human beings use technology is neither good nor bad and that involves a moral judgment. Drexier points out some of the enormous benefits for humanity in developing nanotechnology But he also realizes that human beings are still mean, nasty, covetous, jealous, deadly, deceitful, and other wise possess all the traits one might expect of the finest hunting animal the planet has ever known.
Even as scientists scramble to find superconductive materials, money managers and analysts are scrounging around for super conductive stock plays that will go up without resistance.
So far, they haven't found much. But just wait. And then hang on to your wallet. Investors seem ripe for fleecing by anybody who so much as breathes the word superconductivity and wants to go public or just hype his company's stock price.
Bear Hugs From the Soviets
This has been interpreted as a proof of the Soviet wish to put science cooperation, now limited to sporadic exchanges of scientists and joint work in a few areas … on a higher plane.
The bear-hug is also regarded by some as a move by the Soviet Union to reduce Western influence on Indian science. "A lot of Indian scientists go to the United States to work and contribute to its economy, and the Soviet Union would like to divert this flow", said one Indian physicist who took part in the negotiations.
Giving Science a Bad Name
Tokyo would kill 875 whales for "research purposes," almost half the number it caught for commercial purposes this season. When the "research" has been accomplished, the meat and other products would be, as usual, sold.
Under the international ban on commercial whaling, any nation may issue itself a permit to kill any number of whales for scientific study, however spuriously. This has emboldened Iceland and South Korea to embark on "scientific" whale hunts whose motives are transparently commercial. Japan now joins the club; Norway may not be far behind.
When the International Whaling Commission meets this June, it will consider closing the research loophole. Tens of thousands of whales have already been killed and studied. It's not scientific knowledge that will profit from killing more. What's urgently needed are data from tracking, tagging and sighting whales. However boring and unprofitable, that's real science.
[Columbia University chemistry professor Gilbert] Stork disagrees that communications need to be less than complete. He thinks all the details necessary to judge or use a piece of research can be included in short notes and that full papers are often packed with uninteresting filler. "It's an editorial problem if the essentials are not there," he says. "The editors and referees have a duty to ask for more details. If you are cheating, it doesn't matter whether you write a telegram or a long letter."
Another Brick in the Wall
I believe that most people have an image of scientists similar to the one just described, but appearance is perhaps only a small part of the total image. After considerable observation and thought, I have come to the conclusion that the common characteristic linking all scientists is our innate desire to put numbers to things.
…Scientists' attitudes about science and their lives can best be summed up by the words that Julius Caesar would have used if, instead of being a general, he had been a research scientist: "I came, I saw, I quantified."
The Two Faces of Sociobiology
Labour Party Proposals
A Council for Science and Technology, chaired by the Prime Min ister, would be set up as the government's central consultative body on science and technology and would replace the present Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development. The idea is that it should spread its roots wide: into "every department and boardroom and laboratory in the country". And, on top of these changes and most important of all, in [science and technology spokesman
Jeremy] Bray's closing words, would be a determination on the part of the scientific community to present itself as an integral part of our national industrial, economic, political, and cultural scene so it is not simply a declining outpost of past national glory".