A Nasty Mother
The reverence for nature that Richard Gallagher
It seems obvious and inevitable that the Law of Unintended Consequences will be much nastier than Mother Nature. Natural selection is not evil or good; it is simply the way ecosystems work. Some, including myself, see it as a type of "natural wisdom." These views are not antiscience; they are expressions of humility learned from science. If those views are anti-anything, they?re against reengineering our own and other species to suit human desires.
University of California, Los Angeles
Just because nature can be a bad actor doesn?t mean that humans necessarily know better or have longer vision. This is a smoke screen for pure arrogance. Of course we have to muddle along as best we can, but we should also nurture those scientific disciplines and scientists whose job it is to try to predict problems: toxicologists, environmental biologists, atmospheric scientists, and scientific ethicists. There are even excellent scientists who are trying to predict the real harm that can come from, yes, even genetic engineering. Each of us should attempt to make serious assessment of harm for our own new technologies; the pot must call the kettle black. New-agers may make the perfect straw man to knock down, but most real challenges to new technology come from other serious, thoughtful scientists.
It is a grave mistake to equate the "spiritual left" with the religious right. The spiritual left is far less organized. It has no churches or ministers that compare in stature or popularity to those on the right. It has nowhere near the financial resources or political power. Though there have been some noteworthy acts of violence by its fringe members (e.g., Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Unibomber), these attacks have been exceedingly rare when compared to attacks by religious right-wingers on scientists, doctors, research facilities, and medical clinics. While some on the left may irrationally disdain and boycott genetically modified crops, they have yet to influence federal policy or funding for basic research in this country, as have the religious right.
Biotechnology and Biology Instructor
References1. R. Gallagher, "Zealots for science," The Scientist, 20(7):13, July 2006. 2. L.M. Silver, "A nasty mother," The Scientist, 20(7):49?53, July 2006.
The trouble with databases
Jeffrey Perkel is right that "scientists who rely on accurate gene predictions should share in the burden of creating them."
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, Ca.