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February 23, 2012 at 2:10 PMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Could It Happen Again?

By E.M. Wollof from SLN More Blogs by This Author

I must confess, I sit here confounded. Last week I wrote on the cyclical nature of history, the moratorium that was placed on genetic splicing in the 70's, and how that research was really never heard of again (by the general public anyway). This week, the World Health Organization decided to drop a fat, 60-day, moratorium on the H5N1 research done by the duo of American and European scientists.

The Moratorium

The short and dirty version of the moratorium goes a little like this, "Hey, it's really not you, it's us. We just need some time to think about where this is going. No, don't call us, we'll call you." That's right, the governmental body, who is supposedly made up of scientists is saying that they want to hold off publishing ANY form of the research for 60-days so that they can weigh the risk versus reward of the research at large. While I agree that the release of the research does need to be monitored closely, I have some serious trepidations about what this moratorium means for those who don't have top tier clearance.

A Scary Thought

I disagreed with the scientists rushing to publish how they made the new viral strain that can bounce easily between humans, but I want to know the benefits that this research can have for the rest of the world! Any research that has the ability to understand a virus like this so intimately has to have some benefit to the population. Evolution has shown us time and again that there is a distinct dichotomy in the world; when one species evolves, there is usually a counterpart in the environment that evolves in an equal, but opposite, path to adapt to their counterparts evolution. So, when these scientists progressed the evolution of this species, what did they find out about how we can fight this thing when it comes into global existence? More than a want to know, we DESERVE to know. This feeling may be why I have started to sympathize with the scientists releasing their research so quickly.

Now that this moratorium has been placed upon the research, a small feeling of doubt has crept into my mind. Seeing what has happened in the past, to researchers whose work has been placed under this type of restriction, I think there is a definite possibility that we may never see the results of this research. That fact alone scares me more than the research itself, for one reason: If we choose to censor every piece of ground breaking research because it poses a threat to humanity (while also offering a benefit), these scientists that are performing the research get pushed further and further to the fringe. These beautiful minds become tainted and angry at the governing agencies that they once relied upon for support and, by extension, become the exiled portion of a society who intimately relies on their knowledge and expertise. When this happens, the research that is needed to combat a virus like H5N1, won't exist.

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  • Agreed. Don't tell every idiot in the world how to make a super-weapon, but please tell us what you learned about surviving such attacks, how to disable threats, etc. It's all or nothing, isn't it?

  • I do believe that it is all or nothing sprouty. Scientific discoveries will always be dangerous because they represent change in some section of society no matter how large the discovery may be. Take Galileo for instance. The man challenged our idea of the universe and was persecuted by a church that didn't deny that he was wrong (publicly they did), but understood that his discovery would fly in the face of their current doctrine, thus diminishing their standing in the public eye. Fear is a powerful weapon and our current government wields it with great precision, unfortunately their aim is setting back our progress as a nation and a species.

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