Human Exceptionalism

Scientists About to “Teach” Terrorists How to Make Deadly Flu?

Are they out of their minds?  What was the NIH thinking?  The USA funded research into a successful genetic engineering of a deadly strain of bird flu, and now the scientists want to publicly publish key details.  From the Independent story:

A deadly strain of bird flu with the potential to infect and kill millions of people has been created in a laboratory by European scientists – who now want to publish full details of how they did it. The discovery has prompted fears within the US Government that the knowledge will fall into the hands of terrorists wanting to use it as a bio-weapon of mass destruction. Some scientists are questioning whether the research should ever have been undertaken in a university laboratory, instead of at a military facility. The US Government is now taking advice on whether the information is too dangerous to be published.

Sorry, advancing scientific information is important, but so is protecting public safety.  Just because something can be done scientifically, doesn’t mean it should be.  And if it should have been done, that doesn’t mean it the details should be broadcast to the world!

Hopefully it isn’t too late:

The details of the study are so sensitive that they are being scrutinised by the US Government’s own National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which is understood to have advised American officials that key parts of the scientific paper should be redacted to prevent terrorists from using the information to reverse-engineer their own lethal strain of flu virus. In an unprecedented move, the Biosecurity board is believed to have told the US Government that there is a serious possibility of potentially dangerous information being misused if the full genetic sequence of the mutated H5N1 virus were to be published in open scientific literature.

Ya think?

But why wasn’t this thought about ahead of time?  These weren’t rogue scientists.  They had a bona fide purpose–working on ways to create vaccines and treatments–and were on the government dime, meaning the experiment had to be approved by ethics boards and all that jazz.  It doesn’t exactly give one faith in “the system.”  I mean, didn’t anyone think ahead of time about what would happen if the work succeeded? Can you say, “Top Secret?” 

And by the way, was it a good idea for the Independent to publish the names of the scientists?  That information is in their heads and one doesn’t have to be a novel writer to think what some very bad guys may be thinking. Calling Witness Protection!  Good grief.

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