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Commentary when Scientists Play the Role of Fear Mongers



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It is easy to criticize scientific discourse as fear mongering. In realation to the topics of the day, global warming, pandemics, genetic engineering, etc. However in order to explore the ramifications of hypothesis, and observation, it is necessary to have a public debate.

Global warming is the great topic of the moment. There is a lot of evidence to support the contention, that due to mans impact on the environment, the world is warming. I am not fully convinced that the warming, very convincingly shown, and an indelible fact, in my opinion, is not part of the earths natural cycle. We do not understand the carbon cycle fully, and the impact of a shrinking magnetic field may have more to do with climate change than anything we have done.

That being said we would be foolish indeed if we did not act to limit, with an aim to eradicate, as much as possible, our negative impact on this small blue and green orb. Because the ramifications of not doing so are grave indeed. I suppose this is one area where science has considerable difficulty in refuting the accusation of fear mongery. The negative implications of a global event, no matter the arena, is bound by its nature to be catastrophic. In this debate proponents are damned if they express the possibilities, and equally damned if they don't.

A global pandemic is a very real danger. More so now than in the recent past. In a world where you can travel from one end of the earth to another in a day, means that the possibility transmission is now much faster. Despite modern medicine viral contagion is now becoming more prevalent. AIDS though treatable in the first world remains incurable. Any one who believes this virus cannot decimate populations on a global scale, needs to look more closely at the evidence of its devastating impact in the third world. Ebola is a vicious and incurable virus, whose full fury has not yet, because one suspects, of its isolated outbreaks, been launched on the planet.

There is interesting work in the Australian koala population where a retro virus is currently at work, which is giving rise to new possibilities in relation to evolution. This work and its outcomes points to the fact that up to eight percent of our DNA is retro viral. This evidences, that mankind has been assaulted on a regular basis through time by viruses.

We forget in this modern idiom the terrible impact of small pox, tuberculosis, and polio. I am thirty eight years old, relatively young, but I can remember when small pox was eradicated, after a concerted effort to do so. I remember those crippled by polio in their youth. The Spanish flu striking tragically just after the first world war, killed more people than that wretched conflict. Malaria is still a scourge despite the advent of quinine.

Should we walk around afraid of our own shadow? No! But neither should we be dismissive of warnings given by people who through their work have found it necessary to warn the rest of us of the dangers we face. Those things may never come to be but they may well, and forewarned is forearmed.

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