A Short Science-Themed Rant (Title Version 2.0)

So, I’m thoroughly pissed off about the UK research councils who have advised the scientific community that the public wants to have a say in research and experimentation in the field of synthetic lifeforms.

I’m not pissed that the public wants a say- that’s pretty much a given. Everyone wants a say in everything, regardless of how much they know about the subject. And they demand that they are listened to and respected, regardless of how much they know about the subject.

The thing is, if we let the public control the direction of scientific research, we are committing a grave error in judgment. One that could have catastrophic effects on the whole of the scientific community.

Because the fact of the matter is that the general public has no goddamn idea what most scientists do. In this case, they don’t even understand what “artificial life” entails. What has been done in the field of synthetic biology, what is planned, what impact the research could have on the lives of millions of people. Even when we water down the information so that the public can understand, we lose much in translation. Which leaves us open to ethics attacks. The morally conservative will latch on and rip the research to shreds with their fear-mongering (you know, I hate adding -mongering to things, because it sounds so stupid… sorry for doing so here), flagrantly illogical attacks on the foundation of this important study.

Note that this is about research and not practical application, where I’m actually okay with the public having a say- that is the point where the ethical debates should rage, when we’re discussing actual applications, not just research and lab work.

I’m sorry, I just can’t suffer this quietly (I suffer nothing quietly, do I?). It’s maddening. Giving uneducated (in these fields) and unscientifically minded individuals any form of power and control over scientific research scares the crap out of me.

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