“Too dangerous to publish?” asked the AAAS, of the controversy regarding the possible publication of data concerning the makeup of a plausibly virulent form of Flu Virus. What if it fell into the wrong hands?
Quite clearly if an area is fit to research then all data generated should be released to common currency. Many years ago, Oxford Professor Sir Peter Medawar opined that there already “existed the information to cure cancer” – it was simply a matter of connecting the threads of information together. Since those days the amount of information generated has exploded and so much of it is now suppressed, stored for personal use or somehow not circulated (eg online pay-walls).
Tampering with Biology has proceeded so far and contamination is so widespread that it hard nowadays to discern that which is still natural. The cross reactions of such recipient substrate material are happening as we speak and new outcomes constantly arising. The melting pot is truly global. However none of the new, human generated material has been thoroughly tested in nature and a lot of it will surely be naturally selected out from the gene pool. Equally surely some will not, for they have been endowed with selective advantage – the MRSAs of the agenda, even though even these diminish outside of the selective, antibiotic rich environment in hospitals and farms (and some research laboratories!)
Clearly we must go back to Medawar, fifty years ago. He was right then and anyone repeating his words now is equally correct. Unfortunately, there is an inordinate amount of dust in the academic atmosphere which greatly obscures these truths. Sadly this dust is constantly being blown by gales of misdirected effort , opinion and positioning. Personal, corporate, institutional and financial drivers rather than that of direct human benefit. If we can but shelter ourselves from this chaotic, destructive influences the truth will out.
Of course it is that we have the solutions inside our own bodies and in the fantastic results they demonstrate from some four billion years of evolution, natural selection and improvement. By and large we have the biology to defend ourselves in all reasonable circumstances. Now we can invest far greater effort in ascertaining where we go wrong and less in how to mask or even correct the resultant problems. We should regain faith in our genetic programming and stop always labelling the “sick” genotypes as faulty. In fact, we should determine why they are as they are. More and we more we must learn to respect the awesome power of the biological systems.
And then it simply will not matter if research data on Asian Simian Flu or Deepest Congolese Disease are published. They’ll just increase our respect.