Best Of The Web
“Last year, the world learned that researchers led by David Evans from the University of Alberta had resurrected a virus called horsepox. The virus hasn’t been seen in nature for decades, but Evans’s team assembled it using genetic material that they ordered from a company that synthesizes DNA.
The work caused a huge stir. Horsepox is harmless to people, but its close cousin, smallpox, killed hundreds of millions before being eradicated in 1980. Only two stocks of smallpox remain, one held by Russia and the other by the U.S. But Evans’s critics argued that his work makes it easier for others to recreate smallpox themselves, and, whether through accident or malice, release it. That would be horrific: Few people today are immunized against smallpox, and vaccine reserves are limited. Several concerned parties wrote letters urging scientific journals not to publish the paper that described the work, but PLOS One did so in January.
This controversy is the latest chapter in an ongoing debate around “dual-use research of concern”—research that could clearly be applied for both good and ill. More than that, it reflects a vulnerability at the heart of modern science, where small groups of researchers and reviewers can make virtually unilateral decisions about experiments that have potentially global consequences, and that everyone else only learns about after the fact. Cue an endlessly looping GIF of Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm saying, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.””
JJ Best Of The Web
"Now I’m starting to wonder how I can go at all. And I’m also wondering why more Muslims don’t question the powers that control our most sacred site—and how the Saudis have already twisted it to their own political and financial ends."
"It's going to be a letdown. Not only is it likely that the final report will not reveal that the president has been a KGB agent since the late '80s, as at least one mainstream liberal columnist fantasized."
"The JFNA GA may say they want to talk, but there are some parts of Israel which have the feeling that this American Jewish organization is not really interested in hearing what they have to say."
“What responsibility do you think young, famous women have today to be activists?” I asked Bateman. “Are you tempted to leverage your fame for political reasons?”
"For nearly 40 years, the GOP has relied on cutting taxes as an easy way to win votes, even when their plans—like the most recent package—benefit only the rich. "
"On its face, voting by phone makes sense. Nearly ninety-five per cent of American adults own mobile phones, and rely on them for all sorts of secure transactions."
"Allegations of sexual harassment brought down Bill Gothard, a leading figure of the Christian right. But his fall also revealed the diminished influence of fundamentalism in the Trump era."
"Literature — the top-shelf, award-winning stuff — is positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe and disposition."
"Kids have a habit of imitating their parents’ criminal behavior. It’s no wonder, then, that by one measure, 10 percent of families account for two-thirds of criminals."
"SFAH doesn’t make an argument for local or slow food per se, but that’s what we see. The dishes are simple, with few ingredients, made traditionally and with pleasure."
We think of archeological finds as being clues to the ancient past. In a new book from Ulrike Sommer, archeology's effects on present-day national narratives are excavated.
"That the highest God speaks for six days and then has to rest from fatigue at the seventh is a patent absurdity: ‘It is not fitting for the first God to be tired or to work with his hands or to give orders,’ he writes."