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Reconciling Technology with Nature

By Keith Kloor
Mar 18, 2011 7:32 PMNov 19, 2019 9:13 PM


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I found this lament by NYT columnist Timothy Egan tough to swallow, in part because his enbrace of the "frankenfish" label demonizes the complex issue of genetically engineered salmon. Additionally, Egan makes his case by juxtaposing fraught concerns over biotechnology with Japan's nuclear disaster, which I found problematic. Indeed, one Times reader wondered if it was silly

to try to draw an analogy between two very different technologies, nuclear power and genetic engineering?

Egan, in his column, strains to explain the connection:

The fate of wild salmon and a panic over power plants that no longer answer to human commands would not seem to be interlinked. But they are, in the belief that the parts of the world that have been fouled, or found lacking, can be engineered to our standards "” without consequence. You see this attitude in the denial caucus of Congress, perhaps now a majority of Republicans in power, who say, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that climate change is a hoax.

That last bit about the GOP position on global warming is true, but I don't see what it has to do with Egan's larger point about human hubris and technology. A better example would have been to invoke the belief by some that the climate, like many ecosystems, is so messed up that the only way to fix it will be through geoengineering. One final note: The headline for Egan's column ("Frankenfish Phobia") is oddly discordant with his message. I wonder if an editor slapped it on there to tweak Egan, of if Egan chose it himself to acknowledge that he was making a fear-based argument. Either way, it's a curious choice.

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