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The Sciences

Anthrax and the Mad Scientist

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyAugust 13, 2008 10:44 PM


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My latest Science Progress column is about how Bruce Ivins unfortunately reaffirms the damaging stereotype of the "mad scientist". As I put it:

Certainly science has had its dark episodes in the past--most notably the eugenics fad in the early part of the twentieth century (which is what works like Moreau and Brave New World were reacting to). But in the modern period, one could argue that most scientists, and biomedical scientists in particular, have shown strong moral consciences. The 1975 Asilomar conference, when scientists gathered to agree upon ethical guidelines for recombinant DNA research, and to ban some particularly troubling experiments, serves as a noteworthy example. So while the Frankenstein myth never dies, it also doesn't really fit reality today: Far and away most scientists save lives, rather than dooming them. And there are very, very few kinds of knowledge that we actually ought to regard as forbidden. But now, if we're to believe the FBI, then we have a case of reality coming around to match fiction....

You can read the entire column here.

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