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Comment: Re:Cowards! (Score 1) 299

by the gnat (#49303245) Attached to: Scientists: It's Time To Resolve the Ethics of Editing Human Genome

These people want to put a stop to progress because they think humans are some kind of holy ground that must not be tred upon.

Actually, those people are involved in (at current count) at least two companies that have targeted therapeutic modification of humans as their primary business goal.

Comment: Re:I'm all for this (Score 1) 299

by the gnat (#49303175) Attached to: Scientists: It's Time To Resolve the Ethics of Editing Human Genome


research is needed to understand and manage risks arising from the use of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology. Considerations include the possibility of off-target alterations, as well as on-target events that have unintended consequences. It is critical to implement appropriate and standardized benchmarking methods to determine the frequency of off-target effects and to assess the physiology of cells and tissues that have undergone genome editing. At present, the potential safety and efficacy issues arising from the use of this technology must be thoroughly investigated and understood before any attempts at human engineering are sanctioned, if ever, for clinical testing. As with any therapeutic strategy, higher risks can be tolerated when the reward of success is high, but such risks also demand higher confidence in their likely efficacy.

Comment: Re:Unethical to ban (Score 2) 299

by the gnat (#49303143) Attached to: Scientists: It's Time To Resolve the Ethics of Editing Human Genome

I will continue to do work in this area and continue to work to improve humanity

Considering how little thought you've given to the potential downsides of such experiments, I'd guess that it's considerably more likely that you'll fuck up and produce a bunch of horribly malformed fetuses and live humans with fatal genetic problems. Fortunately, the ensuing lawsuits should put you out of business quickly.

Comment: Re:fathers (Score 3, Informative) 299

by the gnat (#49303083) Attached to: Scientists: It's Time To Resolve the Ethics of Editing Human Genome

Most of the "ethicsists" are fundamental christian types or outright clergy

The people writing the letter referred to in TFA are not professional ethicists at all - they are practicing scientists, including one of the people who figured out how the system in question works. (Disclaimer: I know one of them personally and I've had a handful of interactions with another.) If any one of them is at all religious, it's news to me. I'd guess they're totally in favor of genome editing in general, especially since several of them are involved in companies that have this goal. The ethical issue is whether to leap right into modifying embryos with an unproven and potentially unsafe technology, which amounts to experimentation on unwilling human test subjects.

Comment: Re:Steve Jobs is the Monkeywrench (Score 2) 114

I have seem copies of contracts where it explicitly stated that the two countries agreed not to hire each other's employees.

I assume you meant "companies", not "countries", but even this seems really strange to me, at least as an American - under our antitrust laws, they'd have to be insane to put something like that into writing.

Comment: Re:Journals and Universities are mostly to blame (Score 4, Interesting) 320

As long as these goals are present and more important to scientists and the scientific community at large than doing actual science, this will always be a serious problem.

Having worked in academia for a while, I don't entirely disagree with your diagnosis, but I think you're mischaracterizing the motives of scientists. Most of us really want to do actual science and not have to worry about money, and no one actually gets excited about grant writing the way they do about a successful experiment. The problem is that our incentive system is so screwed up that dealing with it occupies an increasing amount of our time. Even very thoughtful, scrupulous, and dedicated scientists whom I greatly respect get sidetracked by these practical concerns. It's incredibly depressing to watch, and one reason why I desperately want out.

Comment: Re:seems about the same (Score 3, Interesting) 320

Someone (I forget where) once claimed that editors are disinclined to actually use these suggestions - instead, they'll remember the names for the next time they receive a manuscript on a similar topic from a different group. I doubt most scientists would complain if these recommendations disappeared entirely. What we're usually much more worried about, instead, is that the editor will send our paper to our arch-enemy who constantly bad-mouths us at meetings and is working on a similar project. (Or a notorious pedant who will dismiss any research that doesn't conform to his ideas about theory.)

Comment: Re:seems about the same (Score 4, Insightful) 320

To clarify: I don't necessarily think the proportion has changed. But the absolute quantity of bad papers has certainly increased. I'm also wondering whether the incidence of truly incompetent work has gone up due to lowered standards; the average PhD student isn't a towering intellectual giant. (Hell, even I graduated.)

Comment: Re:Probably not acceptable to the hive mind (Score 4, Informative) 320

It's intellectually dishonest to post that letter without giving the APS a chance to respond, so I'll briefly quote them:

Dr. Lewis’ specific charge that APS as an organization is benefitting financially from climate change funding is equally false. Neither the operating officers nor the elected leaders of the Society have a monetary stake in such funding. Moreover, relatively few APS members conduct climate change research, and therefore the vast majority of the Society’s members derive no personal benefit from such research support.

Comment: Re:It is selling the sizzle with no steak (Score 4, Insightful) 320

It's not just companies and politicians. University PR departments can be just as bad as their corporate counterparts, as witnessed by the proliferation of press releases claiming that "State U researchers discover possible cancer cure."

"Mr. Watson, come here, I want you." -- Alexander Graham Bell