07-25-2003, 02:05 PM
Since: Jul 2002
I received a post from the philosophy service list I subscribe. Please read:
Below is an open letter of which Dr Osterholm of CIDRAP wrote "...very articulate commentary is right on target..." and Dr Solomon of CSIS wrote "Your concerns are justified." Both are internationally known bioterrorism experts.
Henry C. Kelly
President of the Federation of American Scientists
1717 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
I read your opinion piece in the July 2nd edition of the New York Times entitled Terrorism and the Biology Lab. I am writing you because your writing didn't go far enough with the concepts you introduced.
You write "Within a few years it may be possible for an inexperienced graduate student with a few thousand dollars worth of equipment to download the gene structure of smallpox, insert sequences known to increase infectiousness or lethality, and produce enough material to threaten millions of people."
Yet, "American scientists did it earlier in the year to prove to complacent policy makers just how simple it is." Furthermore, "Anyone with a biology degree, a credit card, and access to the web could produce a lethal biological agent." http://education.guardian.co.uk/high...858011,00.html
You write "Unless they get involved at high levels of policy-making, there's a grave risk that another bioweapons scare like the anthrax mailings of 2001 will drive Washington to create that inevitable product of bureaucratic panicíKa set of regulations that would strangle biological research while doing little to thwart real security threats."
Yet, "An attack on the United States with biological weapons could threaten vital nation security interests. Massive civilian casualties, breakdown in essential institutions, violation of democratic processes, civil disorder, loss of confidence in the government and reduced US strategic flexibility abroad are among the ways a biological attack might compromise US security." Furthermore, "Should a contagious bioweapons pathogen be used, containing the spread of disease will present significant ethical, political, cultural, operational and legal challenges."
You write "Unless biologists start moving in the right direction on security, they will have only themselves to blame if Washington starts moving in the wrong one." In my opinion, any system of security that depends upon individual ethics to deal with potentially dangerous research is doomed to failure. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Nuclear blindness is the mistaken belief that the bigger the bang the more powerful the weapon. A contagious bioweapon is a bomb that keeps on exploding through the population at a geometric rate. The current state of affairs is analogical to every person with a biology degree having the ability to build a nuclear bomb out of everyday equipment. Such a situation is unstable and bound to explode.
I didn't read the original article in the NY Times. Anybody did? Anyway, it's pretty scary stuff.
Who is dumber: The dumbest person in the world or the one who tries to interact with him?