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Because the public always knows best

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Because the public always knows best
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Blog of ReasonHelperUser avatarPosts: 240Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2009 2:28 pmLocation: League of Reason

Post Because the public always knows best

Mon Jun 14, 2010 3:04 pm
dreddinPosts: 36Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:26 pm

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

i knew never to trust the public again when crazy frog was a number 1 single in the UK, leave the science to the scientists as they know much more about what they're doing, strangely enough
Mon Jun 14, 2010 4:38 pm
THE HARMONIKZUser avatarPosts: 4Joined: Sat Jun 05, 2010 8:27 amLocation: LONDON Gender: Male

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

The moment I'd heard of Craig Venters announcement of Synthetic life I found myself in awe of the possibilities now imaginable through this new frontier of Science,of course there should be questions about it's uses but that should not cloud the fact that Craig Venters findings could be one of the most important scientific discoveries of modern times.

Of course as soon as it hit the press claims of "playing God" were abound which just goes to show the lack of imagination inherent in many media corporations,I watched several interviews with Venter consistantly having to defend himself against cretinous reporters who it seems where more interested in attacking him rather than congratulating him.

What a shame!
Last edited by THE HARMONIKZ on Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Mon Jun 14, 2010 4:41 pm
ImprobableJoeUser avatarPosts: 6195Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:24 pm

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

There's this thing about democracy and Western civilization, where people mistake a general sort of equality of people to mean that people's opinions on any and every subject should be treated equally. It engenders a disrespect for expertise and an overemphasis on polls and majority consensus based on ignorance. I don't care what a car mechanic thinks about scientific research, any more than I would ask a scientific researcher to tell me what's making that squeaking noise under the hood of my car. I extend that to myself as well: don't think I have a right to have my opinion heard on a whole range of topics for which I have no basis to be forming an opinion.Don't ask me what to do about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, for instance. I don't know, go ask an expert.
Come visit my blog! There will be punch and pie!
Mon Jun 14, 2010 4:50 pm
BaranduinPosts: 260Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2009 7:17 pm

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

The full report can be found here. I've just taken a quick look - it's 90 pages long, and it's very noisy right now to read :( -, but in general I've seen no surprises.

On the subject of regulation, though, here some excerpts: (sorry, it's longer than I though)
There was a strong sense that scientists are a closed community, while
research was scrutinised by peers, it was hard to access by others. In part, this
was because scientific expertise and knowledge of a field set them apart from others.
However, it was also believed there was a cultural resistance to opening up science
to the views and values of the public. This was particularly problematic as
participants felt compelled to trust scientists, but ultimately felt powerless to
have any control.
Regulation was seen to very important for safety, and there was a strong view that
scientists should not be allowed to regulate themselves and people should not
be allowed to do synthetic biology in their "back gardens". Given the stakes,
voluntary standards developed through industry were also not seen as appropriate. A
robust and independent regulator was considered to be fundamental in this area.
"There has to be some kind of outside regulatory body. I don't think scientists working
in the field should regulate themselves......Because I think you need that sort of
removal almost, to be able to see the bigger picture, because it is very easy to get,
you know, focussed, sitting in your lab and you get a bit, you don't realise what's
going on...outside."
(Female, AB, 18-34)

The transparency of regulators, opening their own work up to scrutiny by external
interests such as NGOs and the public was also deemed important.
Whilst participants were very conscious that they did not have the necessary
expertise to advise on the structure of regulations, overall a close watching brief for
this area was vital. It was not understood how regulators proposed to develop the
capabilities to anticipate and respond to advances to the science.

Overall, while the need to control was important, regulation should also not stifle
development and progress of synthetic biology, and there was a significant view
that a too conservative or precautionary approach would seriously affect innovation.
"With regards to the risks, I think without taking the risks we would not be where we
are today. There are so many things we have discovered by just throwing this in a
pot and seeing what happens. It could be too regulated and could be missing out on
many things'."
(Mixed demographic group; high community engagement,)
Across the stakeholder cohort there was a lack of consensus as to the adequacy of
current regulatory systems in dealing with developments in synthetic biology.
Regulators felt that existing GMO regulations were sufficient for the current situation,
but will need to be updated as work progresses towards specific applications.
Consumer groups suggested the possibility of any applications or consumer products
being tested through statutory independent labs to test marketing claims and overall
safety before the technologies go to market. NGOs further emphasised the
importance of integrating social, economic and cultural factors into any risk
assessment.
Few stakeholders suggested any specific alterations to current regulatory practice;
this was often accompanied by the view that they did not personally have the
expertise necessary to do so. However, there was a general view that science and
technology have a tendency to develop faster than regulators can keep up.


What I read is that people were concerned with "garage labs" and possible misuses; the proposal is that a regulatory body - <strike>I haven't found a description of that, but the general sense I get is that wouldn't be common layman</strike> they mention that current regulations are ok, only a bit outdated; however, I haven't seen a direct mention explicitly excluding philosophers and theologicians - would regulate the material needed, founding and the ethical boundaries.

The only mentions to "humility" (twice) and "playing God" (once) comes when explaining the uneasiness people get when "going up" to superior/closer tiers in the evolutive scale, and the degree of engineering. That's a existent barrier for some (perhaps most) mentalities: it's not the same playing with the genes of a microorganism than with those of a human (I think we all agree on that), and it's not the same change some things than creating something from the scratch (except for the technical difficulty, I disagree with that, but certainly it's a perception some people have). My impression is that participants though that using cells and bacteria is ok, while creating children is not bad but we should be cautious and not create monsters.

Indeed, what I get is that despite the fears, over a 50% of the people is for bioresearch. That's more than what I had guessed (though there could be a strong sample bias).


I see a lot of interesting points I'll read when I be in a bit more silent environment, but I find interesting that BBC decides to center in just that point - instead of the broader subject of the breach between scientists and general public, that seems to be more omnipresent. Perhaps when I read it more thoroughly I'll get that why.

A very good last quote:
"I would need to understand why somebody thought this is a problem. We have
always been creating life; we do it all the time. Getting bacteria to multiply in the lab,
that is creating life.."
(Scientist/Engineer)
Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:12 pm
EbanPosts: 34Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 5:27 pmLocation: Washington, IN Gender: Pinecone

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

Engaging the public more in a discussion of science is a good thing. It can only help science education and teach people how to be scientific. At the same time, don't listen to the uneducated masses when it comes to science. They don't know what the hell they're talking about.

Most folk seem to consider science some kind of voodoo magic, they don't stop to think about how things work, only that they do work.
Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:05 pm
Doc.User avatarPosts: 642Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 10:14 pm

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

just how limited must your thinking be to label this kind of discovery with "playing god", that does not even make any sense.

on regulation, is it just me or this whole thing is just too absurd to address?
Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:25 pm
Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

Dammit I just wrote something on this then it disappeared :( Basically scientists are more than competent enough to take care of the ethical issues, if indeed there are any.
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:29 pm
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)O( Hytegia )O(League LegendUser avatarPosts: 3135Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:27 pm Gender: Cake

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

It does bring up a good point though. Don't make me out to be too dramatic, but it's literally creating life from scratch. How is this different from Frankenstein in the manner of life?
Should we treat it differently just because we "made it?"
Some would insinuate that being drunk at 9 in the morning to be signs of serious issues.
Me? I'd insinuate it as signs of no plans and a refrigerator full of Whiskey and Guinness.
Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:11 am
Doc.User avatarPosts: 642Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 10:14 pm

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

)O( Hytegia )O( wrote:It does bring up a good point though. Don't make me out to be too dramatic, but it's literally creating life from scratch. How is this different from Frankenstein in the manner of life?
Should we treat it differently just because we "made it?"


It's just a cell
Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:03 am
)O( Hytegia )O(League LegendUser avatarPosts: 3135Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:27 pm Gender: Cake

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

Doc. wrote:
)O( Hytegia )O( wrote:It does bring up a good point though. Don't make me out to be too dramatic, but it's literally creating life from scratch. How is this different from Frankenstein in the manner of life?
Should we treat it differently just because we "made it?"


It's just a cell


If lines are going to be drawn, it should be rather sooner than later. I'm not personally up for the whole mad scientist man making people from scratch and getting away with it because it's only 99.999% of the original strand of DNA (technically NOT cloning).
Don't say that someone won't try it either - we all know humanity too well. And all sorts of shit COULD arise from this that we know could happen, making us responsable to stomp this out immediately.

...

I'd probably be the 90 year old man making myself in the basement for replacement parts, or a whole new body even.
x.x
You don't want to test me on this. I KNOW I will.
Some would insinuate that being drunk at 9 in the morning to be signs of serious issues.
Me? I'd insinuate it as signs of no plans and a refrigerator full of Whiskey and Guinness.
Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:31 am
BaranduinPosts: 260Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2009 7:17 pm

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

Aught3 wrote:Dammit I just wrote something on this then it disappeared :( Basically scientists are more than competent enough to take care of the ethical issues, if indeed there are any.
No, perhaps you may trust profit driven, Wakefield-like scientists; I don't. The rule that you can't inject random substances in people without informing them properly, doesn't come from the scientific community but the society it's embedded in. Neither does the rule that you can't spill substances in a environment and see what happens. Or the one of doing false claims scaremongering the public. That has happened before. On the report, the idea of people creating viruses in their backyards appears many times (that may be unfeasible nowadays, as it was unfeasible to create computer viruses in the 60's). People nowadays make meth and other drugs in their homes, so I don't trust they'll suddenly become ethical in the future, when the required technology be cheaper. That kind of regulations fall completely outside of the scientific realm. (one of the main points of the report is that some of the people in the study declared that we shouldn't wait for something to become accessible to have a regulation over it. What kind of regulation? Oh, something like the ones we have today, perhaps with a bit more of information for the public; wait, what about having someone from social sciences, to study say the impact in the economy or look for historical precedents*?).

And tell me, are scientists working for the military going to take care of the ethical issues, so we can drop international prohibitions and controls over the use of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons, trusting that scientists will never ever cross the line, even under pressure?

Because "Scientist" doesn't necessarily mean "academical researcher". Companies also conduct research. Military and paramilitary groups also conduct research. Religious groups also conduct research. "Scientist" is used as an umbrella term for all of them in the report, and subsequently in quotes mined for the article. Do you really trust them all, everyone of them?

Doc. wrote:just how limited must your thinking be to label this kind of discovery with "playing god", that does not even make any sense.
Religious thinking. However, it has nothing to do with the report, except that it happened some days ago and the report was published yesterday. The talks started nine months ago, well before the achievement. Either way, yeah, it doesn't make any.

Doc. wrote:on regulation, is it just me or this whole thing is just too absurd to address?
Why are regulations going to be absurd? We have them today for nowadays technologies. Why wouldn't we have them tomorrow?


* I don't share the view of social scientists being better than science scientists to evaluate science. The report shows some common misunderstandings about science; that's one of them.
--

Either way, I haven't seen so far anything in the direction of "we want a say". Indeed, what the report says is that the persons participating overall trust scientists and regulatory bodies, with some exceptions like synthetic food (and not because is dangerous, but because they perceive that the enhancements are not worth the increment of costs, so companies are messing with it just to pull prices up). They want their concerns to be taken into account (what concerns? Read the report, some of them are laughable, some of them not), but they are not demanding a democratic approach. Indeed, "Few stakeholders suggested any specific alterations to current regulatory practice; this was often accompanied by the view that they did not personally have the expertise necessary to do so." (p. 72). Some suggestions emphasized the need of independent labs (never particulars) to corroborate marketing claims, etc; I can hardly see why we should oppose a process of peer review. Research councils, said the participants, should take into account the aspirations of the public to make science attractive - the aspirations were practical issues rather than geeky lab things, so yeah they are basically saying that if there's funding to either heal cancer or create a cell that resolves sudokus, the money goes for the first one. As I understand it, that's how things are working currently, ain't they? And nothing more. So I'm calling shenanigans on the titular.

The report also makes clear that it cannot be extrapolated to all the population in the UK, and it's rather vague; some numbers could be far more useful than just "overall", "the general impression", "most people", "Scientists", "Engineers"... That kind of notes is very prone to bias. It's rather unsurprising, so no wonder that the reporter has linked and centered the article in the synthetic lifeform.

)O( Hytegia )O( wrote:If lines are going to be drawn, it should be rather sooner than later. I'm not personally up for the whole mad scientist man making people from scratch and getting away with it because it's only 99.999% of the original strand of DNA (technically NOT cloning).
Don't say that someone won't try it either - we all know humanity too well. And all sorts of shit COULD arise from this that we know could happen, making us responsable to stomp this out immediately.
And that's the whole point.
Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:41 pm
)O( Hytegia )O(League LegendUser avatarPosts: 3135Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:27 pm Gender: Cake

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

The problem is that, for some reason, people hold scientists on some kind of pedestal as the epicenter of human morale - but in truth science hasn't always been lovey-dovey user friendly like it is now. Infact, I'm sure I could browse history and account for TONS of atrocities done in the name of both knowledge and progress in the process called "science."

Don't get me wrong - I adore science. I just want people to remember that Scientists are still humans, and therefore have the moral capacity to be both malevolent and generous in their research.

Life is still life, whether it's created by our own hands or not. Death is still the end of life, if it's brought about by nature or our own doings. We should never fail to make the rules as clear and as unbreakable as we can as so there's no question later about the intent of what we're doing. Human kind has proven, time and time again, that it will do anything in the name of progress - and "anything" isn't necessarily a good thing.
Some would insinuate that being drunk at 9 in the morning to be signs of serious issues.
Me? I'd insinuate it as signs of no plans and a refrigerator full of Whiskey and Guinness.
Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:27 pm
Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

Baranduin, fair point - I said scientists when I was really thinking of academic researchers. But otherwise, yes I do think that they are well equipped to understand the scientific advances and consider the likely impacts that may occur. That's not to say they can't consult with anyone outside the scientific community but something like the conferences in the early days of genetic engineering where more than sufficient to deal with the ethical issues resulting from that technology.
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:18 pm
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zofobluesPosts: 3Joined: Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:16 pmLocation: Tucson AZ Gender: Male

Post Re: Because the public always knows best

I just want to say hi and it is nice to not feel alone. I live in the USA . It is a land of unreason and as long as people follow god and the word of God it will always be that way. One thing that is on my mind ,,, I meet so many people that have not read the holy book but know it as law and know it to be the truth.Thank you all for doing what you do and letting me feel that I am not the odd one out,,Steve
Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:28 pm
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