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Thanks to Michael Specter for concisely summarizing the many issues arising in science, the live variety in particular. Like many others he sees that denialism has captured the fancy of many, particularly by the public, not to mention reporters and pundits concerned with developments in the fields of biology and medicine. He fears what it will mean if American politicians continue to eviscerate science and the technologies it creates. We too are concerned and this page reviews his findings regarding very important public-health issues, vaccines in particular and how they can be banked against bioterrorism, if we allow them to be funded and banked to counter unknown threats found in the laboratory by accident or during deliberate searches for them... There really is no other choice.

See Chapter 8 of DENIALISM> The eminent biologist, Drew Endy, provided the catchy title for that chapter and we borrow it for this page for it is a to-the-point metaphor for safe passage through perilous times.

By exponential, Endy and Specter mean that the total information available in every active field of science and technology doubles periodically. For example the growth in computer power follows such a law. For some decades now power has doubled every 18 months according to Moore's Law and will continue to do so for for at least a few more years. Biology is coming of age via a similar doubling of knowledge. Historically, the progress humanity has made technically progresses by an exponential law. It is in the nature of things. If we can understand nature we can survive. Deny it and we could all die, for the other guys, somewhere, have no such fetters, and they might not be restrainable--to the detriment of civilization as well.

The two most dangerous human made technologies at this writing appear to be nuclear and biological--in that order. In theory, either could actually or virtually erase humanity from the earth. In practice, these and other potential dangers of human origin rely on politicians the world over. There are natural dangers to humanity as well, but they are, or will be in the case of solar flares, addressed elsewhere.

This page addresses only the biological situation with a view toward how our own collective attitudes will affect the outcome. Denialism on the parts of both the governors a as well as the governed who buy into the political nonsense are a current theat not only to Americans but other nations as well.

Denialism is typically unconscious in that it is a defense mechanism most of us have. It defends our psyche from assault, embarrassment, or putdown. It arises in childhood--some time after the child realizes s/he is a human being, like papa, mama and any siblings. Specter’s book recounts vividly how denial can adversely affect individuals as well as the society to which they belong. He has much wisdom to dispense, so much that we recommend that serious readers peruse his book for themselves. His main focus is the bio-industry, the stuff and staff of life. Dogma and ignorance are important preservers of the hang-up called denial. Not only is ignorance bliss, but we can feel safe if we deny to ourselves that a threat to our self-image or esteem exists.

We too have been caught up by vivid threats, especially bioterrorism. The very idea that a terrorist group could create a new virus so virulent it would wipe us all out is scary indeed. Adding to our fears, Specter recounts how the principle needed for virus creation has already been accomplished using off-the-shelf materials. Pointedly, he goes on to show how futile mere rules are in controlling such developments. Science really is above any man-made laws, but man-made law can retard its development. All laws aimed at stopping science only delay the march of science. The genie really is already out of the bottle--fist the atom and now snippets of DNA. And trying to cork either bottle is a losing game, not just in Specter’s opinion, but his historic data base amounts to proof. He may not be steeped in statistics, but he understands how statistics point the way toward scientific proofs. His case is as solid as science itself. Of course the deniers deny science itself, sometimes even when sick, they elect to rely on fantasy for salvation. Even the great Steve Jobs, the marketing realist par excellent, elected herbal treatment of his pancreatic cancer when early surgery could have extended or even saved his life.

This picture we understood well before picking up the book. What Specter then proceeded to do is show the way forward--and a future much rosier than we could at first even imagine. This is where the phrase: “Surfing the “Exponential” comes in. And for us, the eye of the breaking wave was pure beauty to behold.

He started this chapter by showing how easy it soon will become to create viruses from scratch for anyone--from items off-the-shelf. Specialists can do it now, routinely. It is where the antidote, a real live antidote, comes in. Again, he first recounted history--for example, how cowpox inoculates against smallpox--and then proceeded to put that into perspective. Just as viruses can be created, so also for vaccines that block their possible infection. AHA!!! Staying ahead in vaccine development is an American forte. Our ideals will be safe from viral attack, and so our collective psyche will be. Big sigh of relief.

That state of being lasted only a few minutes--until the rest of his classic book hit us! It seems to us that our all-too-human propensity for denial has a real potential for putting us on the wrong track. Stopping all researching all possible virus genomes precludes any possible protection afforded by vaccine banks ready for use against any conceivable virus, known or unknown. Since our defense budget is multiples higher than it needs to be, diverting funds to develop anti-viral banks at-the-ready seems like a good investment. This is the essence of Surfing the Exponential." Whether we do or don't fund the research necessary to ride the crest of the scientific wave, others will.

Vaccine developments take time.
We have already squandered too much.
Pandemics do not wait.

In this triad, confusion reigns.

Are we ready politically to move in this direction?
Denialer: Not yet.

Why not?
Denialer: We are in collective denial.

How did that happen?
Denialer: We are too afraid of the unknown. If one scientist, and several have, makes a mistake, then I have to reject all of science. Moreover, how do I know if what a scientist reports is even accurate. In this environment, I would vote to abolish all scientific work, public and private. It is all a conspiracy.

What could change your mind?
Denialer: Nothing.

What advice would you have for our children if you became seriously ill with a disease for which there was a vaccine that prevented infection, but you weren’t vaccinated?
Hmm. Denialer: I guess I would make an exception, but no one needs all those shots; I just don’t trust them.

Well, what if a vaccine kills about one person in 100,000, while before vaccines, many diseases killed tens of thousands in 100,000? The 1918 flu epidemic infected 500 million people and some 75 million or so died. Without a vaccine bank for that particular strain, even more would die today. So which option now would you choose?

Denialer: Save your breath. My mind is made up.

Interview with a congressperson.

What would happen if we abolish science and experimentation?
We could get back to our roots where nature reigns pure and simple. (sic).

Say that would work in the US. What would save us from others with different ideas?
We have a superior defenses; look at our army, navy, air force, special forces, and coast guard.

With no new technology in store, how could we remain competitive?
We don’t need new technology, we know all we need to know right now.

How can you, Congressperson, be sure of that?
Believe me, I know about these things.

Isn’t that a form of denial?
Absolutely not.

What is denial?
Lying when you know better.

He walked off before the next question could be asked: Are you lying?

He might have answered “No” if his denial was a true Hang-up buried so deeply that he was unaware of it. And that is a first-order problem.

Is it possible to stay ahead of the learning curve?

We have so far, but with science now in disrepute, partly by its creator's own making, it may require generations of bottom-up and top-down collaborations to turn the ship of state around with any degree of assurance for the future. This problem begins with each of us. We simply must put reality in all its extensions ahead both myth and denial.

Political trends are ephemeral as the pendulum swings;
Science Marches on.

For resources containing links to the world on the issue of peace, see: Browser's Hub.

To research the essence and value of science for yourself, visit: Science and Technology.

All is not lost for with understanding comes control. It turns out that a map for the many roads to peace is now at least coming into view. It is still being charted; the above is just the latest brick. Peace is not a matter for any single-minded approach. Peace will come if the best of politics, economics, religion and science coalesce in a united front world-wide. But there is Hope provided by mother nature herself. See: Hope Provided By Nature and Peace Via Nature's Way.

For a video of how how our bodies fight infection see: See How White blood cells fight back.


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