Saturday, December 18, 2021

Living on the edge. . .

Perhaps the source of the Covid virus will never be known fully.  Did it come from nature or from an institution committed to learning about the role and development of viruses by what is called "gain of function" research?  Either the path to explain it is unclear or the politics of it all will prevent the answer from being made public.  Who knows?  Not me.  But there remains the question of the morality of this kind of experimentation that actually allows and encourages a virus to evolve and become even more dangerous to us and to our world.  We actually have seen this kind of science become more and more in vogue -- at least until the corona virus.  It is not enough to observe but science today actually intervenes to hasten and encourage more and more deadly outcomes for the research in the lab.  Will there be another pandemic?  Probably.  I wish I could say that I believed such research would be precluded by the fears that erupted in the wake of this pandemic but I do not believe we are at a point where stopping such exploitation is even realistic.  But that is the problem.  Science without morals to govern where such science can or cannot go is even more dangerous than the things science experiments on!

There was a time when it might be presumed that the scientist or the people overseeing the science might know when and have the courage to put on the brakes.  I am not sure that even those who think it would be prudent are ready to place limits on where we are determined to go to find answers to our many questions.  I am fairly confident that many would consider the limitations more immoral than any of the outcomes of our dangerous exploration of such enemies of people, their lives, and their world.  But we shall see.

In any case, what we in the U.S. are willing to fund in research on pathogens may not be enough to discourage or limit what others are interested in doing.  Right now, the projects must be funded and vetted by the agencies that fund or oversee them and by the review committees of universities,  hospitals, and quasi-governmental agencies that live and are responsible for what happens under cover.  In any case, the reprieve commonly issued against those agencies and institutions exploring the unknown have not receded at all from the prominence before politicians and government edit.

St. Paul said it best.  Not everything possible is beneficial.  I only wish that we took this to heart. I only wish we believed that what is possible is not always good for us.  But it seems that the possible is the unmistakable magic we cannot resist.  So if we can, we will.  Whether it is right and good and beneficial to us and our lives or not.  Right now we have about as much self-control as a teenager who stands transfixed by the forbidden by the sudden distraction of others.

Maybe that is our role in society -- to be those voices who warn when we are getting dangerously close to the edge.  Well, if that is what we are supposed to do, then let us do it.

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