Magazine article Insight on the News

Gays Given Wrong Spin on Genetics

Magazine article Insight on the News

Gays Given Wrong Spin on Genetics

Article excerpt

What science story is most likely to make three out of four evening network newscasts, Nightline and the front pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today? (a) A finding that the ozone layer may not protect us from sun rays that cause lethal skin cancer; (b) a discovery that there has been no increase in global temperatures since the beginning of the industrial age; or (c) a finding that there may be a genetic predisposition to homosexuality.

The correct answer is (c).

On July 13, the New York Times carried an Associated Press story reporting that researchers had discovered that annual rings in ancient alerce trees, one more than 3,600 years old, had shown "that although the climate near the West Coast of South America has warmed and cooled many times over thousands of years, there has been no increase in temperatures during the industrial age." This story was based on in article in Science magazine that concluded "global warming may not be a generalized problem" and that "more has to be learned about atmospheric circulation of temperatures before science can draw any final conclusion about the effect of industry on global climate."

This suggests it is premature to spend billions of dollars to avert the climatic disaster that Vice President A1 Gore and others predict. The Times ran this important story on Page C5.

On July 23, the Washington Post reported on Page A2 that the July issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences had disclosed that malignant melanoma may be caused by "previously unsuspected kinds of solar radiation - including visible light - that are not absorbed by the ozone layer and that pass right through sunscreen lotions." Melanoma is the skin cancer that kills nearly 7,000 Americans each year. Predictions that thinning of the ozone layer would increase the incidence of melanoma have been a persuasive argument for banning chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, the refrigerants that some scientists think pose a serious threat to the ozone layer. The discovery that ultraviolet-A rays, which are not blocked by ozone, cause melanoma in fish led researchers to conclude that depletion of the ozone layer may have little effect on the incidence of melanoma.

Since there are serious doubts on the part of many scientists that CFCs deplete ozone in the stratosphere, and since the replacement of CFCs is proving to be difficult and enormously costly, the discovery that ozone may not protect us from melanoma suggests we may be able to safely take our time in studying the ozone question further. …

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