Magazine article Science News


Magazine article Science News


Article excerpt

Skip the bioethics

It surprises and dismays me to read that TIGR scientists have halted research into the genome of Mycoplasma genitalium in order to refer a decision on whether to proceed to a group of bioethicists and religious scholars ("One small bacterial genome, to go," SN: 6/12/99, p. 377). Basic research into the nature of life on Earth--and especially that conducted through the use of material unrelated to the human genome--contains no ethical component whatsoever. Where would science be today if Copernicus, Darwin, Gamov, and Crick had sought permission from the religious ethicists of their time for permission to proceed with and to publish their studies?

William C. Atkinson Weston, Mass.

The researchers have not stopped their studies of the genome. They've merely temporarily halted plans to use information drawn from their studies to create a new life-form.

--J. Travis

Disaster's consequences are good

The article "Natural-disaster policies need shaking up" (SN: 5/29/99, p. 341) correctly points out that weather forecasting and advance-warning systems may inadvertently encourage development in areas vulnerable to natural hazards. Traditional federal flood-control and shore-protection programs, disaster relief, and federally subsidized flood-insurance rates also often foster unwise growth.

Fortunately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is correcting this situation. Since the Great Flood of 1993, FEMA has successfully implemented voluntary property buyout programs to relocate more than 20,000

business and residential properties out of the floodplains. …

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