Re: Dangerous Thoughts

J. R. Molloy (
Wed, 29 Sep 1999 07:03:17 -0700

Brian Keavey wrote,

> The best solution to the problem of dangerous questions might be to put
>them on hold. Archive raw data relating to them, but don't do actual
>studies until the question has become quite trivial.

That sounds too much like forestalling information about an iceberg until a safer time arrives. Rather like postponing news about the Titannic's gaping hole until the information no longer alarms passengers. I think it better to find out as soon as possible whether research data may have importance now, rather than to put it off until it no longer matters. That defeats the purpose of research.

>In other words, wait until biotech, nanotech, etc. have advanced enough &
>are widely enough available to equalize any disparity in question, then use
>the archived data, along with voluntary "control naturals" to study the
>formerly "dangerous" questions.

The problem with that is "dangerous" questions may become even more dangerous rather than less dangerous, and we can't know without doing the necessary research. Without valid research data, the potential danger of particular questions remains entirely speculative. I'd rather base policy issues on information collected from solid research instead of guessing what might happen if we just sweep the issues under the rug or pretend it doesn't matter because it seems to volatile now. Procrastination seems childish in such matters, and postponement may actually make matters worse.

> As for "policy", the above idea could be combined with a ban on the use
>of any tax dollars at any level of "government" to any activity that hinges
>on answering "dangerous" questions. Thus we can start putting our favorite
>mythical pet, "Leviathin", on a much-needed starvation diet.

I think what we need to put on a starvation diet correlates to the superstitions and myths which keep people from conducting science.

> Who knows...people might get so used to their favorite things being done
>without the "government's" involvement, and so happy at the resulting
>acceptance of diversity, choice, and innovative eccentricity that they
>just decide to leave those studies undone forever...or maybe let some grad
>student work the data over to do an unusual thesis.

I think this ignores the irresponsibility of failing to do research which defines diversity. Innovative eccentricity doesn't enter into it, because what matters in scientific research relates to accuracy, not eccentricity.

--J. R.

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