Super-virus (ethical debate)...

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by acidfast7, Nov 29, 2011.

  1. acidfast7 macrumors 65816

    acidfast7

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    #1
    link: http://www.doctortipster.com/6952-d...irus-with-the-potential-to-kill-millions.html

    I haven't read the primary literature/seen the presentation, but its publication does has interesting consequences. Personally, a scientist, I'd like to see the work published.

    What are your thoughts?

    Also, if anyone has any links to the primary literature or something more detailed, I'd like to read it, so please post any links.
     
  2. iStudentUK macrumors 65816

    iStudentUK

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    #2
    No problem with creating it in the first place, knowledge is good! Not sure it should be published though, bit of a risk.
     
  3. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #3
    Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Knowledge of potentially destroying large swaths of humanity cannot be categorized as good.
     
  4. iStudentUK macrumors 65816

    iStudentUK

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    #4
    Why not? Understanding how these things work often holds the key to harnessing their power later, or dealing with the consequences.

    There are so many examples of research like this, nuclear fission, antibiotics, explosives etc that have both good and bad effects. The threat of a devastating natural pathogen is very real, maybe this knowledge and subsequent investigation will help find a prevention or cure.

    I don't think this should be published for everyone to see, only those who want and are trusted enough to conduct further research, but I have no problems with this being researched in the first place.
     
  5. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #5
    For the same reason that the it should not be published. If research is justifiable, then public review should be acceptable. I disagree with your reasoning, yes some good has come out of research into nuclear fission and much evil has also not just overt hostility but also accidental deaths, i.e., Chernobyl . I postulate that in the world we are in now, the potential for harm out ways any possible good that could come from such research.

    Creating a super virus that could devastate humanity only to see how it works is not ethical in my opinion
     
  6. acidfast7 thread starter macrumors 65816

    acidfast7

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    #6
    That's how I felt initially, but it's already be publically presented a few times, so I don't see any additional harm in it entering the scientific literature. That way everyone can access it, instead of those who already accessed it by attending meetings.
     
  7. Daffodil macrumors 6502

    Daffodil

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    #7
    Yeah, I'm kinda of this opinion too. I find it ethically questionable that this was made in the first place, even if it gives us a greater understanding. Presumably precautions are well in place, but can you imagine the (understandable) outrage should their precautions somehow be breached?

    Sharing the knowledge now that they have it is one thing (and if it's been publicly presented already, then scientific publishing might be justifiable), but intentionally creating superbugs in the first place? Not such a good idea imo...
     
  8. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

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    #8
    I figure at some point somebody will either purposeful or accidentally release a plague of some type. I don't see the point in giving it a head start by publishing this.
     
  9. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6

    ucfgrad93

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    #9
    Agreed.

    Agreed, the research should not just be hidden from the public.
     
  10. UlsterApple macrumors regular

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    #10
    Back in the 1950s the Americans experimented with atmospheric atomic tests; they admitted years later that they didn't know if the explosion would destroy the atmosphere and render Earth uninhabitable. It's a bit of a risk to take!
    If the same test-it-and-hope attitude exists with viruses then we're all doomed.
     
  11. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

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    #11
    the cat is kind of out of the bag anyways.
    the full, final data have not been published, but enough are out already that any evil-minded. half-decent scientist could work out the remaining details and do it anyways.

    might as well publish it and have scientists work out a preventive solution in the case the natural avian strains combine/mutate in the wrong way and generate something similar to this.
     
  12. lewis82 macrumors 68000

    lewis82

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    #12
    It's pretty much the same as saying Einstein is responsible of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki killings because he wrote his famous letter to the President. Nonsense.

    Doing such biological manipulations requires extremely high knowledge and high-end equipment to which terrorist organisations most likely do not have access (and I'm not even talking about the panic over terrorism). If they have such capabilities, they do not need a paper to create super viruses, they'll just start working on it.
     
  13. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    #13
    This.

    The virus didn't exist, so why create it to study it? I don't see the scientific merit in that. All it would take is one person to be exposed and life as we know it is over.

    Study it in its current form, don't mutate it and make something much scarier, than write a recipe on how to do it.
     
  14. lewis82 macrumors 68000

    lewis82

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    #14

    It helps scientists understand how viruses work.
     
  15. iStudentUK macrumors 65816

    iStudentUK

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    #15
    Exactly, it's something new to work with and study. There should be no restrictions on what science can study, only on the methods and how the results are used.
     
  16. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    #16
    I understand that point but the fact that he created something so nasty is the part I have a problem with.
     
  17. eawmp1 macrumors 601

    eawmp1

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    #17
    But viruses are capable of mutation by themselves. And if WE can do it, nature could do it in the wild. By studying the conditions that could lead to such a virus, and its behavior, we can better develop prevention and treatment modalities.



    Or we can wipe out humanity and have another species assume the top of the food chain. Bwahahahahah ;)
     
  18. lewis82 macrumors 68000

    lewis82

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    #18
    I highly doubt it was his intention ;)
     
  19. iBlue macrumors Core

    iBlue

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    #19
    I understand the fascination but I don't think a "recipe" like that should ever be published. The findings of research, sure, but not the specifics about its genetic modification. There are way too many a-holes with terrible intentions who will take that information and run with it.
     
  20. Daffodil macrumors 6502

    Daffodil

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    #20
    Is this your not-so-subtle way of letting us all know that you're a different species, planning on assuming the top of our food chain??? :eek: :p
     
  21. stonyc macrumors 65816

    stonyc

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    #21
    My opinion as a scientist-in-training... this kind of research has to be done.

    And the controversy of releasing findings like this isn't new... several years ago, there was a firestorm over the publishing of the sequenced genome of the 1918 flu virus that was responsible for a pandemic that killed 50 million people. Much of the criticisms are the same now as they were then:
    - terrorists could use it against us
    - what happens if it gets out of containment?
    - it's irresponsible to do and release science like this

    But if we don't do this type of research, someone else will. And we all know what happens when research is done in secrecy (Tuskegee, anyone? Atmospheric atomic tests?). This type of research is necessary and needs to be open because we can learn much about how viruses mutate and spread, guard ourselves against future outbreaks or attacks... and most importantly, needs to be subjected to critical peer review to ensure accurate results. The only way this is done, is if the results are published for rigorous peer review (and yes, that means beyond the initial manuscript review).

    Classic recent example of how the openness of research is integral for advancing scientific understanding is the recent conflicting reports of the XMRV virus' role in chronic fatigue syndrome (much of what was originally published has since been largely debunked as contamination).

    For an example of how understanding how viruses mutate and spread can aid our implementation of revised health protocols... look at work done by people like Mark Newman on social networks and disease outbreak. Recent changes to influenza immunization protocols can be directly and indirectly traced to research like this (re: who to immunize first... children, expectant mothers, the elderly... and health workers).

    I understand why people are afraid and apprehensive of publishing research like this... but it is hugely necessary on multiple fronts.
     
  22. Huntn macrumors G5

    Huntn

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    #22
    Hey lets create a potent bio-warfare weapon and then publish how to make it. I'm sure Iran and N.Korea will appreciate it... Are they out of their frickkn minds??
     
  23. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

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    #23
    QFT.

    The trick is, we still have a LOT to learn about virus's, and we can still learn things from more mundane virus's, or by creating less deadly virus's to examine. There's no reason to create an airborne death virus when we can examine avian flu and some other airborne (non-lethal) virus.

    That's not to say we should never create/examine a virus like this, but I'd feel safer if we did it on a different planet, or only after every-other virus was completely known.

    That's not exactly how science works though. And IF a virus exists, and there's a .0000001% chance it will escape, that's scary enough.

    There was a woman, Henrietta Lacks, who had cancer. She died, but her cancerous cells were saved, and grown in a lab. They were used to test the polio vaccine, among others. The problem is that they grew so well, and were so abundant, that 50 years later a majority of cell-lines in America had been contaminated and then overrun with the HeLa (Henrietta Lacks) cells. Most of the cell lines that they thought beloned to individuals, actually had been overrun by cells from a single person.

    Now, imagine that scenario, only instead of a cancerous cell line used for testing drugs, it was a virus that killed. Scary, isn't it? And the HeLa cells weren't even airborne!
     
  24. iStudentUK macrumors 65816

    iStudentUK

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    #24
    The problem is I expect there is a far greater chance than that of a virus like this evolving naturally, and we need to try our best to be ready for it.

    Plenty of research never reaches the public domain, but a treatment for this virus (if one was discovered) would.
     
  25. interrobang macrumors 6502

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    #25
    I have no doubt that such a virus has already been developed and is standing ready in some bioweapons research lab somewhere, just waiting.

    By not publishing, the researcher in question is helping to ensure that the medical community will be totally unprepared for it if it ever deployed.
     

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