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Censored Science

I read this article (http://news.yahoo.com/panel-backs-sharing-studies-lab-made-bird-flu-211908237.html) today which I thought raised an interesting issue to discuss. According to the article, scientists in Wisconsin and the Netherlands successfully engineered a bird-flu virus.  This lab-made virus might easily spread among humans.  The debate began when the U.S. government requested the scientists not publish their work for fear of terrorists using it to create a pandemic.  However, publishing the results of this research may help scientists around the world develop vaccines and keep up with the virus’ mutations.  Eventually it was decided to partially publish the research, leaving out crucial information that could make it dangerous in the wrong hands.

The larger issue here is should the government be able to censor scientific publications?  The free communication of research among science enables collaborative work and speeds scientific advancement, but some advances could be used as weapons.  What do you think?

  1. lexicory
    April 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I think that when it comes down to a possibility of something like this being used as chemical warfare, that it is within the government’s rights to censor what is and isn’t published. Because once something is published, it is out there for everyone and the whole world, and it can never be erased completely. I am a huge constitutional advocate, especially with the first amendment, but something such as this has a large potential to be used as chemical warfare or a type of terrorism, and can easily fall into the wrong hands, the government has every right to censor what is appropriate. That is one reason why so much DEA and CIA information is censored from the public. The possibility of the elimination of so many people is very high when dealing with an act of terrorism involving chemicals or diseases, because a large-spread mass attack is very easy with viruses and illnesses. This responsibility to the people for their safety and lives, when involving an activity that has such a high risk of easily being used against us, overrides any kind of protest against the censoring.

    • April 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      I agree with Lexicory that the government had a right to censor this material. If it sensors other scientific discoveries in technological warfare, it seems correct to me to also sensor information on medical discoveries that, if in the wrong hands, could lead to biological warfare or chemical weapons. Granted, I do see that the first amendment right to free speech is called into question with such censorship, but I feel that this is under the scope of the US government to do so in this case. Also, there was a lot of collaboration with scientists and the board to determine how the findings could be published without giving critical information away on how to create the virus.

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