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Censorship Science

Nobel Laureate Agre Fears for Scientific Freedom 57

Scared Scientists writes "Peter Agre, who has just won the Nobel Prize for research on cell membranes, is finally a scientist with enough recognition to speak out about the policy of intimidation against scientists by the Bush administration. He says, with respect to Thomas Butler, a plague expert, "He was arrested and taken away in chains ... This is something that's bothered many of us". Many scientists have been outspoken about these problems thus far, maybe a Nobel Prize laureate has enough influence to finally move something. He even wants to use some of his prize money to battle the intimidation by the government."
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Nobel Laureate Agre Fears for Scientific Freedom

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  • You don't have to know how to build an atomic bomb or how to create the killer-virus. But that doesn't mean humanity (read: scholars) hasn't have the right to know such things.
    Sometimes you need to know the nasty things to get to the good things.
    It's not knowledge, but applications that could be wrong/harmfull.
    Perhaps Bush has read one book, one about the spanish inquisition.
    • actually, i think it was "hop on pop". maybe that was the one he needed help with. i know that 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar" is one of his favorites.

      "presidenting for the compleate retard" is way beyond his level. daddy Dick has to read that one to him. when he can find him, that is.
    • Perhaps Bush has read one book, one about the spanish inquisition.

      Bush can't read, he is illiterate and requires aides to read him everything.

      Also, this is why his speeches totally suck, because he doesn't use a teleprompter (can't read) and instead listens to his lines prompted to him over a hearing-piece he wears just for the occasion.

      Bush is the ultimate puppet president.
    • But not even scholars should be allowed knowledge about the mysterious "shit" key and its extra functions in Windows. That's just hiding behind acadamia for the purposes of terrorism.
  • Not a problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by falsification ( 644190 ) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @06:47PM (#7177261) Journal
    Oh, cry me a river. Physicists have dealt with the same situation--that some information cannot be made public--for decades. Now, in light of the possibility of a mass biological or chemical attack, the same practices are being extended to chemists and biologists. Agre protests too loudly.

    You can't have scientific freedom without scientific responsibility.

    • So, governments should enforce "scientific responsibility" at gunpoint? The government should be trusted with the authority to decide what individuals are allowed to know? That way lies tyranny, falsification.

      If you want to go there, fine. But don't support dragging the rest of humanity there with you. I cannot justify the FBI's actions in relation to those of Thomas Butler: who did Mr. Butler harm?

      • Government bad! People doing bad things not in government good!!

        Alright Mr. Hatfield riddle me this, if our government didn't take action against someone who illegally brought biological agents into the country and lied about their disposal sold them to a terrorist later and they caused an outbreak that killed a couple hundred thousand people what would you have to say. What did they know and when did they know it.

        Its impossible to please people who think that the government is inherently bad and while I
        • No, I would not say, "what did they know and when did they know it." I'd ask, "is the prosecution going for the death penalty?" I don't blame governments for the crimes of terrorists.

          Also, pauldy, I'm not saying "government bad". I'm saying "government cannot be trusted". Government, like fire, has its uses. But would you want a fire to burn out of control?

          • If that is the case then why are you trying to make a case for a scientist who broke the law? I could understand if this was a scientist who "published a paper on" or "theorized about" and I would be right there with you. This does not appear to be the case here. I could be wrong and blind to the "truth" but according to the facts, I have seen he committed a crime the consequences of which should be real especially when it comes to matters of life and death.

            What has me particularly fired up on this matt
            • > If that is the case then why are you trying to
              > make a case for a scientist who broke the law?

              A google search [google.com] indicates that Butler is accused of 69 counts of "authorities and smuggling goods into the United States to embezzlement and fraud". He has not been convicted yet, so I see no reason to accept the government's word as gospel.

              The burden of proof is on Uncle Sam, after all.

              On the other hand I agree with you with regard to the "blame everything but yourself" meme so popular in this defectiv

              • In a court of law of course you let the evidence speak for the guilt of an individual when confronted with a crime. However, this is not a court of law it is the court of public opinion. I personally cannot look past the fact that things were not handled properly under Mr. Butlers lead and as such he should accept the consequences.

                Remember this all started with a lie (he lied about them going missing or he lied about "accidentally" destroying them). I do not understand how do people simply look past tha
                • Say what you like about public opinion, pauldy, but I myself agree with Vanderbilt: the public be damned. If this is still a nation ruled by law and not men, then opinion should be utterly irrelevant. What are the facts? Has the government proven either Butler or Padilla guilty of any of the charges against them?

                  The government says that Butler lied. The government says lots of things. Where's the proof?

                  Me, I'll wait for the jury to reach a verdict. They've better access to the evidence than I do, and are

                  • Butler did lie one way or the other bottom line thats not "the government saying" thats the facts. Either the vials were destroyed or they were misplaced, one or the other, not both. This is the only thing I have made my mind up about because of the facts. This however is enough for me to at least consider the possibility that the allegations might have merit and allows me to consider that this is not simply a government conspiracy trying to intimidate scientists throughout the nation. It must take a lo
          • > Also, pauldy, I'm not saying "government bad". I'm saying "government cannot be trusted". Government, like fire, has its uses. But would you want a fire to burn out of control?

            Forests are pretty. Forests after fires aren't pretty. But forests without periodic fires to cleanse them of decades rotting wood and dried-out tinder are disasters in the making.

            If you lie about illegally importing a biohazard, and lie again about what you did with it, what else might you be lying about?

            Given the choic

            • The problem is that things like Stalin's purges are not the result of external forces. They are always born inside the state. And the only realistic method to prevent them is to limit the government in every conceivable way possible.

              If you accept this little fire, government will start burning books 451-style before you can say "freedom of speech". Do you want that? I though so.

              Ask yourself a question - what is more likely:
              1) A government, abusing it's authority and commiting injustice on a large scale.
    • Scientific freedom has its limits. Suppose that an applied physicist wishes to research how to build a better bazooka. Is the physicist allowed to build a working bazooka in his laboratory without restriction or interference from the federal government?

      The issue with Thomas Butler is that he lied to FBI agents about how he disposed of samples of the plague. In terms of deadliness, the plague is far worse than any bazooka. So, the FBI agents justifiably arrested him. The government is entitled to protec

  • ...should work just about as well for biological agents as it does for software -- i.e. not at all. Once the knowledge escapes from Pandora's box, you can't force it back in, short of lobotimizing everybody in the world... hmmm, maybe Bush is working on that -- then he might actually be one of the brightest minds left.

    • short of lobotimizing everybody in the world... hmmm, maybe Bush is working on that

      He is, indirectly, via corporate media brainwashing. That's why 70% of US residents believe Saddam was responsible for 9/11, among other fallacies.
      Break the corporate media backbone . . . promote and use P2P.
  • by airuck ( 300354 ) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @09:17PM (#7178859)

    Biological weapons are indiscriminate by nature, making them useless in most battle scenarios. Unfortunately, even a primitive biological is an excellent tool for terrorizing civilian populations. Parallels with the nuclear physics are not valid. There are just too many paths toward the development of this kind of terror weapon to support security through obscurity. A far more realistic path is to develop advanced diagnostics with the ability to detect components and whole pathogens.

    Without diagnostics, each person is a potential conduit of disease. With diagnostics, every person is a potential sentinel.

  • Another anti-Bush, anti-government article...approved my michael. Why am I not surprised?

    Not that I'm saying this story is without merit, I'm just saying michael's a pathetic editor because he shoves honesty aside by frequently approving opinionated and exaggerated stories. It seems michael could care less about protraying the truth when he's got an activist bone to pick.

    In this case article writer decided to spin story by saying "policy of intimidation against scientists by the Bush administration
    • I have to say that this is the world we live in were people who actually know how to use their brains to think through situations and arrive at logical conclusions are marked as flaimbait. Just more proof they don't want you to think for yourself.
    • He decided to include a bit of an editorial, but I've seen far, far more misleading material in stories on Slashdot than this.

      Also, Bush is one of the few points where I have a really difficult time shooting down criticism. Bush *has* done some very frusterating things over the past two years.

    • Trying to enforce a little political correctness, are we?

      If the article would have blamed things on Bill Clinton, you probably would have just nodded in agreement and moved on.
    • Unfortunately, I haven't paid much attention to the particular editors of science articles at Slashdot, so I'm unable to give an informed opionion on your specific points.

      I will say that my perception is that /. is no less sensational than the Drudge Report, or NPR. Like NPR, /. puts a prettier face on it perhaps, but when it comes down to it, the Science section doesn't seem to contain much scientific discussion. I find peer reviewed journal web sites to be a better source of scientific information than an

    • http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20030904/04

      So tell me which administration is this happening under? I dont see jimmy carter around anymore.

      Since The white house is in charge these things are happening under the bush administration. and legitimately so, regardless if the article says it or not. The guys at the tops are still responsible for the actions of the minions.

      Also which truth are you insinuating isn't being portrayed. Put some money where your eating orifice is instead of merely adding your own
  • by Orne ( 144925 ) on Thursday October 09, 2003 @11:21PM (#7179786) Homepage
    "... specifically citing the criminal case of Texas plague expert Thomas Butler who has been charged by federal authorities after he reported he lost some plague samples. Prosecutors said he illegally transported samples from Tanzania and lied to the FBI about how he disposed of them."

    There is an old saying, "Is this the hill you want to die on?" If I was going to speak out about scientists being harassed by the government, I wouldn't choose to defend one that was caught lying about illegally importing plague, and lost them! We're not talking fuzzy bunnies here, this is a toxic substance, scientific negligence, and fraud. How about we defend leaking classified rocket technology to the Chinese? Information wants to be free, after all. Or what if someone "accesses" a computer, downloads, and distributes the source code to a soon-to-be-released game? Oh, the oppression!

    This man made some awesome discoveries, and for that he was awarded. Of all people, you would think he'd recognize bad scientific practices. I can only hope that he never engaged in moving his samples like this other scientist... but now you have to wonder why he'd defend it.
    • ...but now you have to wonder why he'd defend it.
      Hey, that's a really funny parody of McCarthy.

      It was a parody, right?
      • How is this even close to a parody of McCarthy? What thinking logically and evaluating the situation is somehow reminiscent of McCarthy. Are you a member of the American Communist Party?
    • How about we defend leaking classified rocket technology to the Chinese?

      Just out of curiosity, what makes you think the Chinese are at all a threat to any western nation? I know it's a common enough suspicion, but I just don't get it. From where I stand, China has become heavily dependent on trade with the west, and Chinese politicians don't want to risk losing business to other developing nations. Siince their economic reforms of the early 1990s, they are in some ways much more capitalistic and unreg

      • China has been a threat to the stability of the United States since the 1800's, which is *why* there are such tight trading ties between the two countries - free trade agreements are the first defense, since it ties the economies of the two nations to a common cause.

        Why is China a threat? Simple: its population, which is freakin' HUUUUGE. It is the hungriest, largest, most virile demographic of humanity on the planet. If that population gets hungry maybe, 2 or 3 years in a row (drought, epidemics, famin
        • Get your facts straight. People like you started a war on Iraq over non-existing weapons of mass destruction and other people like you believed them.

          Most virile?

          Population growth rate (China, 2003): 0.6% Population growth rate (USA, 2003): 0.92% That's not even counting migration.


          May be, but with current population growth rates India will become the largest in only 25 years


          No way. China managed to fed the whole billion a long time ago. Pick any African country and chances are it's hu

          • Give me a freaking break.


            The only thing that would give you right to pass such rapid judgement would be your own stupidity.

            As for statistics - I know where I get my stats, I do not know where you get yours, but virile does *NOT* mean 'population growth'.

            virile- [reference.com]
            Having or showing masculine spirit, strength, vigor, or power.

            Now go back and re-read what I said.

            The Chinese people have their own weapons of mass destruction, and
            • Excuse me my mistake - English is not my first language. Sorry. :( And sorry for my little attempt at name-calling, I take it back. Peace? :)

              But, using the correct definition of virility, what makes you think Chinese are the most virile? Why not French, or Swedish, or Egyptian? Why not Russia, for example? Why do you want to consider the country which have shown such patience in the past? What would the USA do if China openly supported Alaska in trying to defect from the US, if China bombed a US embassy an
              • When I answered this question:

                "Now, remind me, who was the greatest threat on this planet?"

                It was more like:

                Now, remind me, who was the greatest threat on this planet ... to Americans?

                I'm not saying China is. I'm just saying its a big one.

  • Nobel Prize for guts.//Some People stay on the outside occasionaly looking in, Most stay in the inside thinking it is everything.(O.O.M.O)
    • Linus Pauling got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry [nobel.se] in 1954 for work on chemical bonds and the Peace prize [nobel.se] in 1962 for his guts...
      • Following the peace prize link, and reading the speech brings this:

        The armaments race created an atmosphere which not only made it difficult to work for the promotion of disarmament and peace but also threatened to muzzle freedom of speech.

        Inevitably, the crusade lost impetus and faded away.

        But Linus Pauling marched on; for him, retreat was impossible.

        I hope that after we determine that we are not going to 100% eliminate the "terror threat" and regain some sense (and abolish [petitiononline.com] some [indexonline.org] laws [publicintegrity.org]), that our ex

  • "It means "V" for victory...." the invasion has started, the uber Chimps are comming, and attacking via the weakspot; anybody can run for president.

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