Destruction of smallpox

Steve Tracey stracey at DIRCON.CO.UK
Fri Aug 2 01:09:00 CDT 1996

James Lyons-Weiler writes:
>My vote is to keep smallpox around.  I for one would argue also to keep at
>least a few thousand nuclear devices handy.  Weapons of destruction at one
>scale may be simple, useful tools for the prevention of destruction at
>another scale.  My position is that because we are not capable of
>forecasting future events, the things we destroy today could turn out to
>be highly useful and critically so in the future.
>For smallpox, we can't be sure that some protein it encodes wouldn't serve
>as an essential building block for a living cocktail cure for some nasty

Nuclear devices have always been useful for those who need such things.  If
you could eliminate them (difficult) they would probably just be rebuilt
again anyway.
Smallpox has never been of use, as such, and is highly dangerous.  The
nightmare scenario of a group of scientists extracting bits from a smallpox
virus to build some sort of living cocktail is what first gave genetic
research a bad name.
Conserving a bit of everything there is, on the grounds that one day it
might be useful, is generally a bad idea, I find.  If and when that day
comes and I don't have whatever-it-was, I just use something else.

Steve Tracey
School of Earth Sciences
Greenwich University,   UK.

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