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Posted on September 19, 2008 at 6:49 AM

So what’s so dangerous about coming home and finding PCR on the counter? According to David Rejeski from the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies in Wednesday’s Boston Globe, making biology too accessible of a science can lead to ethical problems, risks to human health, and more. In the Globe’s Monday article, do-it-yourself scientific experimentation is heralded as the democratization of science and no more dangerous than birders dabbling in ornithology.

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It would seem that the right position is probably somewhere in the middle. Rather than focusing on the ethical dangers associated with being able to tinker with DNA in the kitchen, has anyone considered the advantages of making science comprehensible, fun, and easy to do for the average person? While Americans lag behind in scientific test scores and our nation is losing its research edge to other nations, what could be so bad with promoting the idea that understanding and doing biology is possible for everyone?

Yes, biohacking may occur–but this negative externality is simply a byproduct of democratization. Give people the power and they may use it for evil just as well as good. But just as the computer industry has learned how to combat computer hackers–biohackers can be thwarted too through regulation and the promotion of responsible DIY science.

So rather than keeping biology and other sciences in the ivory tower–let’s bring it to the people. It may actually result in a more science-savvy public, making science an important thing to do again, and yield great companies and discoveries. Right from the kitchen sink.

Summer Johnson, PhD

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