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(i)Comment on the social and ethical issues with regard to the public understanding of science.
The topic of bioterrorism is a fascinating one amongst humans, but also one very dangerous and often controversial. The article tries to capture the interest of the audience, requiring their own thought process on whether this potential weapon ‘blueprints’ should be allowed to be published. The opening statement “Inside a Dutch medical facility is a potentially devastating weapon that could kill millions” snatches the reader’s attention; this immediately interests the audience with dramatic language and overwhelming statements. I will explore the various issues related with the implications and ethics of the article.
The writer’s opening sentence is very basic but employed in layman’s terms targeting a more general and less specialised audience. The important factor issued is that millions of people could be severely affected by this research. The author directly targets the controversial aspect, and discusses the potential disadvantages. Outlying a professional opinion “Fouchier himself calls it "probably one of the most dangerous viruses you can make," in an interview with Science Inside”, the writer attempts to sway the audience against the publication of these results. The biggest issue construed is that there could be the potential for mass genocide and potential bio warfare, as a direct result of these publications. The publication will include methods, which the writer describes as “blueprints” for anyone to create a potential weapon.
The bias is obvious in this article. Any reader with little background knowledge in science will immediately be against this type of research being performed, let alone published. Little arguments are presented for the benefits of this research, “But influenza researchers argue that virologists need every weapon they can find to fight the flu, which includes studying the ways it might spread to mammals”, this is the only sentence in the article provides little or no insight into potential benefits. The main social implication is the creation of a biological weapon capable of killing millions of humans. The writer portrays this as a dangerous and controversial type of research, and labels the funding company ‘National Institutes of Health’ as criminals.
The main take-home message involves scaring the target audience. The lack of scientific language and inclusion of ‘expert opinions’ targets a lesser-educated audience, who’ll generate opinions based on the argument of the article.
The aspects of this research contain an overwhelming ethical issue, which must be addressed: is it ok to research bioterrorism? Inevitably there will be people out there interested in creating biological weapons, intent on killing major proportions of the human population. Is it ok to fund this sort of research? It is highly debatable, and often relies on asking the question: Do the potential benefits outweigh the disadvantages? There must be some advantages to this research if it was allowed to be performed. Furthering our understanding of avian flu mutations may allow precautionary measures to be taken, to prevent it from occurring.
The purpose of the article is to address the bioterrorism potential and to associate the potential publication with killing humans. The effectiveness of science communication is clear, and this article demonstrates a clear lack of a constructive argument. “"I can't think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one," Keim told Science Insider”, this out-of-context standalone sentence is present to induce fear into the target audience, and thus reinforces the need for efficient science communication to the public.
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