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Good Science Requires Good Ethics

Science is conducted by humans for humans. It is not done in a vacuum. Even the lone researcher working in a basement hopes to make a discovery worth sharing. The need for ethical science shows most clearly when humans experiment on humans – with or without their consent. Two recent articles underscore the indispensability of moral grounds for science, and a third raises questions about the source of morality.

Biomimetics for Your Christmas Wish List

Biomimetics (the imitation of nature) continues to promise cool gadgets and useful materials that will someday yield prized gifts under the tree. Some of them might even save your life.

The Science of Thanksgiving

Should science tread into areas of virtue?  Here’s how a science news entry begins: “Rather than rolling your eyes when it’s your turn to bow your head and give thanks, try being grateful. The result just might be good for you. From boosting your mood to improving your relationships, research shows that being thankful is […]

Follow the Stem Cell Money

A major clinical trial using embryonic stem cells was suddenly halted this week. Meanwhile, trials with adult stem cells are steamrolling ahead. Why the difference?

Animal Plan: It Works Well

There were Greek and Roman naturalists who were intrigued by what they saw in the living world, but their observational tools were limited to their five senses. Modern science has expanded our senses far beyond the capabilities known just a century ago. We are privileged to live in an age of discovery that is revealing even more wonders beneath the surface of living things, wonders worth knowing about. Here are just a few.

Your Copper Pipes

Each of us is part metal. Our bodies contain iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, vanadium, molybdenum, selenium, and even nickel like the coins in our pockets or purses. Unlike the other common elements of life (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus), our metals are not synthesized and recycled, but must be imported and handled with care. Copper is a good example of a biological metal that performs multiple useful functions – that is, unless something goes wrong with the machinery handling it.

Psych-Man Fraud Exposed

A popular social psychologist in the Netherlands has been exposed of committing “fraud on an astonishing scale,” forging data in dozens of scientific papers for nearly a decade. The exposè doesn’t just destroy his reputation. The fraud will cause “huge damage,” said Susan Fiske, a social psychologist at Princeton University,” because “His work is very central—or was.”

Preventing Aging Through Darwin-Free Science

Will new discoveries in biochemistry lead to longer lives? There are hopeful signs that aging can be delayed, if not prevented. Whether or not that happens in our lifetimes (causing new worries for Social Security), scientists are learning amazing things about how cells work that should give us more reason for Thanksgiving.

Biomimetics to the Rescue of Science

The booming field of biomimetics (imitating nature’s designs) is fascinating not only for the amazing products it promises, but for the fresh new opportunities it provides for science and engineering. From viruses to mammals, everything in the living world is now being seen in a new light: agents of innovation that humans can learn from. Here are just a few examples in recent news, arranged in order from large to small inspirational creatures.

Human Cloning Advanced Despite Ethics

A researcher in New York obtained women’s eggs and conducted experiments on them that could lead to human cloning. While done in the name of regenerative medicine, the experiments on embryonic stem cells involved the destruction of a human embryo. This kind of experimentation raises multiple ethical concerns, but the researcher went ahead anyway, and scientific journals are hailing the advance, albeit with a palpable twinge of conscience about ethics.

Psychotherapy: Needs Reboot? or Just Boot?

The word “reboot” assumes a prior boot. You can’t reboot something that never booted up in the first place. The American Psychological Association is calling for “rebooting psychotherapy.” Is it even booted up? The press release begins with an admission that questions whether psychotherapy ever got powered on.

Human Genome Individuality Adds New Questions

Mission accomplished: “The Human Genome Project” was in the bag by 2003. Now we understand how humans are genetically wired, right? Not so fast. Another human genome was just published, raising a whole new set of questions. The big issue is that we all have two genomes in one – one from each parent. Biologists knew this, of course, but for the first time, those two genomes were untangled from one another, and a lot of differences were found: two million, in fact. How do our two separate genomes behave toward each other? And if genomes differ this much, what does a concept like “the human genome” really mean?

Are Embryonic Stem Cells Obsolete?

Adult stem cells can apparently do everything embryonic stem cells can – and they are moving regenerative medicine forward faster, with more results. Since the use of human embryos for research is ethically repugnant to many people, what motivations remain to continue the practice? Here is a rapid-fire list of stem cell news this month:

Science Supports Traditional Values

It is well known that liberals outnumber conservatives in academia, but sometimes, scientific studies support traditional values, not leftist ideology. Imagine the surprise of some of these researchers who went looking and found that conservative Christian family organizations have evidence to support their views.

Are Biological Clocks Like Paley’s Watch?

What is a clock made of? We think of springs, gears and moving parts made out of metal. But a clock could, in theory, be designed with almost any material. There are water clocks, sundials, and electromagnetic oscillators that all function to tell time. What difference does it make if the parts are made of liquids, laser beams, or plastic? What if a clock was made of biological material—would it be any less a device for keeping time? Would it surprise you that such clocks exist in your body and in every living thing?
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