Biotechnology, Security and the Search for Limits: An by Brian Rappert (auth.)

By Brian Rappert (auth.)

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Extra resources for Biotechnology, Security and the Search for Limits: An Inquiry into Research and Methods

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37 With these came attention to questions of whether certain research really had the potential to aid in the development of new weaponry and thus whether it should not have been published or conducted. 38 Yet, its importance was questioned elsewhere, including a letter to Science by Steven Block of Stanford University. This claimed the work amounted ‘to little more than a stunt’39 since the possibility of performing such a reconstruction was long understood. Against what was presented as the ‘extraordinary press coverage’ generated, he argued that techniques for synthetically creating poliovirus were unlikely to pose any security threats in the near 24 Biotechnology, Security and the Search for Limits term.

23 In the area of bioenergetics he examined, whether certain experimental results were repeated by others was a complex matter. Rather than the replication of results being a straightforward way to test the validity of claims, the sameness or difference between certain findings depended on various interpretations. Scientists disputed whether they were, in fact, in dispute about the data or the conclusions of experiments. Experimental work, for instance, might be presented as indicating findings that were different in detail but essentially the same in substance.

83 This selectivity is built into the logic of constructivism, which assumes that the role of the analysts is to explain the indefinite relation between changing characterizations of a problem and the underlying condition. As such, assumptions about the nature of the underlying condition are often left uninterrogated. In this vein, for instance, the quote at the start of this chapter, that social problems ‘may emerge, transmute, descend, disappear, or reappear, independent of any change in actual conditions’,84 requires being able to specify ‘actual’ conditions.

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