A Conversation With Harvard Geneticist George Church

Georg Church in Edge.org:

George_ChurchI would say that there are two things I’m obsessing about recently. One is global warming and the other is augmentation. Global warming is something that strikes me as an interesting social phenomenon and scientific challenge. From the social side, you’ve got denialism, which, to me, is more important. You have denialism on a bunch of fronts. You've got denial of the Holocaust and evolution, but those aren’t things that necessarily in and of themselves impact our lives. It’s very heartrending and callous that anyone would deny the Holocaust, but as long as they don’t add to that a lot of other racism, nobody’s going to get hurt by it.

I imagine that we could probably populate my company enEvolv, which has evolution in the title, mostly with creationists and they would still get the products out. You just follow a recipe. Even though you’re doing evolution, you don’t need to believe it. Maybe it would help if the very top scientists believed in neo-Darwinism or something. Those are curious things that people fight about and have deep feelings about, but they don’t affect day-to-day life.

Global warming is something that could be catastrophic. You could argue that it’s in the same category because you can’t prove that my life today is worse because of global warming, but it’s something where it could be exponential. The odds are against it, but we don’t even know how to calculate the odds. It’s not like we’re playing blackjack or something like that. There’s more carbon in the Arctic tundra than in the entire atmosphere plus all the rain forests put together. And that carbon, unlike the rain forest where you have to burn the rain forest to release it, goes into the atmosphere as soon as you get melting. It’s already many gigatons per year going up. That’s something that could spiral out of control.

More here.