Thursday, January 30, 2003

Richard Dawkins in the Times of London
A largely unrecognised danger of the obsessive hysteria surrounding genetically modified foods is crying wolf. I fear that, if the Green movement's high-amplitude warnings turn out to be empty, people will be dangerously disinclined to listen to other more serious warnings. The evolution of antibiotic resistance among bacteria is a vicious wolf of proven danger. Yet the menacing footfalls of this certain peril are all but drowned out in the caterwauling shrieks over genetically modified foods, whose dangers are speculative at most. To be more precise, genetic modification, like any other kind of modification, is good if you modify in a good direction, bad if you modify in a bad direction. Like domestic breeding, and like natural selection itself, the trick is to introduce the right new DNA software. The realisation that software is all it is, written in exactly the same language as the organism's "own" DNA, should go a long way towards correcting muddled thinking.
Which paper also runs TV personality to beTina Brown's strikingly incoherent column:
Contrary to what Europeans imagine, especially if they saw the jingoistic mania at the Superbowl, the angst in New York and Washington is as strong as anything overseas. But unlike in Europe there is a huge desire here to want to go to war, which is weirdly different from a desire to go to war itself. We listen dutifully to the many excellent reasons to feel scared and vengeful towards Saddam, but the desire for a war is like a movie that fades even before you�ve reached the parking lot. It�s a syndrome best thought of as The Gung Ho Disconnect....
What?
THE reissued DVD of Lawrence of Arabia is moving faster than a camel on amphetamines at my local Blockbuster. New Yorkers are not just looking for epic entertainment. They�re looking for ways to blame the Brits and the French for creating the mess that became Iraq in the first place....
Duh. It is britain's fault, but 1. no one knows that here, and 2. no one gives a shit. Don't you have something relevant to talk about, old Europe?
Even after living here for 18 years I got into a real muddle with the builder this week in the reconstruction of our guest bathroom. When I was discussing the placement of the lavatory he thought I meant the handbasin. Apparently the unfamiliar term �lavatory� conjures up only washing facilities in the US (the word comes, of course, from laver � the French causing trouble as usual). When I pointed out that in the current design �the lavatory� was so boxed in that no one could ever sit astride it, he looked startled. �Is that,� he asked, �something your guests are likely to do?�

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