Tuesday, February 13, 2007

SILVER BULLETS FOR BIODEFENSE: Pentagon budget explained

Defensetech explains DoD's future budgeting for biochemical defense here. Defensetech breaks down the big numbers so you don't have to and outlines the glomming onto of the idea that old-timey medicine and biochemistry aren't good enough anymore. Nope, what's needed is a new approach, one called the Transformative Medical Technology Initiative.

Defensetech explains:

"The TMTI is the latest 'good idea' from OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense], where DoD is basically sending a hell of a lot of money to industry to find 'silver bullets' - a therapeutic that will address a broad range of BW threats, instead of a 'single vaccine-single disease' approach."

If you know anything about microbiology, biochemistry or medicine, you'll recognize this as nothing less than the product of a committee of Bush administration Pentagon appointees, people who must -- by definition, be scientifically illiterate, calling for a nonsensical God-like power to cure everything.

It is crap science dressed up as big science.

And in the coming years there will be no shortage of snake-oil salesmen from industry and academia leveraging it. Lunging for a share of taxpayer dollars, they will make promises to DoD, promises they will never be able to keep.

In the interest of winning the war on terror, Dod will not dream or be in any position to say nay to them.

Naturally, everyone would surely love to have silver-bullet cures for the plagues of man.

However, diseases only slowly relinquish their grasp on the human condition.

What was once considered one of the signal silver-bullet cures, the antibiotic known as penicillin, bane to Gram positive bacterial disease -- has not eliminated all sickness.

Indeed, in the history of bacterial afflictions, antibiotics have had only a brief history in the sun. Renewing them is one of the more pressing problems in medicine.

So when contemplating the often bewildering, even to the highly trained, complexity of mechanisms required to conquer prosaic microbial diseases, what is demonstrated is that -- with regards to DoD's war on bioterror -- what is really being asked for is nothing less than the magical.

How did this idea, the foolish and unrealistic wish for silver bullet cures, become entrenched as a driving force in the fight against alleged imminent bioterrorism?

One could write a slim book on the subject.

But for the sake of brevity, the wish for such global cures has always been with us.

It is a very human wish.

However, with regards to the case of bioterrorism and what to do about it, government wishful thinking is driven by the belief that the future enemies of America have a facile ability to create diseases of infinite variety.

Faced with such an insoluble dilemma, the only answer is to present the insane as sane, to come up with something which sounds good but which is actually nonsense.

And that's where the TMTI comes in.

Funding through DoD for research on defense against bioterrorism is not going to transform the health of the world. Malaria, among many other common diseases, will not be obliterated as a byproduct of Pentagon directives to counter designer bioterrorism.

Again, if one accepts the simplistic idea that designer diseases are or will be easy to create, the problem of fighting them becomes soluble only when one fabricates nuts ideas which sound good to laymen, deus ex machinas, novelistic and miraculous interventions which set the world right.

An example of one such weird idea to fight the future of designer bioterror is, simply, "education."

As explained in an essay delivered privately to DD by e-mail some months ago by a scientist who has gone before congress in making a name for himself as a doom monger in the area, students of science are to be discouraged from becoming future designer disease developers by explaining that such work is icky, gross and immoral.

The way to do this, it is claimed, is to inculcate in students a belief that being a disease developer is like being a pedophile.

DD laughed on reading it. Did we pay for this? Besides the fact that your average American undergrad science student can barely manage a streak plate or a Gram stain, what an effin' great idea!

Related: Out of the Box and Bottle a news item at GlobalSecurity.Org, from a couple years ago. Read carefully on the patent application, funded by the US Army as well as DARPA, for what amounts to gold-plated bullshit, an alleged miraculous cure for disease agents covering everything from viruses to bacteria.

Anti-bioterror device to purify blood.

The disease designers are coming. And we're stuck cowering behind the Maginot Line of modern medicine.


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