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Two very, very different takes on current science

Galileo fought the good fight, and your DNA may one day not belong to you
Two very, very different takes on current science hero image

Science denial is rife today, and it’s worldwide. From anti-science AIDS policies to suggestions that second-hand tobacco smoke is no biggie to good old disbelief in climate change, science denial is here to stay.

We could say, “It hasn’t always been this way,” but that would be wrong. Just ask Galileo.

Galileo Galilei in the early 17th century created a telescope to look at the stars. He didn’t invent the telescope, but he did use it to reform astronomy and “overturn the traditional relationship between man and God,” noted Massimo Bucciantini and colleagues in “Galileo’s Telescope: A European Story.”

Things went downhill soon after Galileo unveiled his project and announced that the Sun did not revolve around the Earth.

“Those in power who feared his creation simply refused to look through it, denouncing its creator rather than acknowledging the observations the tools allowed,” notes Quartz. “The early science deniers…saw the telescope as a political threat and ignored the facts it brought to light.”

A new book by astrophysicist Mario Livio aims to set Galileo’s discoveries in the context of modern science and society. “Galileo and the Science Deniers,” notes Universe Today, “not only looks at the life and times of the famous astronomer, but busts some of the most famous myths surrounding Galileo, and looks at his greatest discoveries and tempestuous clash with the Roman Catholic Church and its aftermath.” Along the way it connects the science denialism that Galileo faced with today’s tug-of-war between science and politics.

“Galileo’s story is always relevant,” declares Nature, even though parts of this particular book are thin and at times lacking.

Compare that new offering with a completely different recent science book, “Legend of Sumeria: Life, Blood, DNA.”

“Legend” walks the thin line between fiction and reality and follows emerging science to its frightening but plausible end.

This adult (i.e., it is definitely not for kids) graphic novel, by Jay Webb and Biju Parekkadan, imagines a near-future society where a corporation called Nyima acquires a DNA ancestry company's database of genetic profiles to create a genetic security system mashed up with a social media platform in which everything, from product recommendations to potential mates, is generated using DNA signatures.

Some fantasy in the book turns out to be true already, as a major pharmaceutical company recently bought a stake in a DNA identification company, and de-identified DNA can be matched to people.

“At its most basic level, ‘Legend of Sumeria’s’dystopian vision is built on convincing the public that their DNA is their story, not just a part of it, then convincing them to hand control of that story to corporations like Nyima, who become the sole interpreters of it,” wrote Fast Company. “It’s just a graphic novel, a fantasy, but it’s also a vivid warning of a reality that is being written right now.”

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