Re: Can science solve our biggest problems?

George Church is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and a professor of health sciences and technology at Harvard and MIT. In 1984, Church, along with Walter Gilbert, developed the first direct genomic sequencing method and helped initiate the Human Genome Project. Church is responsible for inventing the concepts of molecular multiplexing and tags, homologous recombination methods, and DNA array synthesizers. Church initiated the Personal Genome Project in 2005 as well as research into synthetic biology. He is director of the U.S. Department of Energy Center on Bioenergy at Harvard and MIT and director of the National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence in Genomic Science at Harvard, MIT and Washington University. He is a senior editor for Nature EMBO Molecular Systems Biology.

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So the big issues would be the things that might affect our ability to survive as a species on the planet. I think most, people religious and nonreligious, would agree that that would be a very bad thing. And so the sort of things that could affect that is some sort of pandemic, overpopulation and pollution, or getting hit by a meteor. So to some extent, we may need to do things like eliminate poverty just so we have less burden so we can go forward with our science and engineering enough, so that we can get some of us off the planet, so when the meteor hits we will still survive. So in a way, you have to think in this very interconnected, far reaching way in order to decide what the priorities are. And at least some of the priorities are to get us to a point where it’s not such a luxury to have science and engineering that’s capable of getting us to another habitable planet; or for that matter constructing a habitable biosphere that’s not planetary. Many steps between there. I mean personal genomics, and being able to monitor our environmental microorganisms and so forth, could be a huge step towards reducing poverty and increasing education so that then we can do things that involve physics again. Recorded on: 7/6/07