- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2003

Noble: Francis Collins, for completing the incredible feat of compiling the human genome.
Fifty years ago this month, James Watson and Francis Crick announced that they had discovered the book of life. This week, another Francis Dr. Francis Collins, the leader of the Human Genome Project and the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health announced that it had been fully compiled.
While a "working draft" of the human genome was completed three years ago, it was only 85 percent complete, riddled with gaps and beset with uncertainties. Now, the identity and order of over 99 percent of the 3.1 billion DNA letters that make up the human genome have been determined.
Dr. Collins has led that effort for a decade. While Dr. Collins was leader of the project, he had a huge supporting cast. Sixteen laboratories around the world did the sequencing work and American taxpayers paid the $2.6 billion cost of completing the project.
They may also enjoy many of its benefits. Faulty genes lie at the root of many aliments, and scientists have discovered over 1,300 genes responsible for diseases since the project began. Now, researchers will be able to look anywhere in the genome that they want to for other faulty genes and they won't be charged for doing so.
Still, the full consequences of the sequencing will take time to play out, and it's not likely that many cures will emerge in the near future. As Dr. Collins noted, "[The human genome] encompasses a complexity we are just beginning to understand."
That we now understand it so well is due in no small part to the long labors of Dr. Francis Collins, the noble of the week.

Knaves: Tim Robbins and the rest of the celebrity entertainers opposed to the war, who are now complaining about "censorship."
Let's be clear at the outset: Those celebrities who were vociferous in their disagreement with the war in Iraq are not now being censored, as Mr. Robbins so aptly proved in his well-covered speech at the National Press Club earlier this week. They're not being blackballed either. In fact, they're barely being boycotted, not that it's a bad idea.
Mr. Robbins' biggest complaint was that his activism had caused the cancellation of the 15th-anniversary celebration of the movie "Bull Durham" at the Baseball Hall of Fame. From his pulpit at the press club, Mr. Robbins decried the backlash against him and his anti-war actress companion Susan Sarandon. He lamented the "veiled and unveiled threats," directed at "any voice of dissent." He even bellyached about Helen Thomas being "banished" to the back of the pack at a White House press briefing. He portended, "A chill wind is blowing in this nation. A message is being sent … if you oppose this administration, there can and will be ramifications."
Of course there are consequences. There ought to be. The risk of alienating an audience is inherent in any form of self-expression. But being uninvited to an event or taking a back seat at a briefing is not tantamount to censorship. It's not even close.
Besides, those celebrities who so fully exercised their freedoms of speech and expression to protest the war have no right to deny other citizens the same freedoms the freedom to speak out against those celebrities; the freedom to stay away from their movies; and even the freedom to disinvite them from soirees or cancel events at which they had been scheduled to appear.
If indeed there is a "chill wind blowing," it's done nothing to diminish the hot air from Mr. Robbins and his ilk. Additional disinvitations and perhaps even box-office boycotts might serve well to reduce the fevered rhetoric of such knaves.


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