The Ultimate Paternity Test
And then, the ultimate in DNA paternity testing. As I was getting on the plane yesterday to come here, I found in the New York Times a story about DNA taken from a 40-million-year-old termite, preserved in amber. And DNA sequencing by PCR has been done on this termite to answer questions about who is the parent of the modern-day cockroach - was it really the termite? They are comparing and finding all sorts of novel things out as to whether the termite really was or wasn't the evolutionary ancestor of the cockroach. Indeed, if we take DNA paternity testing way back, it brings us to our common origins as a species, and to the common unity of life.
Basic science. It leads us in unexpected directions that have social consequences. No one sets out to develop DNA identification, the looking at DNA spelling differences for the purpose of criminology applications. The research was driven by a whole different set of challenges and questions, and yet the capability to read and interpret DNA spelling differences has had consequences in all of these areas.
As a society, we can be pleased and proud that our technology, that our science, has had social applications, but what we must do together as scientists and as a society is to make sure that we apply these technologies with the highest of standards. We must strive to apply them - as with Argentina - to the highest of purposes.