I don’t know shit about science.
Because I don’t know shit about science, I frequently confuse potentially vital scientific works with the plot synopses of films featuring the evil schemings of a criminal mastermind hell bent on destroying the world. For example, if you were to tell me that researchers are currently exploring new options for couples who struggle with natural childbirth, I would be happy to tote my general support for any potential developments that might benefit struggling families. But were you to tell me that scientists may have discovered a way to take one woman’s egg and mix it with another woman’s egg in order to make a baby, then I would freak the fuck out. Because I read Y: The Last Man, and I can’t afford a monkey.
The realm of science is a vast, complex, expansive universe bursting with untold potential, but I don’t have time for potential. What I do have time for are dystopian dramas depicting science gone awry—and it’s that kind of fictional pseudoscience that has crafted the lenses through which I view the real world’s entire scientific community.
Unfortunately, new science—however vital—can often seem stranger than fiction. And as the impending threat of the Zika virus looms over our nation, the line between legitimate science and sci-fi may have to be blurred.
Florida has already housed several Zika cases. Recently, the Center for Disease Control issued a historic travel warning which advised pregnant women and their partners to avoid visiting a community in Florida where Zika is currently circulating. This is the first time that the presence of an infectious disease has forced the CDC to discourage people from traveling to an American neighborhood. And while the federal government is taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease, Texas health officials have already reported their state’s first Zika-related death.
These are real deaths, and real families that have been left grieving over great loss. There’s nothing funny about that, and I in no way wish to belittle those deaths or denigrate the suffering of others, be they within our outside our nation’s borders.
But while the presence of death and fear in the lives of so many is a very serious matter, there is a certain degree of absurdity in one of our government’s proposed solutions to stopping the spread of this deadly disease.
The FDA has recently approved of OX513A, a genetically modified mosquito designed to kill off Aedes aegypti mosquitoes – the species primarily associated with the Zika virus.
While this development does represent some hope in the fight against the disease, what’s most disturbing about this is that the words, “genetically modified mosquito” are definitely in somebody’s low budget screenplay—and I don’t trust any kind of science that sounds like it belongs in the expositional monologue delivered by Morgan Freeman at the beginning a Sci-Fi movie. What’s worse is that the plot thickens with each new detail involving this proposed solution to the very serious Zika problem.
It started with a virus. No one knew what it was or how serious it would be. Everyone hoped that, just like Ebola, it would run its course and disappear. But then, it started to spread. Soon the virus hit Florida. Then Texas. Soon, it seemed the whole nation was in danger of being infected…
Firstly, the genetically altered Mosquito has a creepy science name full of letters and numbers. In a digital age where having an accessible/humanizing/Snapchatable brand is clearly so important, the mosquito hasn’t been named “The Buzzkill,” or “World War Z(ika),” or “The Wrath of Prophet E-Zika-iel.” The mutant bug is currently being referred to as OX513A. And anything that sounds that much like an iTunes user password is going to start an apocalypse.
…In a desperate effort to fight the deadly virus, the government released genetically modified mosquitoes known as OX513A…
Secondly, the government hopes to conduct a small field study of OX513A in the unincorporated community of Key Haven on the island of Raccoon Key.
Rest assured, I am neither a conspiracy theorist nor a self-identified gamer. But I am a fan of Milla Jovovich, and I don’t think we should test a genetically altered anything in a real-word place that sounds that similar to Raccoon City.
…The government planned to release the genetically modified mosquitoes on a small island for what they thought would be a simple field test. But before their plan could be put into action, they let the people of Raccoon Key choose their own fate…
In an effort to be fair and democratic about the official release of our future insect overlords, the good people of Key Haven on Raccoon Key get to vote on whether or not they want their island to be the location that marks the first official step towards the end of the Zika virus and/or the birthplace of humanity’s demise. This is a fairly complex vote, because while the fear of being treated like a scientific lab rats is palpable, a vote against testing OX513A could potentially set the timeline way back in terms of finding a solution to the Zika virus.
And that’s the most terrifying part of all this. Because, no matter how the good people of Raccoon Key decide to vote, I think it’s safe to say that Floridians are pretty bad at decision making.
After all, the voters who are about to decide whether or not we release mutant blood mongers into the skies are the same people who elected folks like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio into public office. That’s a cross-partisan legacy of shitty voting.
The mosquito is the only creature more dangerous to human beings than other human beings, and we’re about to let the decision on whether or not we release mutated versions of our species’ greatest nemesis up to Floridians—the same group of people who famously said, “Hey, this George Zimmerman guy seems legit.”
There’s no telling what type of catastrophic consequences will befall the human race now that this much power has been designated to a small island community in Florida. Sure, they’ll go in thinking they’re voting on whether or not to allow OX513A to roam their island, but they’ll leave having somehow elected George Bush as president. The Democrats will call for a recount, but it’ll be too late. We’ll have to invade Iraq all over again.
…By the time the virus had mutated, the people of Raccoon Key didn’t know what hit them. The government tried to quarantine the island, but it was too late. Humanity quickly faded into oblivion.
Just as the ancient prophecies foretold, the apocalypse started in Florida.
And sure, it’s easy to make fun of Florida—but this is a big decision. Zika is clearly a serious threat, and if we don’t do something fast, we still face the grave consequences that follow inaction. But it still feels unsettling to release mutated bugs to kill off disease riddled bugs, like fighting fire with genetically modified fire.
But how something “sounds” or “feels” has nothing to do with how scientific it is. And, again, I don’t know shit about science.
The release of OX513A has just as much—if not more—potential to do good. This may be one of the great scientific advancements of our time. This could potentially lead us down a path to the creation of an anti-Malaria mutant mosquito. We might be witnessing the dawn of a new era where no one ever has to buy insect repellent or protective bug nets or bury a child due to mosquito-born illness ever again.
Or maybe this is how we’ll all die.
Who knows? Science is crazy.