Unhelpful Hints: Deflection And Withholding Evidence In The David Jacobs Scandal

Unhelpful Hints:
Deflection And Withholding Evidence In The David Jacobs Scandal

by Guest Blogger,
Tyler A. Kokjohn, Ph. D.

Have You Seen Me Lately?

David Jacobs: MUFON’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Dr. David Jacobs has been accused of serious wrongdoing involving a former research subject known as Emma Woods.  Some persons have deflected the charges by communicating there are additional factors to consider or they possess information confirming Dr. Jacobs is reliable and trustworthy.  Are these simply opinions regarding the personal attributes of Dr. Jacobs or is it possible that information now apparently limited to a select few persons could dispel the longstanding and specific allegations against him?

Recent sad experiences with Ata the “extraterrestrial” and the Roswell slides remind us initial appearances may be deceiving and to base our conclusions on the complete body of evidence.  If objective facts and rationales absolving Dr. Jacobs of allegations of misconduct against Emma Woods are known it is an extreme disservice to withhold them.  Hinting that such evidence exists is not sufficient and only serves to prolong an already protracted dispute.

Since it is difficult understand how the disturbing allegations against Dr. Jacobs could be effectively countered, it is essential that information be detailed in full and explained completely.  To document her charges Emma Woods published extensive audio recordings of her hypnosis sessions with Dr. Jacobs  (http://ufoalienabductee.com).  Demonstrating she altered these recordings to create false impressions would have immediately cast serious doubt on her version of events.  However, no evidence of tampering has been produced leaving us in a situation where the body of available evidence places Dr. Jacobs in an unfavorable light.  Justifying his own words and deeds appears to present a substantial challenge.

Participation in research programs may sometimes involve risks.  Accordingly, investigators are obligated to respect subject autonomy by providing prospective participants with information regarding the full purposes of the research and any foreseeable hazards before anyone agrees to participate.  In addition, researchers adhere to a general guiding principle of beneficence by preventing any harm to their subjects and ensuring their wellbeing through acting with forethought to maximize benefit and reduce risks (http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/guidance/belmont.html).

Dr. Jacobs discussed with Emma Woods the idea of acquiring a chastity belt to frustrate the alien hybrids she reported were terrorizing her.  It is difficult to reconcile this strange banter with either the practices of a rigorous scientific investigation or the core principles of informed consent and beneficence.  First, Dr. Jacobs’s chastity belt discussion plainly served no scientifically valid purposes.  Further, if Emma Woods had followed through with using a chastity belt, the reasonably foreseeable event would have been a vastly increased threat of immediate and direct physical retaliation against her.

Exposing the subject to increased risk without benefit is unethical. It is important to bear in mind that Dr. Jacobs had revealed his personal fears these hybrids terrorizing Emma would find him.  In light of that admission, any discussion that might increase Emma’s anguish and fears would have been scientifically unjustified, ludicrous and utterly callous.  Limited to communicating with Emma by telephone and physically located thousands of miles away from her, it is hard to imagine what protective measures Dr. Jacobs had in place if either his continued investigations or deliberately calculated provocations succeeding in further angering the aliens already reportedly assaulting Emma.

Emma Woods UFO Mag Cover

Emma Woods’ case against Jacobs gets UFO Mag cover story and then buried by his ufological friends/alleged researchers.

Whatever underlying purposes the chastity belt discussion served, the best interests and wellbeing of Emma Woods seem to have been decidedly secondary considerations.  The overall situation leaves an impression that Emma Woods was treated not with the full respect and concern due an autonomous individual, but as a strictly instrumental means to satisfy the personal curiosities and needs of Dr. Jacobs.  Someone will have to explain how this evidence is not what it appears to be.

Perhaps the chastity belt conversation was never intended to propose an experimental protocol for Emma to carry out, but was simply another ‘tactic’ used by Dr. Jacobs to throw the allegedly threatening mind-reading alien hybrids off his track.  Reconciling such actions with the researcher’s explicit obligations to prevent any harm to his subject while acting with beneficence and in accord with the spirit of ethical informed consent principles is impossible.  In no way, shape or form would it ever be acceptable for any researcher to use a subject in such a manner.

Could the chastity belt chat, false memory implantation tactics to safeguard Dr. Jacobs from threatening hybrids and dire intrigues have simply been ploys to keep a highly hypnotizable subject engaged and interested in continuing to feed him juicy copy for a new book?  Somewhere during this strange journey it appears Emma Woods the research subject was converted into an expedient mechanism enabling Dr. Jacobs to ensure his personal security or reach his eccentric goals.  Someone will need to explain how appearances are misleading and his actions were ethical.

When Emma Woods took her complaints to higher authority, Dr. Jacobs maintained he was only engaged in oral history taking and denied conducting research.  Clearly, his actions had no therapeutic intent or benefit, but squaring the deployment of hypnosis-mediated manipulations to implant false memories, requests to collect soiled underwear and additional statements made in an interview conducted several years later (The UFO Trail Blog, http://ufotrail.blogspot.com/2012/04/bizarre-world-of-doctor-david-jacobs.html) with actions customarily associated with oral history taking seems impossible.  Someone needs to explain how that can be done.

Red herring

Appearances may sometimes be deceiving.  If critical, perception-changing objective information relevant to the Emma Woods-David Jacobs dispute exists, withholding it is both a gross disservice to the unjustly maligned and an insult to the entire community.  Those who have hinted or asserted directly they possess superior relevant knowledge have a responsibility to explain why the evidence available to the rest of us is not what it appears to be.

When Science Races Ahead of the Scientists

by Guest Blogger,
Tyler A. Kokjohn

 

The New York Times has examined in a Room for Debate feature whether scientists are able to exert much control over the use of their discoveries (http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/05/28/scientists-curbing-the-ethical-use-of-science).  One of the opinions published, “The Lessons of Asilomar for TFetusoday’s Science” by Alexander Capron, set the current concerns arising over recent editing of human embryo genomes into a historical context and suggests that we should not rely on scientists to make all the decisions for us.

The 1975 Asilomar conference to assess the hazards posed by recombinant DNA experiments and make recommendations for a sensible path forward confirmed that the scientific community has a strong sense of social responsibility.  Recognizing the swift maturation of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology now poses potentially explosive societal challenges, a group of distinguished scientists has called for another moratorium to allow time for a full public discussion of the ethical concerns and potential implications (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/03/18/science.aab1028).

The forces propelling scientists forward in 2015 reflect the complexities of a globally distributed capacity to conduct gene editing experiments coupled with clear potential for enormous economic rewards.  Perhaps scientists today are ‘too self-interested and unrepresentative’ to decide how gene editing technology will be used.  Worse, the scientific community and National Academy groups calling for discussions seem almost oblivious to the fact that fast-moving developments in areas beyond human embryo engineering have already overtaken them.

The recent efforts to edit human embryo genes by Chinese scientists galvanized the concern of both scientists and the public.  However, CRISPR-Cas9 editing methods developed in insect hosts have now advanced far beyond the laboratory proof-of-principle or even carefully contained experiment stages (http://www.nature.com/news/regulate-gene-editing-in-wild-animals-1.17523).  Society is now deciding whether to attempt to control human diseases such as Dengue by unleashing ‘gene drives’ to genetically alter wild populations of mosquitoes (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/can-quick-dying-genetically-modified-mosquitos-save-florida-keys-disease/).  The group calling for a moratorium on editing human embryos noted the potential of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to impact the entire biosphere (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/03/18/science.aab1028).  It may be unwelcome news to many scientists, but our gene editing future has already barged into the present without their consent.

The sudden convergence of events makes clear that scientists might be unrepresentative of the greater public interest in a most unexpected way; the scope and speed of events has simply outrun even their capacity to keep pace.  The situation is a rude demonstration of the highly specialized and narrow scope of scientific research today.  The bottom line is this; the human embryo work is far behind the gene editing technology development curve.  Whatever discussions we will have about using gene editing technology must be conducted outside the realm of federal meeting rooms and involve the general public.  Expert input from scientists will be critical, but policymakers must seek these broader perspectives urgently.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by it all and unsure of what should be done next, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.  The scientists are right there with you.

 __________

  1. Capron.  2015.  The Lessons of Asilomar for Today’s Science.  The New York Times Room for Debate, 28 May 2015.  (http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/05/28/scientists-curbing-the-ethical-use-of-science).
  2. Baltimore et al., 2015 Aprudent path forward for genomic engineering and germline gene modification. Science 348(6230):36-38(http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/03/18/science.aab1028
  3. Lunshof.  2015. Regulate gene editing in wild animals. Nature 512:127.  http://www.nature.com/news/regulate-gene-editing-in-wild-animals-1.17523

PBS NewsHour 16 May 2015.  http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/can-quick-dying-genetically-modified-mosquitos-save-florida-keys-disease/

 

 

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Rewriting All the Rules – The Arrival of Genomic Editing

Rewriting All the Rules – The Arrival of Genomic Editing

by guest blogger,
Tyler A. Kokjohn, Ph.D.

Genetic editing future

Illustration Courtesy of Jeff Ritzmann.

Humans are poised to become far more powerful.  Scientists are perfecting new tools to alter our own genomes and possibly those of all generations to come.  And it won’t stop there.  Genome editing techniques extended to other organisms and combined with strategies to disseminate modified genes through the environment will enable future genetic authors to literally re-write the DNA scripts that run entire ecosystems.

Genome editing has tremendous potential to alleviate disease and suffering.  Because scientists are still learning how genomes function, our raw engineering prowess now far outstrips any ability to predict the ultimate consequences that might follow the use of these new tools.  That leaves us in the uncomfortable situation of seeing how using genetic editing technology could provide potentially enormous benefits while recognizing going forward demands we must both court unknown risks and resolve explosive ethical dilemmas.  Appreciating the imminent intersection of issues, a group of scientists has called for informed and open discussions to ensure the coming genome engineering capabilities are used wisely and ethically (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6230/36.long).

The genetic engineering technology raising the most concern is known by the cryptic designation of ‘CRISPR-Cas9′.*  Although the functional details of the system can be confusing (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6148/833.full), its amazing implications are easy to grasp; human beings will soon be able to engineer their own heredity.   For example, today persons inheriting certain rare mutations in the presenilin gene are doomed to suffer early-onset dementia and death.  CRISPR-Cas9 technology may make it possible to erase the bad genetic information in that gene and change it to that found in the normal (healthy) form.  Perhaps it will ultimately become acceptable to edit the germ cells of persons to correct disease-causing mutations and thereby preempt all future problems by passing only the good gene copies on to future generations.  Such efforts and the experiments needed to reach these goals will spark intense ethical debates.

Gene editing technology can be harnessed to produce ‘guided gene drives’ (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25035423) which could be deployed to modify the genetic traits of wild organisms.  In essence, this would bestow unprecedented powers to genetic engineers and allow them to restructure entire ecosystems to suit human specifications.  Perhaps editing technologies and guided gene drives will be used in the future to control or eliminate scourges like malaria by modifying mosquito vector populations.  Assessing the environmental risks associated with such manipulations will be challenging.   Although (in principle) a second guided gene drive might be employed to reverse a previously released gene drive producing undesirable impacts, undoing any consequential ecological damage may be impossible (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6197/626.long).

This camel already has his nose well inside the tent and we will not have to wait long for a brave new world to arrive.  Genomic editing technology (for research purposes) is already available commercially and biotechnology companies like Editas Medicine (http://editasmedicine.com/) have been formed to develop and exploit the fast-emerging opportunities.  The tools are being perfected quickly and persistent, vague speculations that human embryos are already being modified (http://www.nature.com/news/mini-enzyme-moves-gene-editing-closer-to-the-clinic-1.17234) feeds the perception that events are literally racing forward.

Scientists, perhaps sensing an urgent need to get ahead of quickly emerging results, are calling for open dialog and meticulous investigation of safety and efficacy of gene editing in advance of its widespread use (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6230/36.long).  In addition, aware that some nations prohibit or restrict germ cell engineering while others are more permissive, these experts are explicitly discouraging all efforts to modify human germline cells until the complete spectrum of issues, including ethical concerns, have been fully considered.

The pressure to use genome editing technology will be immense.  The audacious notion that human beings might re-write the book of heredity and direct their own evolution will produce intense controversy.  Perhaps the coming storm will be severe enough to halt efforts to modify human genetics except for carefully prescribed purposes.  However, it is important to remember that gene editing technology has implications that extend much further than directly manipulating human heredity.  The tools can be applied to other organisms in ways that will probably not offend sensitivities to the same degree.  Once the capacity to modify the genomes of target non-human organisms is perfected, it may be very difficult to rationalize not utilizing it.  For example, if scientists are able to modify mosquito species to prevent malaria carriage or transmission (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6197/626.long), the potential benefit to human health is obvious.

However, what if the best approach to malaria eradication is altering or inactivating genes in ways that makes mosquito reproduction fail?  Will we then proceed to drive some species to extinction to improve the environment?  A justification for immediate use based on the idea of safeguarding human health will be compelling.  In addition, precedents on such matters would seem to have been set a long time ago.  When humans modify the environment to suit their purposes, the fate of other organisms sharing the ecosystems we exploit is sometimes given scant concern.  In fact, through the broadcast of chemical agents like DDT we can be downright indiscriminately murderous in our quest to manage the environment.  The problem is that is extremely difficult to predict the full implications of human-initiated environmental tinkering because ecosystems are complex, interconnected and dynamic entities whose functions are only dimly understood.

As an example of the complexities, think of the Monarch butterfly of North America.  A series of changes to improve agricultural economics and environmental esthetics had the unintended consequence of decimating the once vast populations of migratory Monarch butterflies (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/02/09/the-monarch-massacre-nearly-a-billion-butterflies-have-vanished/).   The great annual migrations of this large orange and black butterfly from Canada to Mexico and back may become a thing of the past.  It is unclear whether it will be possible to reverse a tragic trend and restore the Midwestern Monarch butterfly populations to safely sustainable levels.  Are changes which have collectively driven Monarch butterflies to extinction an improvement?  The scientists who issued an urgent call to dialog and debate the development and future implementation of genomic editing technologies noted their extraordinary potential to reshape the biosphere.  The tools are powerful and if used, must be applied with the utmost of caution.  These technologies and capacities may ultimately impact the health and wellbeing of everyone and everything on our planet.

Clearly, the future discussions addressing the use of genome editing technology must involve experts.  Much of the discussion will necessarily be highly technical, but every one of us is a legitimate stakeholder in the outcome and you don’t have to be an expert to ask useful questions and influence the process.  Rather than be intimidated by the technology and conceding these far reaching decisions entirely to the authorities, recognize how your perspectives could provide critical and unbiased input to the process.  Many of the people who will elbow their way to the table are likely to have a vested interest in the use of the new technology.  You do not need a Ph. D. to know whether you value Monarch butterflies more than ensuring high fructose corn syrup will be a few cents cheaper and your perspectives on such matters may be equally as insightful and important as those with advanced degrees.  Remember, scientists are truly expert in a narrow range of subjects.  A few might well be the world’s leading authorities on creating the guide RNA components for CRISPR-Cas9 nucleases, but may never have chased a Monarch butterfly through a meadow when they were children or ever give any thoughts to such trivial matters let alone assign them an intrinsic value.  When it comes to the type of world you want for the next generation, you are the world authority.

I hope you will follow the Twitter feed of the key scientific journals, Science (@sciencemagazine) and Nature (@NatureNews), to stay informed about new developments being disseminated to the scientific community.  Be ready to post comments to those articles and the follow-on reports in the newspapers.  If you belong to any organizations engaged in conservation issues or ecological protection, ask the leaders what they are doing about this situation.  Genomic editing and gene drives are about to become reality.  How, when and where genomic modification of humans, other organisms and our biosphere is permissible will soon be under discussion.  Take part in the conversation and ensure your part of this story gets written.


D. Baltimore et al., 2015.  A Prudent Path Forward for Genomic Engineering and Germline Gene Modification.  Science 348:36-38.  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6230/36.long

E. Pennisi.  2013.  The CRISPR Craze.  A Bacterial Immune System Yields a Potentially Revolutionary Genome-editing Technique.  Science 341:833-836.  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6148/833.full

K. M. Esvelt et al. 2014.  Concerning RNA-guided Gene Drives for the Alteration of Wild Populations.  eLife.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25035423
K. A. Oye et al. 2014.  Regulating Gene Drives.  Regulatory Gaps Must be Filled Before Gene Drives Could be Used in the Wild.  Science 345:626-628.
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6197/626.long

H. Ledford.  2015.  Mini Enzyme Moves Gene Editing Closer to the Clinic.  Discovery Expands Potential CRISPR Toolbox for Treating Genetic Diseases in Humans.  Nature 520:18.  http://www.nature.com/news/mini-enzyme-moves-gene-editing-closer-to-the-clinic-1.17234

D. Fears.  2015.  The Monarch Massacre: Nearly a Billion Butterflies Have Vanished.  The Washington Post, 9 February 2015.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/02/09/the-monarch-massacre-nearly-a-billion-butterflies-have-vanished/


*CRISPR-Cas9 – CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats which were originally discovered as peculiar repeated DNA sequence patterns in some bacterial genomes.  These repeats are part of a system designed to bind specific target DNA sequences and break apart the molecules which harbor them.  The CRISPR genes are believed to form a bacterial immune system, a way for cells to remember the viruses that have infected them in the past and destroy them if they try to return. Cas9 is CRISPR associated gene 9, the protein that actually cuts DNA at specific places in the genome.  CRISPR-Cas9 allows engineers to open genomic DNA at precisely selected locations and edit the nucleotide base sequences, thereby changing the product of that gene.  In principle this technology could be used to alter germ cells to allow engineered changes to be passed to the future generations.  It is believed that all organisms which undergo sexual reproduction will be modifiable by CRISPR-Cas9 methods.