Wouldn't it have been hilarious if some plucky journalist had asked Tony Blair or Bill Clinton to substantiate their hyperbolic exclamations about the first draft of the human genome? 'Could you explain why, Tony, you think that this is more important than antibiotics?' The stuttering and stammering would have been a spectacle to see.
This is a dig at political speech writers that John O'Farrell, writing in the Guardian, cannot resist making. But, as O'Farrell observes, the political masters of spin are not the only ones guilty of over-hyping the arrival of the first draft of the human genome. Other commentators are quick to point out that the harbingers of good news have rather overplayed just how good the news is. Simon Jenkins in the Times suggests that what we face is not the public's lack of understanding of science, but scientists' (and politicians') lack of proportion and balance.
These words of caution come not from opponents of the new genetics: many of these commentators are hungry for medical breakthroughs made on the back of the human genome sequence. Their concern is that we might have to wait a long time for them. Hamish McRae in the Independent even suggests that nothing significant will happen for 40 years.
But Andrew Marr and Deborah Orr are more upbeat about the whole thing, despite the hyperbole. Marr, writing in the Observer, suggests that we are too quick to be concerned about abuses of genetic information. For him, our only salvation from abuses in the past is to trust one another. Choices must remain individual ones, free from the interference of the state. Deborah Orr is similarly hopeful. She looks forward to a future where humans play god: 'by that I mean approaching this knowledge with humility and without greed, harnessing it to help those first who need help most, and directing each new discovery towards the common good.'
These and other commentaries on the Human Genome Project are listed in this week's Recommends.