Letters: Genetic Testing, Al Gore and Swearing

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Listeners weigh in on genetic testing, Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize, and the art of cursing.


It's Tuesday and time to read from our e-mails and your blog comments. We talked last week about some of the genetic tests you can now take to screen for cancers, blood test for Alzheimer's, there are also tests for spina bifida or Down's syndrome in unborn babies. The question: Do you really want to know?

Of course, I'd want to know, was one listener's answer, Amy(ph), in Tulsa Oklahoma. Even if there are no treatments now that does not mean there never will be any. If you know you have a disease, you can participate in studies for new treatments or try new practices science says helps. The more you know, the better chance you have of fighting or delaying the disease.

When it comes to screening during pregnancies, though, another listener took a different view. When I was pregnant, I actually had an argument with my OB-GYN about taking the test, she was really pushing it. But I don't know how we can claim this is a good thing. Maybe it's time we went back to taking what we get and feeling thankful for the blessing, instead of trying to make sure our children are going to be exactly what we want. They'll grow up to be who they are and we can't control that no matter how many tests we take upfront. That e-mail from Ginny(ph) in Virginia.

There was also a disagreement over our interview last week with a peace activist who argued that advocacy on global warming does not qualify Al Gore for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Martha(ph) e-mailed from Portland, Oregon. Of course, it's about peace. If global warming leads to rising sea levels such that some low-lying island nations disappear altogether or other low elevation nations like Bangladesh experienced huge loss of habitable land, there will be mass migration of refugees. Accommodating this without conflict is about peace.

Another listener was not convinced. Rob(ph) left this comment on our blog. To place Al Gore in the same category as Doctors Without Borders, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama devalues any peaceful notions the Peace Prize may have enjoyed in the past.

Many of you responded with vivid, vigorous, yet entirely clean language to our talk with Steven Pinker about the meaning, value and usage of swear words, the words we can't say on the radio.

Bill Wessellman(ph) in Cincinnati had one of those moments. One day, I cut my index finger with a wood chisel, he wrote. My 6-year-old daughter ran from the room, yelling, mom, I think daddy really hurt himself this time. Why do you say that, my wife asked? He is using words I'd never heard before.

That show proved timely for another listener who e-mailed, I'm home painting my deck today and as I was on my ladder, a gust of wind came and blew over my can of white paint. I found it quite humorous that your program today gave me pause as I tried to choose the perfect word to use. Enjoy your program. Keep up the frigging good work, signed Vanessa(ph).

If you have any other comments, questions or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by e-mail. Our address is talk@npr.org. Be sure to let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.


CONAN: And this is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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