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Bashing an element

As a man with a PhD in phosphorus chemistry I have seen how some people associate phosphorus with death and war. Their reasoning is that because a few iconic toxins (VX, tabun, sarin and soman) contain phosphorus that all phosphorus chemistry is linked to these dealers of death.

I hold the view that this reasoning is rather silly, and is a good example of poor inductive reasoning.

How about 

1. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a dog

2. The Hound of the Baskervilles is dangerous and will chase you over the moors and kill you

……So all dogs are nasty monsters who chase you over the moors.

I am sure that you can all see that this is a very silly idea. Sadly some equally bad logic has been used by some people to demonize chemistry, chlorine and phosphorus. I would like to point out that while some phosphorus compounds are nasty, most of them are not evil monster nightmare compounds. For example DNA has phosphorus in it.

Before you say I do not like DNA as it is in GM plants I would like to point out that without DNA none of us would be alive. DNA is required for almost all life forms, the only life forms which I can think of which do not have DNA are a few viruses (such as HIV). I doubt if many of you would view HIV as your favourite life form.

But back to sarin, I would say that if sarin is used as a reason for demonizing phosphorus then it is a better reason to demonize carbon. A sarin molecule contains one phosphorus atom but it contains four carbons. So as a result it has a higher carbon content based either on mass or number of atoms. Now are “they” going to call for a ban on carbon compounds ?

Oh lets think, if they ban carbon compounds

1. No more food, all food contains carbon compounds

2. No more clothing, we will all have to become naturists that is unless you want to wear roof tiles held together with bits of chain.

3. No more computers and no more internet. All electronic equipment contains carbon compounds (plastics) so those of you who want to ban carbon compounds please stop reading now and switch off you PC/Mac.

NB It is debatable if a virus is alive or not when it is not in a host cell.


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