You May Shut Down The Government, But Don’t Shut Down Science!


The Yahoo coverage says two Americans and one German American won the prize.

My bet for the most accurate reporting is the New York Times article that says three Americans won the prize.

This is mainly because I remember I wanted to leave France and return stateside with a French citizenship as a souvenir.  I found out from American authorities that if I wanted to take any kind of oath of allegiance to any country that was not the U.S. of A., then the U.S. of A. would consider it a renouncement of citizenship.

I doubt they would change the rules on anything that big.  I thought I was part of the tradition of great people of European descent–education in my case, but birth in most — coming to America because it has the most powerful tradition of scientific research and advancement of any country in the world.

I thought of in particular Wilhelm Reich, the great analytic thinker, who had been born in the Ukraine like my ancestors (although it was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and how he migrated to America.

The New York Times reporting caught the irony that appealed to me when I first saw (on Yahoo) that this prestigious prize had been given to three Americans.

As far as I can figure, their work is really important and meritorious of the prize.  Any — and I mean any — information about the intravesicular transport system can lead to some serious drug development.

Not the kind where drug companies are trying to rip off little pieces of various alkaloid constituents of the marijuana plant and patent them to make money.  I mean drugs that are original and of real utility in illnesses that kill folks.

The work done by the three winners cost the American National Institutes of Health about 49 million dollars.  It is what is generally called “basic” research, the kind that is undertaken to find out more about how things work, without a clear endpoint that would be solving a disease.

The National Institutes of Health are currently on shutdown.

The shutdown has effectively stopped science.  “Basic” research has traditionally been the most difficult to fund, but it has also been most precious in teaching mankind things it might not know about otherwise.

I had to fight back tears when I got to this paragraph in the new York Times article: One of the new laureates, Dr. Rothman, touched on this point in a news conference, saying that he began his scientific career when “your idea was the only limit, any risk could be taken no matter how difficult.” He experienced five years of failure before the first signs of success, he said. Today, he said, there is less support for risk ideas, “and it is becoming a pressing national issue, if not an international one.”

There was a brief time in my career when I fought to do research, in a highly political system that had no use for junior females, that told me to hitch my wagon to the star of someone older and more experienced.

I remember deciding that science would advance without me, and that the hubris of being the one who did the research and published the papers was, at least for me personally, a poor second to taking clinical care of humans.  This became my personal priority, and has remained my personal priority.

Now, for the first time, I do not see science advancing further.  I have never seen government, in my lifetime, do anything as stupid and meaningless as this “shutdown.”  Someone has decided all government workers will get their lost pay.  Time is precious, and it takes time to advance science.

In my current field of marijuana medicine, there is absolutely no doubt that the most important advances are being made in other countries.  Israel, Asia, Spain and the European Union.

In petty politics, we are starting to lose the scientific supremacy that brought to the U.S.A. the most brilliant thinkers and scientists from all the world.

If I were in the European Union now, I cannot imagine rushing so excitedly going back to the U.S.A. because of a perceived supremacy in science and medicine.

Please, please, whoever can, smarten up as fast as you can, convincing me this is something other than the start of the decay of the America I have loved.

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