TCS Daily

Scientific Stagnation

By Tim Hammond - February 12, 2009 12:00 AM

Today is the 200th Anniversary of Darwin's birth, and this year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Publication of On the Origin of Species. But what should be a celebration of scientific discovery is spoiled by a simple and shocking truth -- science and medicine today are at a dead-end.

To illustrate the problem, look back what we thought were the most important challenges, say, thirty years ago:

  • A vaccination for malaria
  • Discovering the causes of heart disease and cancer
  • Curing genetic conditions
  • A workable theory of quantum gravity
  • New sources of energy, in particular nuclear fusion

We have made little or no progress in any of these areas, or the dozens of others we could list alongside them. And while we have made amazing progress in the last 100 years, it has been a long time since we achieved anything of real note.

Take medicine, for example. Smoking was identified as a major risk factor in lung cancer in 1950, the polio vaccine was first developed in 1955, the first kidney transplant was in 1963, a cure for most childhood cancers was discovered in 1971, and the first test-tube baby was born in 1978. Since then: pretty much nothing. Despite thousands of research papers and billions of dollars we still have only a limited understanding of the causes of cancer and heart disease and are years away from a vaccination for malaria. The extraordinary promise of Watson and Crick has led to only confusion and dispute.

But perhaps the biggest failure -- because it is where the brightest minds are supposed to reside -- is in physics. For many years, physicists have tried to unify quantum theory and relativity, to unite our theories of the very big, and the very small. For a while it seemed that string theory, or at least one its many variations, would be the answer. But this now looks like a dead-end, even though string theorists continue to make confident noises. Add to this the problem that our current theories of the universe require most of the Universe to be composed of unseen dark matter and dark energy, and we are clearly no further forward then we were in the 1970s.

Furthermore, those we entrusted to make progress are unwilling to admit that there is a problem. Unacknowledged failure has led to a culture of "spin" and, in some cases, outright deceit. A typical example is the ludicrous insistence of cancer specialists that a quarter of cancer cases are caused by lifestyle factors. This claim is made despite a complete lack of evidence, and the contrary, obvious and undisputed fact that most cancers are a consequence of aging.

And as the failures continue, to give the illusion of progress we have turned to solutions that don't work for problems that do not exist. Billions will be spent on reducing CO2 emissions that would reduce temperatures by only tenths of a degree -- even if global warming is real. Hundreds of millions have been spent on anti-obesity programs in schools when there is no evidence that childhood obesity causes health problems in later life, and plenty of evidence that the programs do not work.

But why is this? Have we simply reached our intellectual zenith? Perhaps we are just not intelligent enough to reconcile quantum mechanics and Einstein's theories, or to discover a vaccine for malaria. Or perhaps it is an emotional and social problem. As Thomas Huxley said:

"Science ... warns me to be careful how I adopt a view which jumps with my preconceptions, and to require stronger evidence for such belief than for one to which I was previously hostile."

Is it that we cannot overcome our preconceptions and aspirations because today's problems are so complex? I do not believe so.

A few years ago I was an investment banker in New York. Each year we spent a full day interviewing graduates. It was a depressing experience; not because the candidates were dull, or unpleasant, but because all of them were absolutely and determinedly identical. Their C.V.s were all the same, their answers were all the same, and they claimed to have the same motivations and ambitions. My background was from a British bank, where a degree in History or Philosophy (rather than Business) was welcomed, and where intellectual (rather than racial or religious) diversity was actively sought. By contrast, the U.S. bankers actively sought Groupthink.

This has become the norm in Medicine, Physics, and many other branches of science. Independence of thought, the value of different and varied experiences, the willingness to experiment and learn from experimentation -- all the traits that are absolutely vital for scientific advancement -- have been devalued and disavowed. Try getting a good job if you're an excellent scientist, but believe string theory is wrong, or that global warming not man-made. Try getting a good job if you'e a fine doctor, but believe that the obesity crisis is overblown, or that cancer is not simply a matter of lifestyle. The consequence is total stagnation.

Darwin and Einstein were unemployable even in their own time, but it was possible to publish truly amazing discoveries and ideas despite not having the backing of the United Nations, or a Vice President. Unless the once-great institutions of science and medicine recognise that there is a problem, then there is little chance of improvement. Perhaps the philanthropists of our time could endow a chair or two specifically for those who are not part of any consensus. And the journals must regain their boldness, start challenging the Establishment, and promote new ideas and real debate.

Ironically in this year of Darwin, to save science we need revolution, not evolution.



Boston College is returning Crucifixes to classrooms, Professors protest
First, it IS a Catholic school.
Second, how does a Crucifix, which used to be in BC classrooms, limit free expression as they claim?

A fact-free science article
This little essay is 100% opinion, with nothing in the way of footnotes, references or citations. It has just sprung full blown out of one person's head.

And it's very far off base. For instance the author says that medicine is at a dead end. In fact outcomes for nearly every kind of cancer are greatly improved over what they were thirty years ago. I've survived two cancers now, of types that would have been considered certain killers back in 1980.

In fact, the number of cancer survivors has tripled in this country over the past thirty years. If you want to see the progress that has been made in treatments for various cancers, begin with this:

He claims "a cure for most childhood cancers was discovered in 1971". But stem cell research was not then even in its infancy. The field has been transformed since then. Further, if "a cure" was discovered way back then, how come there's been such a major surge in the incidence of these cancers since then? All categories of childhood cancers have gone sharply UP since then, not down. And my grand daughter's neuroblastoma, now eleven years in remission, certainly would not have been curable thirty years ago. With 1971 science she would have just been dead.

This is just an example of what's available on the internet:

Then he says this: "A typical example is the ludicrous insistence of cancer specialists that a quarter of cancer cases are caused by lifestyle factors. This claim is made despite a complete lack of evidence, and the contrary, obvious and undisputed fact that most cancers are a consequence of aging."

Does he not realize the two observations are not mutually exclusive? It would be quite possible for a quarter of all cancers to be caused by lifestyle, a quarter by environmental assaults and still leave half caused by age-related factors? And in fact the causes of many are multifactorial.. caused by more than one factor acting in concert. I suppose things like cigarette smoke or benzene exposure do not contribute.. right?

In fact, let's look at life span expectations back in 1979, as opposed to today. Do we still just get old and die?

The problem is that the editors at TCS only screen for dogmatic orthodoxy.. they don't fact-check their articles. Otherwise this one would never have made the cut. I notice they don't give us the author's bona fides.

"Author's bona fides"
"I notice they don't give us the author's bona fides."

Mr. Hammond did not supply a byline. If he had, it'd have been appended to the article, as is customary.

Might there be any truth in the thought that some of the knowledge and sheer brainpower we need for new advances may have been wiped out by the millions of abortions? Does it seem just a coincidence that new discoveries ceased right around the time abortion on demand became legal in this country? just my 2 cents....

Could be too much government funding
Papers that support AGW are eagerly published, supported by government grants.

Yet truly remarkable concepts are ridiculed because the community can't figure out what is happening, like cold fusion.


The Navy would not fund him if he called it 'cold fusion'.

"The main feature of the Fleischmann?Pons effect is excess heat production. My experiments designed to measure excess heat focused on the use of two types of isoperibolic calorimeters. Cells A and B transfer heat mainly by conduction while the three Fleischmann?Pons type cells transfer heat mainly by radiation. The first set of experiments in cells A and B used palladium cathodes. Small levels of excess power were observed in Cell A but none in Cell B. This result is in agreement with previous experiments at China Lake, California using the same two palladium cathodes. There were also periods of unusual fluctuations in the temperature readings in Cell A for the thermistor closest to the cathode that persisted for several weeks. These sudden temperature increases occurred during the same time period as when the excess heat was observed. The switching of these experiments to pulse electrolysis also produced an excess heat effect in Cell A but not in Cell B."

Given the potential for such a breakthrough, where are those intrepid physicists? They are off writing proposals for government grants to build magnetic fusion containers that have produced little in decades.

Criticism from a warped-rich individual
"This little essay is 100% opinion, with nothing in the way of footnotes, references or citations. It has just sprung full blown out of one person's head."

Yeah, reminds me of what you write, Roy.

Hey Roy! Explain again how you THINK inflation happens/doesn't happen to us. That one never gets too old.

"The problem is that the editors at TCS...don't fact-check their articles."

Just pray that they never fact-check the forums, Roy. I'd miss you if you got banned.

For serious thinkers on this subject
Thomas Kuhn's 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions' is the definitive work on this topic.

At Amazon:

This guy points out that we haven't enjoyed a fundamental breakthrough in quite a long time but he doesn't really have much to say about what we should do about it...does he?

This does point out, however, that most civilians seem convinced that science has breakthrough solutions...simply standing by to be discovered...for virtually any problem we find ourselves facing. Infinite supplies of cheap, clean energy. A cure for malaria that does not involve killing all the mosquitoes in an area of infestation...probably with DDT. Or simple genetic engineering cures for pretty much everything that ails us...including old age.

However, in many such cases we have no idea how to work on these things...we do not even have the math...let alone proof of concept designs. We are not really able to ask the question...and such answers might simply not exist.

When we have a particular technology well in hand then the refinements to it always yield diminishing returns. However, when we create an entirely fresh arena of investigation and development...such as we need today regarding global economics and the underlying process of capitalism...we might enjoy "disruptive" breakthroughs and game-changing shifts in our body of knowledge.

But molecular biology, for example? Baby steps from here on out.

In the Long Run, We are all Dead
Quoted John Maynard Keynes..

"Do we still just get old and die?"

Sure we increasingly reach old age, the answer is yes. For now.

Of course, that may no longer be true. Our lords and masters have just decreed through a provision in the Conspicuous Action and Intergenerational Theft Act of 2008 (aka, the "Stimulus") that we will no longer make life sustaining efforts for those who have passed the point of usefulness to zee state, yah?

Welcome to a variation of Logan's Run. Better avoid a third occurrence Roy, the ministry of health may not see enough QLY's left in you to justify an expenditure in your behalf.

So make a comment then
You're playing the buffoon gets very old. I do in fact offer abundant background for every statement I make. There's no shortage of confirmatory material on my part.

So if you want to offer a retort to my comments here, please explain to us how we have seen no progress in the field of medicie over the past thirty years.

Back up what the author is saying. Only give us some red meat. Don't just do what he did, make some inane statement and then not buttress the argument with anything of substance.

"Warped-rich". That's a new one.

Back that up with some facts, please
You make this odd comment: "Our lords and masters have just decreed through a provision in the Conspicuous Action and Intergenerational Theft Act of 2008 (aka, the "Stimulus") that we will no longer make life sustaining efforts for those who have passed the point of usefulness to zee state, yah?"

I must have missed that. Where does it say in the stimulus package that they're going to be pulling the plug on patients at their own discretion.

Or are you just blowing more smoke out your ass?

While you're at it, here's a followup. How come when the Bush group was busily doubling the amount of debt that had been accumulated by all 42 of his predecessors, we didn't hear anything from you about our saddling our progeny with the debt? Because you certainly heard a lot about that from me.

So what did we as a nation get from the Bush Plan's five trillion dollars' worth of debt? Did we get to here?

Just because there are no headlines, is not evidence that no progress is being made.

It's in there.
Though I'm not surprised that you have avoided seeing it.

The bill sets up an office to review the effectiveness of various treatments.
Once this review has been finished, it requires doctors to check with the office prior to starting any new treatments.
Doctors who repeatedly fail to follow the "advice" of the commission are to be punished. Though the form of punishment is not spelled out in this bill.

roy's also deaf
Many, many conservatives were complaining about how spending was increasing under Bush.

You didn't hear it, because according to you, the only solution to any deficit is to raise taxes.

I notice that you are upset about increasing the debt by $5T in 8 years.
Yet Obama is set to do that in just two years, and you celebrate.

I'm not seeing it yet
The author's list of things we didn't know thirty years ago:

* A vaccination for malaria
* Discovering the causes of heart disease and cancer
* Curing genetic conditions
* A workable theory of quantum gravity
* New sources of energy, in particular nuclear fusion

Back then we didn't even know how to ask the right questions; today we're working on the answers. He's telling us we don't now have working electric hybrids, haven't synthesized new fuels, built hydrogen cars? And he criticises us for not yet figuring out how to detonate a hydrogen bomb inside a bottle?

The last mysteries of quantum physics are on the cusp of being worked out in our new particle accelerator, currently down for repairs. To say we're not making any progress toward solving the remaining mysteries is crazy.

Compare the past thirty years with the previous ten thousand.. nearly all of them years in which there wouldn't be a single bit of progress in five centuries.

Thirty years ago if we wanted to find something out we had to go to our local library and start digging. If we wanted to write a letter we had to type it out and put a stamp on it. And now we've learned how to put the entire world at our fingertips. How is it that you're able to communicate with everyone here, at the click of a mouse?

The genetic basis for diseases? We're making excellent progress toward that end now.

The author's premise is totally indefensible. And I wonder what exactly is the point he's getting at. Does he think we should just give up on science? Should we be seeking the answers in Faith? What's the message here?

Seems prudent to me
You offer no citation.. yet continue to imply that this bill requires doctors to pull the plug on patients who, in Z's words, "have passed the point of usefulness to zee state".

In fact what you're describing seems an ordinary check on excessive billing. I would be unsurprised to find language prohibiting extravagant tests for no other reason than to pad the bill. testing has to pass a review process.

You would be the first to howl if there were no such provision. To you it would be evidence that this was just some tax and spend plot to waste all our money on needless medical procedures.

I would have greater respect for your intellect if you could be a bit more consistent. The plan is all wrong because it "sets up an office to review the effectiveness of various treatments"? That's just a way to ensure that money's not getting wasted.

A bull in the Pottery Barn
"I notice that you are upset about increasing the debt by $5T in 8 years.
Yet Obama is set to do that in just two years, and you celebrate."

Now that we've stopped digging the hole, we're going to have to start climbing back out of it. And as it involves the collapse of the international banking system, that's not something we can do on the cheap.

Thanks, Bush Babies. You broke it, we have to fix it.

You think we have a shortage of babies?
Back in 1950 we had a world population of 2,556 million people. By 2000 this had grown to 6,081 million. And as of this morning it's 6,760,276,315 and growing by the moment.

Do you really think we have a shortage of minds? It only takes one mind to come up with a flash of insight.. providing it is prepared.

Of course there are people who don't even recognize how things have changed in thirty years. The Internet, for example...

on or around page 905

ah yes, having the govt decide who is worth saving and who isn't is worth it.
at least it is in roy's world.

roy's ability to ignore reality grows by leaps and bounds.
The Bush Babies did not break the banking system.
Your buddies the Democrats did that all on their own.

you actually think that printing trillions of dollars in bogus money is going to fix anything

Only one mind. Which one?
The one that was aborted yesterday?

No Subject
Mark, I don't know if "Mark the Greater" is a new pseudonym
for "Mark the great" but if you are new here you need to know Roy's standard thing is to accept the things he likes as axiomatic even if he has no actual knowledge or expertise with the matter.

When confronted with evidence, a great once in a while, he slithers away quietly, but more often than not, he just spews noxious and irrelevant blither. He once engaged me in a disputatious thread on accounting, specifically the concept of depreciation. Roy's view? Its a form of number-play, designed to decieve, because it doesn't involve cash. He's argued the point a number of times a number of times despite the fact that he knows I am a professional accountant with a CPA. Recently, he even defended his lack of expertise as something of an advantage.

In other words, facts and a reasonable construction of facts, matter not a wit to Roy. He's living proof that "liberalism is a mental disorder". At this point, I regard Roy as something of a court jester, an individual, who for unknown purposes enjoys being at the center of others' contempt.

I hope
You are the first one denied care under the damn thing.

Not to many babies, too many idiots.
With you as their poster child...

Final grades are in
I've seen enough of all your test papers to be able to determine your final grades for the semester.

MarkTheGreater: For persisting in saying repeatedly things like "ah yes, having the govt decide who is worth saving and who isn't is worth it" in response to the idea that setting up an office to review the effectiveness of various medical treatments is a good brake on padded medical bills.. and innumerable other such inanities, you get an F.

marjon: You're really stuck in neutral over this thing you have about socialism vs. freedom. You get an F.

Superheater: zero.

Zyndryl: a bad attitude lowers what would otherwise have been a decent grade. You're at least arguing from what you've learned in school. Too bad you haven't learned much since. D plus.

NeaRNoaD: Words can't express. For you, the square root of minus one.

I have been trying every way I know how into goading some one of you into making a sensible argument. I've been provocative in every way, and given you guys loads of ammunition. And none, other than on occasion Zyndryl, has even given the challenge a decent try.

Hopefully next semester you'll all do better. Try offering an actual, sensible argument. And try backing it up with facts. Remember, opinions alone are worth nothing. Any time I found one of you giving ANYTHING as backup, that person received a grade above zero.

Fits and spurts
Science advances in step functions. In biology, new technology has enabled significant control of biological molecules. It takes time to develop the tools and then learn how to use the tools before any significant discoveries can be advanced.
Assuming the author is correct, I wouldn't say science is stagnating as much as it may be taking a breather and thinking about what to do next and how to do it.

There's the problem...
The mentally deficient special needs student doesn't understand he's not he grader..

Orderly, please bring the restraints.

Judging the prudence of a matter requires some understanding of the matter. Being an echo-chamber bound narcissist doesn't qualify as undertanding.

Suggests a fundamental problem with modern science
Before science became institutionalized, people would observe phenomena, propose theories, test the theory against observations, and revise theories when they did not fit.
Today, theories are proposed and data is collected or discarded to fit the theory. Case in point, AGW.
Or unexplainable observation are just ignored because there is no career path or the theory is just too dangerous to contemplate. Case in point, ghosts. I think there are way too many 'anecdotal' observations by thousands of people for this not to be important. If there is an after life, it certainly blows a big hole in modern science today.
Scientists are people too and can act just as irrationally as anyone when their egos are threatened.

It's more like the monkeys with typewriters
Hi Joanie,

Leave it to you to come up with the only witty remark in the stack here. And it's a subject that cries out for wit.

True, Mr or Ms Elizedge failed to think through the logical consequences of his suggestion. But I think where he's coming from is that science is inexplicable. So we must proceed by hunt-and-peck means. And the more monkeys we can assign to the more typewriters, the sooner one of them will stumble upon cold fusion, or antigravity, or perpetual motion.

How else are we possibly going to get scientific breakthroughs? You can't plan for them, right? They just have to be given a chance to happen. And if we can just supply more babies (and more typewriters) that's that many more chances something good can happen.

It makes perfect TCS sense. The confused young mom who just hatched her litter of eight knows what we're talkin' about.

How you earned your grade
I'll be happy to explain your grade. It was for offering a bad faith argument.

Initially your approach was "Of course, that may no longer be true. Our lords and masters have just decreed through a provision in the Conspicuous Action and Intergenerational Theft Act of 2008 (aka, the "Stimulus") that we will no longer make life sustaining efforts for those who have passed the point of usefulness to zee state, yah?"

But I pointed out that had the authors of the bill NOT have put in protections against padding medical bills by performing needless tests and procedures, you would have been the VERY FIRST to point out that the bill had no protections against abuses of the money-wasting variety.

And rather than recognize and acknowledge the internal inconsistency in your argument, you go to your default place: vilification and character slander.

It's the equivalent of playing a losing game, then knocking over the chess board rather than admitting it. Thus, your richly earned zero.

The power of one.
This is what makes science so great and why socialists like yourself must really hate its power.
One man can had has changed the world, many times.
It is not a collective activity or a consensus.
Science is about what can be proven.
Creating an environment of individual liberty promotes the creativity required for such breakthroughs.

The Large Hadron Collider
Thirty years ago we were still just filling in the blanks for our preliminary elemental physics questions. We thought that physics was nearly a completed science, and that we were just putting the finishing touches on a few minor details.

Little did we know we had yet to learn how to ask the most basic questions, the mysteries surrounding dark matter and an even darker energy. And now we have gotten that far.

So CERN has constructed their new particle accelerator, to work out some of those answers. And when we get those pieces of basic information digested, there's no doubt that even bigger questions will be posed.

Personally, I think today's energy problem will some day be thought of as a quaint relic of the old low-tech days, once we figure out how to build working antigrav units. But of course we can recall a day when everyone thought we'd all be wearing cheap, atomic-powered wrist watches that never needed winding. No one anticipated quartz crytals.

Hand me my personal jet-pack. I'm outa here.

Big money projects vs small
Something as simple as 'cold fusion' is actively ignored but the big money projects are promoted.
If you investigate how white LEDs were developed, by one man in Japan, you may appreciate that in most cases, the big science projects seldom produce equivalent results.

That was my point
Marjon, you ought to go back and read the entire thread. Elizedge made the point that if we weren't aborting so many fetuses we might have more scientific breakthroughs, from all those additional minds going to work on our problems. And you and I agree it only takes one.

Providing, of course, that it is open and prepared. You will recall the old saying, "Chance favors the prepared mind."

Individual liberty has little to do with it, at least if it entails all the baggage you stick the term with (limited government, gold-backed money, no taxes, slavish adherence to constitutional literalism, a disregard for the welfare of others less fortunate, etc.).

Look at Archimedes. The Greece he lived in was hardly a model of your kind of warrior republic. Polybius tells us his Syracuse was ruled by the tyrant Hieronymous.

Now let's look at the Florence of Leonardo da Vinci. Wasn't that also governed by despotic rule? Were the Borgias promoting personal freedom back then?

Sir Francis Bacon, similarly, made his intellectual breakthroughs at a time when all independent thought was stifled by a literal and authoritarian Catholic Church.

Can we make some sort of universal rule about that? Maybe absolute rule by some heavy handed despot is essential for the creative juices to flow... hm?

Put some flesh on those bare bones for us. Make sense of it all.

Good suggestion, glad you made it
"Something as simple as 'cold fusion' is actively ignored but the big money projects are promoted."

Cold fusion actually attracted a LOT of interest when it was first announced. Remember?

But scientists are by their nature a skeptical lot. And the idea was very quickly found to be bogus.

"If you investigate how white LEDs were developed, by one man in Japan, you may appreciate that in most cases, the big science projects seldom produce equivalent results."

There are certainly many great discoveries that have been made by lone inventors, in their basement labs. But for the most part science doesn't move forward that way. For one thing, people need to make a living. Not many among us can afford to spend our days and nights cooped up in the lab, hoping for a breakthough that may never pay off.

Like it or not, under the capitalist model all scientists need to be making a living by working in very large research labs, funded by huge amounts of seed money. It may not be the best way.. but it's the way we do business now.

Maybe what we need would be to have some Big Government devoting more taxpayer funds for research conducted by lonely inventors working out of their garages.

Yes, with one caveat
The plan only works well when you retire the money after it has done it's work.

In other words a viable rescue plan has to balance the budget over the business cycle. Inject enough money to kick start the economy, then tax it back out of existence once we're rolling in dough.

Done right, it leaves the economy in high gear while zeroing out all the debt accrued.

Not bogus. It is still has not been explained.
Which is why cold fusion has been actively ignored. It is bad PR.

I provided a link to a Navy scientist who studied the phenomena under the condition it not be referred to as 'cold fusion'.

Here is the link: read the forward

U.S. Navy Report Supports Cold Fusion
""As I write this Foreword, California is experiencing rolling blackouts due to power shortages. Conventional engineering, planned ahead, could have prevented these blackouts, but it has been politically expedient to ignore the inevitable. We do not know if Cold Fusion will be the answer to future energy needs, but we do know the existence of Cold Fusion phenomenon through repeated observations by scientists throughout the world. It is time that this phenomenon be investigated so that we can reap whatever benefits accrue from additional scientific understanding. It is time for government funding organizations to invest in this research.

Dr. Frank E. Gordon, Head
Navigation and Applied Sciences Department
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, San Diego""

"At China Lake, Dr. Miles and his collaborators showed that a correlation exists between the rate of the excess enthalpy generation and the quantity of helium in the gas stream. Such a correlation is the direct evidence of the nuclear origin of the Fleischmann-Pons effect.

The research at NRL was directed toward the metallurgy of palladium and its alloys and the theoretical aspects of the Fleischmann-Pons effect. In particular, Dr. Imam prepared Pd/B alloys that Dr. Miles used in calorimetric experiments. It was shown that these alloys yielded reproducible excess enthalpy generation with minimal incubation times (approximately 1 day). The theoretical work of Dr. Chubb contributed much to our understanding of the Fleischmann-Pons effect."

Give me some examples of breakthroughs by Big Government Labs.

"Science starts to get interesting when things don’t make sense. "
"Science’s best-kept secret is this: even today, there are experimental results and reliable data that the most brilliant scientists can neither explain nor dismiss. In the past, similar "anomalies" have revolutionized our world, like in the sixteenth century, when a set of celestial anomalies led Copernicus to realize that the Earth goes around the sun and not the reverse, and in the 1770s, when two chemists discovered oxygen because of experimental results that defied all the theories of the day. And so, if history is any precedent, we should look to today’s inexplicable results to forecast the future of science. In 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, Michael Brooks heads to the scientific frontier to meet thirteen modern-day anomalies and discover tomorrow’s breakthroughs. "

Just when people begin to think they know everything, they find out they are wrong. At leasty the smart ones do.

" tax it back out of existence once we're rolling in dough."
Wow! What ignorance!

Progress in Medicine
If you divide the time since the United States was founded, 1789, into three periods, and take the beginning technology of the first year and compare it with the last year, the last third has indeed been the slowest progress. It is also the only one with Government regulators, the FDA, acting as barriers to the market. Most of the pitiful progress we have made has been at the times when the DOD used its authority in times of war to knock the FDA aside. Just the communications revolution in infrastructure alone should have made this the most revolutionary period in medicine.

As for progress in the other sciences slowing, yes but we have to recognize the effects of not having a standard currency. In 1789 there were 19 dollars to the oz. of gold and a postage stamp for a letter to anywhere in this country was 3¢, in 1913 when Woodrow Wilson replaced the dollar with the Federal Reserve Note gold was 21 dollars to the oz. and a postage stamp was 2¢. The postage stamp is included because technological progress had driven down costs even though the potential delivery distances had increased from Maine to South Carolina to from Maine to California.

The national currency in use has gone from retaining 90.5% of its value in the first 124 years to only retaining 2.2 % if its value over the last 96 years. That degree of instability has a horrible effect on long term investment in industry and science. A currency is functionally supposed to be a standardized unit of wealth. When the standardization breaks down so does the function of currency. Investment becomes gambling and business becomes bookmaking.

A few facts for poor Roy

You are embarrassing.
1) The last eight years Bush has knocked down two militantly anti-American regimens
2) Caused other countries like Libya to abandon pursuit of nuclear weapons.
3) According to Jane's Publication's last conference in Sept. 2008, in London the current accounts deficit with China has created 60 million middle class jobs there and moved China to a peace footing and away from a war posture. Why go to war when you get to be the most successful leaders in China's history without it.
4) Prior to the Pelosi/Reid congress taking over in 2007 increased the United States GDP by more than the entire GDP of China. Even as of January 20, 2009 the United States is still doing much better than Europe.

5) 23% of the national debt has accumulated since the end of 2006. Newt Gingrich demonstrated that it was possible as Speaker to balance the budget even with a liberal President. Pelosi demonstrated that it is impossible to balance the budget with a liberal Speaker.

Bush had to let many things slide because he always had too much on his plate after 9/11 but he really did better than the average President.

A fickle government has to most damaging to anyone contemplating projects that require massive capital investment.

You didn't even understand the argument
You don't like it when "wealth" is created by government spending. And the only logical reason buttressing that position is that it adds to the debt we must pay back.

So the obvious answer is to balance the budget, paying back immediately what we put into emergency spending. Yet that's no good either.

So explain why it's bad to balance the budget.

Wealth is NOT created by government spending...
because the money spent was confiscated from wealth that could have been used much more efficiently by those who created it in the first place.

Points worth mentioning
Your opinion is always welcome. But IMO it doesn't hold much water here.

Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan were threats to the United States in any way at the time pre-emptive war was waged on them. Their military forces were but a tiny fraction of ours, plus they had no delivery capability to mount any real threat halfway across the world. "Anti-American"? Sure. Everybody is. But were they ever going to do anything about it? Hardly.

The real threats, then and now, have been Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani military. Both have been nurturing the hatred that comes from Wahhabi teachings, and raising that generation of militant Islamist that mounted the actuall attack.

Yet nothing has been done about them. If you want to know a few of the reasons why, read Robert Baer's excellent insider's view "Sleeping with the Devil".

It contains nothing that wasn't readily known to anyone the morning of September 12, 2001. Yet at that moment, the Bin Laden family and other guests of state were being flown out of the country, while civil aviation was in complete lockdown.

Why? Ask Bush's daddy.

2. Qaddafi gave up being nuclear and anti-American because it wasn't getting him anywhere. Now, as being non-nuclear and pro-American also isn't getting him anywhere, we should not be surprised if some day he turns again. If you offer someone a carrot you should give them a carrot. Otherwise they get ticked.

3. Not sure what your argument is. Yup, our chronic trade deficit has been good for China. Mighty good. It also gives us lots of cheap crap to buy, compensating us for our deteriorating wages. I agree.

4. Your assertions are both questionable and unbacked. When manufacturing capacity was transferred from the US to China, a chunk of our GDP was also transferred. This is a loss to us. The ONLY reason our GDP still looks good on paper is the miraculous multiplication of money on paper, in the financial sector. However it seems this was only a paper illusion, a puff of smoke.

Nuts and bolts make lots of jobs and a strong economy. No way to get around that premise.

5. I agree entirely. Congress is responsible for federal deficits. Congress has no backbone, is run by the lobbyists who pay for its services, and is so hopelessly partisan that no worthwhile business is likely to be conducted in the foreseeable future.

Both sides are equally to blame. To be partisan in the atmosphere of the past thirty years is in some degree to be a nitwit. Or, more politely, to have missed the point.

However, even though we disagree on some of these topics, please feel free to jump in. Content of any sort is more than welcome in these arid, doctrinaire pages. You might avoid the gratuitous jab, though. It's counter productive.

TCS Daily Archives