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Predicting the Past

Dr. Greek contradicts himself.

First, he states nobody knows where the next big breakthrough will come from.  Then, he claims to know the probability of medical discoveries for various research areas.

Despite his claim, there is no calculation of the probability of yielding new therapies and cures for the different fields of research in Dr. Greek’s book.   If I am mistaken, I’d like to be provided the page number in the book so we can all look at these data.

Dr. Greek states learning how the brain works has no relevance to addressing disease.  We disagree.  If you want to fix your car or television, you are in a much better position if you know how they work to begin with.  The same is true for the brain or any other organ. 

Dr. Greek argues imaging technologies such as PET and MRI (actually developed with the help of animal research) has contributed far more than animals to our understanding of brain function.   

He is absolutely wrong.  Golgi and Ramon y Cajal used animals in their studies of the basic structure of the nervous system;  Adrian used them in his studies of action potentials and how neurons communicate; Sherrington for his studies of the spinal cord and reflexes; Von Bekesy in his studies of cochlear function; Eccles, Hodgkin and Huxley in their studies of the ionic mechanisms of neuronal function; Levi-Montalcini in her studies of development; Katz in his studies of synaptic release; Hartline in his studies of retinal function; Hubel and Wiesel for their studies of visual cortex; Kandel for his studies of learning and memory; Buck and Axel for their studies of odorant receptors; and the list goes on and on.  

Every single one of the investigators listed above received the Nobel prize in Medicine for their contributions to neuroscience.

Finally, Dr Greek did not answer my question: should we fund string theory or not?  One might argue, as he does, that the research budget is limited and what is being spent in string theory cannot be used for the exclusive research he proposes we do.  He specifically said he supports funding for another endeavor in physics (nanotechnology), but now he refuses to tell us if he wants to fund work in string theory.

Why the refusal?  The reason is simple: he cannot tell what’s going to happen next.  His support of nanotechnology today is after the fact -- he wants to fund it because the field shows promise today.   

Perhaps his magic 8-ball is limited to predicting the past?


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