TRUTH about US R&D SPENDING from BRITISH NATURE

Gregory R. Harriman gregoryh at bcm.tmc.edu
Sun Apr 21 13:29:22 EST 1996


While many of Herman Rubin's previous comments deserve responses, I only
want to respond to two of his more amusing comments.

Previously Herman Rubin wrote:

> Research into treating a disease is rarely basic research.  Billions have
> been spent in attempts to find cures for cancer; if 5% of that had gone into
> basic research, we would probably have been farther along.  Basic researchers
> cannot tell a government agency what they are going to be doing next year,
> as they do not know.

This really does suggest Dr. Rubin knows or understands very little about
biomedical research.  A large proportion (probably a majority) of the
funds spent on cancer research over the last 25 years would be categorized
as basic, rather than applied research.  Sure, the goal is to find a cure
for cancer.  This isn't the criterion used to distinguish between basic
and applied research.  It may indicate targeted versus non-targeted
research but that has little, a priori, to do with whether research is
basic or applied.

and in a latter post he wrote:

> It should be noted that the oldest living person, whose age can be
> reliably ascertained, is 120 and gave up smoking 6 years ago.  

Some of Dr. Rubin's arguments, given that he is presumably an academic and
a statistician, are truly astounding.  The comment above suggests he has
no understanding of the concept of probability.  Using his reasoning, I
could make the statement: "John Doe was unharmed when the gun he was
holding did not discharge after placing a bullet in the revolver and
spinning the chamber.  Therefore, playing Russian Roulette is not
dangerous."  In the broader sense, while I do not favor the government
forcing people to stop smoking, even though it kills many, many more
people every year than alcohol or drugs, I certainly don't object to some
regulation of this drug (nicotine) delivery vehicle by the government. 
And, it's not unreasonable to expect the people who smoke to "pay their
own way" in terms of the economic and medical costs to society from death
and disease caused by tobacco.

Greg Harriman



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