WASHINGTON -- Around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 150 or so people gathered in an otherwise empty National Press Club in downtown D.C.
Hours earlier, in the room down the hall, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had drawn throngs of press during an appearance before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Now, none remained. Instead, attendees still in their work attire sat around tables sipping wine and eating moderately moist chicken dinners, waiting to hear from the guest of the night, a doctor from the Boston Children's Hospital whom few in D.C. -- outside those walls -- knew of.
Dr. Frederick Alt, a 66-year-old Harvard professor of genetics, is responsible for some of the most consequential breakthroughs in cancer research. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the keynote speaker who preceded Alt onstage, described him as a "luminary in the constellation of cancer fighters."
That night, Alt was receiving the Szent-Györgyi Prize from the National Foundation for Cancer Research for a twofold breakthrough. Decades ago, Alt upended conventional wisdom of human genome behavior when he discovered that cancer cells had the capacity to genetically amplify themselves, allowing them to spread, become more dangerous and resist treatments. From there, he discovered how chromosomes recognize the "machinery" that keeps their genomes stable -- a machinery that cancer cells lack. That led to a better understanding of how to protect DNA from the sort of critical damage caused by many cancers. It was research that another speaker called "foundational."
Now on the downward arc of his four-decade career, Alt could have been excused if, on Wednesday, he enjoyed a glass or two of wine and took his award in stride: the compliments of an organization whose mission aligns with his research. But the undertone of the evening's affair was more political, and more dour, than that.
Alt isn't just invested in understanding the genetics of cancer. He's preoccupied by the idea that the next generation of American scientists might not be there to take the baton he's passing.
"I think now is the worst I have ever seen it," he told The Huffington Post of the funding climate, hours before the award ceremony. "The biggest worry is that science as we’ve known it for the past many decades, where we are the leaders -- it is going to disappear if this keeps going.”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/30/nih-cancer-research_n_7180894.html?icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl1|sec3_lnk3%26pLid%3D-198281747
What an idiotic statement.
We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from the safety of fluoride and vaccines to the reality of climate change—faces organized and often furious opposition. Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts. There are so many of these controversies these days, you’d think a diabolical agency had put something in the water to make people argumentative. And there’s so much talk about the trend these days—in books, articles, and academic conferences—that science doubt itself has become a pop-culture meme. In the recent movie Interstellar, set in a futuristic, downtrodden America where NASA has been forced into hiding, school textbooks say the Apollo moon landings were faked.
In a sense all this is not surprising. Our lives are permeated by science and technology as never before. For many of us this new world is wondrous, comfortable, and rich in rewards—but also more complicated and sometimes unnerving. We now face risks we can’t easily analyze.
Oh please, religion has a history of suppressing science that endangers the dogma they preach to keep the sheep in line. That has not changed. Stem cell research, dna research, climatology, anything that goes against baby jeebus has funding cut. GMAFB...The Christers love the dark ages of the world being flat and adam and eve riding a dinosaur.
That's why I only get my news and science from this here forum.