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Nationalist Medicine? What Crap is This?

I would guess that, at this point, I’ve worked with people from every region of the planet except Greenland and Antarctica. That’s how it is in drug research, and how it is in science in general. The problems and questions we’re working on are bigger than any one nationality; we’re tackling these things as a species.

Which is why it’s disquieting to see this sort of thing. That article reports that the (quite nationalist) government in Hungary is causing trouble for universities there, specifically the Central European University, accusing it and some of its faculty members of being in the pay of opponents of the government. It’s especially sad to see the national science funding agency participate in such actions. Hungarian scientists were a profound influence on the 20th century; the country produced a run of mathematicians, physicists, biologists, and chemists that had colleagues at Los Alamos joking that they must be Martians in disguise. But they didn’t get to that point by trying to do only Pure Hungarian Research, because there’s no such thing.

No more than there is Pure American, Pure German, or Pure Chinese Research.A look at what Germany did to its own scientific establishment under the National Socialist government should be all that’s needed as an argument, but apparently not. These things are dangerous fantasies, because talent comes from everywhere (and it often doesn’t conform to any given government’s ideology, either). I have a strong feeling that the current Hungarian government would be denouncing John von Neumann as a secret agent of George Soros were he or his like alive today. And they’re doing their best to make sure that the country never produces another such figure, which is a loss for the human race.

Here’s another example of nationalism at work, this time in drug research. The Chinese government is apparently planning to drop requirements for safety and efficacy testing of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapies. Xi Jinping himself is a big advocate, and what more do you need? Students who want to become TCM practitioners no longer need to pass the national medical exam to open their practices. Not only are these preparations getting easy regulatory treatment – the government is making it harder and harder for anyone to express any contrary opinions about them:

With strong government support for the alternative medicines industry, Chinese censors have been quick to remove posts from the Internet that question its efficacy. On 23 October, an article on a medical news site that called for closer attention to the risks of aristolochic acid was removed from social media site WeChat. The story had been viewed more than 700,000 times in three days.

Debate over TCMs has been silenced before in China. Last year, a Beijing think tank — the Development Research Center of the State Council — proposed banning the practice of extracting Asiatic black bear bile, another common ingredient in TCMs. The think tank’s report questioned the remedy’s efficacy and suggested using synthetic alternatives. It was removed from the think tank’s website after the Chinese Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which supports the development of TCM, called it biased and demanded an apology.

You can go to jail for criticizing this stuff. Now, I think the way that the US regulates (or doesn’t regulate) “dietary supplements” is a disgrace, but this is insanely worse. China has a great many excellent scientists, in a great many fields, and in drug research in particular they’re working on joining the short list of countries who have their own research-based drug industry that can produce new therapies to help patients around the world. But this effort will not be aided by making it easier for the black bear bile industry. I leave aside for another time discussion of how some of these “remedies” are driving animals around the world to extinction, but that’s just another argument for actually seeing if any of these things work (or even cause actual harm instead), and taking them off the market if they don’t. But the Chinese government has made the cynical calculation that promoting this stuff will pay off politically.

And you know what? There’s a connection between these two examples. Guess what the Hungarian government is interested in promoting? Traditional Chinese medicine:

Government spokespeople declined to answer specific questions about CEU, but did address another flash point: the country’s growing embrace of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). On 16 April, Hungary’s University of Szeged signed an agreement with the Shaanxi University of Chinese Medicine in Xianyang, China, to bring TCM researchers, medical experts, and lecturers to teach in the region. The University of Pécs in Hungary has had a similar arrangement since 2015.

Last year, the Hungarian government also announced plans to allocate about €4.5 million ($5.3 million) to build a new institute with a whole floor dedicated to TCM at Semmelweis University, one of the most prestigious medical schools in Hungary. The government says it wants to bridge the gap between Western medicine and Eastern alternatives to improve Hungarian health care, and also strengthen the economic, political, and cultural ties between Hungary and China.

I would guess that the most important word in that last sentence is “economic”. It’s pretty strange to see the Hungarian government deciding that the honor of Hungary has to be protected by embracing Chinese herbal remedies, but I’m sure that there are plenty of idiotic speeches laying this connection out in soul-eroding detail. No, this sort of thing is bad news. The reason science works is that we ask questions, investigate them to the best of our abilities, and build on the results that we get whether we like them or not. Wishful thinking doesn’t work so well. The physical world does what it does independent of anyone’s political agenda or nationalist sloganeering, and pretending otherwise is shameful and stupid.

97 comments on “Nationalist Medicine? What Crap is This?”

  1. The Iron Chemist says:

    Well, that’s one way to enact population control…

  2. johnnyboy says:

    Throughout the world, we’re seeing the Rise of the Angry Morons. I used to have hope for the future of humanity, but 2016 quashed that. Now all I hope is that I die before our warming, drying world collapses in a series of clashes between various authoritarian governments.

    1. They are not, by and large, any more Morons than anyone else. What they do get, though, is that they’re under attack by self-styled Not-Morons who call them names like Angry Morons, and Basket of Deplorables, and they’re to vote for some crazy monster purely because he’s not some neoliberal drone, and to irritate the self-styled Not Morons, because, why not? The self-styled Not Morons have pretty much taken everyone’s stuff already.

      1. Hap says:

        If you do things that are inconsistent and have been tried and failed before and yet keep doing them, what are people supposed to think of you, exactly? Clinton’s failures as a candidate were amplified in Trump’s (more dishonest, less experience, less secure) and yet a bunch of people elected him (allegedly) to combat those same failures. Choosing someone whose career has been a good example of how to rob your friends to prevent an abusive elite from robbing you further seems also…flawed.

        If your voters insist on holding intellectual positions that can be debunked by a three-year old with a cold, I’m not sure why they ought to expect anything other than contempt, particularly when paired with affinities for nationalist and racist policies that have performed so well in practice (and by performed well, I mean at initiating mass murder and unnatural disasters). Perhaps the entitlement arrow is misdirected?

        1. BigSky says:


        2. Yes yes, you don’t like them and have contempt for them.

          Mocking them is working out really well, isn’t it?

          1. johnnyboy says:

            Yes, I’m sure it’s much better to pretend to understand them, and accept their xenophobia and racism because really it’s all the fault of the liberal educated middle class.
            You clearly are not one of them, but your appeasement is the most ridiculously misguided thing i’ve heard in a while. I don’t need to understand racism, xenophobia and misogyny – I know pretty much everything I need to know about it already, and I know that the reason it exists is not because ‘I took all their stuff’, and that they were ‘under attack’ from me. Nationalistic authoritarians are not gaining ground because of support from the poor (who largely either vote left or don’t vote), but because of support from the uneducated and unworldly, who are easy to manipulate and scare into fearing the ‘other’.

          2. Anonymous says:

            This reply might be out of place; see also johnnyboy and loupgarous posts about an educated (or uneducated) electorate. And the relation to uneducated consumers and promoters of TCM who oppose scientific testing. Some of the comments here reminded me of this piece from 7 years ago:
            Don’t let ignorant people vote.
            By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor.
            April 12, 2011 2:38 p.m. EDT
            * Public debate is weakened by views founded on ignorance.
            * We shouldn’t entrust the nation to people elected by those who don’t really know the system.
            * People who want to vote should pass a test such as the one for citizenship.
            * Politicians often cater to those who are least informed.
            To repeat: that item was published in 2011. In 2011, Trump was doing Celebrity Apprentice and leading the Birther Movement.

          3. Hap says:

            L: I don’t know that there were good candidates. I don’t think Sanders would have done better in the election than Clinton and I thought he would have been a worse President than Clinton. On the Republican side, I don’t know who could have gotten elected that would have been sane – Cruz had serious problems, Walker couldn’t run his campaign, much less a country, and anyone to the left of those seemed like a non-starter (Kasich, Huntsman, etc.). I don’t think Clinton’s flaws were as big as Trump’s and even if you thought they were (or her ideology was intolerable), Trump’s lack of honesty and the policies he supported meant that he was unlikely to achieve the ends many of the people voted for him wanted (worse so, even than voting for rich liberals). If breaking the government was a goal (to start over), you’d have been better off pulling the trigger in 2011 (by better off, more likely to make a competent conservative government).

            I think calling nationalism out of its lair to get support is a mistake, because it seems to be paired with lots of bad people with ill intent, and because putting that genie back in the bottle without killing it (and us) is really hard.

            I hope you get better.

        3. This thread is so disheartening. Usually comments in In The Pipeline are so wonderful.

          Don’t you see how the broad brushes being used here to dismiss a huge population in the middle part of the country are wrong? Do you all really think these things about 50 million voters?

          Imagine, for just a moment, that you’re a plumber in Kansas City, reading these words. Would
          you not want to stick it to “Hap” and “johnnyboy” just a little, for painting you as, basically, an ignorant animal? Hell, I want to stick it to “Hap” and “johnnyboy” just a little, and I voted for Clinton.

          1. loupgarous says:

            in 2016 I voted for the least felonious candidate, and that was not Clinton. I really resented influence over the foreign policy of my country being sold by Mrs. Clinton (the sole support for her recent claim to be “a capitalist”). And I really resent the fact that not voting for someone I considered to be a mentally unstable criminal meant I had to vote for someone who has the self-control of a hormonal teenager. We had no good choices in 2016.

            But I agree with Derek that the Hungarian leadership, in their full embrace of Soros Derangement Syndrome, are doing their nation and people no favors. Famous Hungarian scientists like Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, John von Neumann, and others probably wouldn’t fare too well with the people who now run Hungary, because of the same idea that science has a nationality.

            Quackery, on the other hand, needs the sort of special pleading you can find in anti-intellectual politics. It can’t survive intellectual audit, so the people who think that amygdalin cures cancer, that you can reverse atherosclerosis with EDTA, and that a 1:10²⁴ solution of anything has magic curative powers (to cite “traditional western medicines” hawked for decades with no proof at all of their safety and effectiveness), first thing, have to work up a good level of outrage at those “liberal smart-asses” and their scientific method.

            The capture of politics by those who actively oppose intellectual inquiry and analysis, unfortunately, proceeds worldwide and across ideological lines. Otherwise, the 2016 Presidential race in the US would have been between better candidates than we had to choose from.

          2. johnnyboy says:

            well go ahead, tell your plumber to ‘stick it’ to me in your next elections. Because that’s what democracy is all about, right ? It’s not about electing competent, knowledgeable people who will write laws and make policies to manage problems and move the country forward. No, elections are just there to piss off people you don’t like. Good luck with your country mate.

          3. Hap says:

            Isn’t that what they’ve done before, though? Generally find people that you don’t like and say it’s their fault, Get rid of them if you can, or focus hatred on them as a distraction if you can’t. Wash, rinse, repeat.

            Has that ever worked (by worked, I mean made a stronger, better country)? It seems it mostly turns countries to dreck. It didn’t do wonders for Germany, and Serbia had the most refugees of any of the Balkan states it tried to eradicate. If you try something that has failed badly and repeatedly before, your dislike of arrogance and the people who display will not make your life better, if it exists. If people choose to pair it with contempt for the existence of others (racism), I don’t know why you would expect that 1) contempt would be a sufficient justification of anger and hatred, and 2) that those people would engender anything but contempt.

            The people who epitomize the worst of the Trump years – the VA Nazis, for example – they seem to have understood well what he means for them, and what they want from him and his supporters. I don’t think silence and acceptance has done much to make them disappear (ignorance, like fungi thrive in the dark). If you decide that arrogance is worse than evil, I don’t really know what to tell you.

          4. Doug Brooks says:

            This is not intended as a reply to any particular post, but to this thread as a whole. Let me preface this by saying that those here, on both sides, are the least of the problem I am about to rail against, because you’re here, talking to each other.

            The biggest problem we have today is that we have, by and large, stopped talking to each other. Left and right have retreated into their respective echo chambers and many of us have no contact with the other side (or, rather, sides – political ideologies don’t actually fit neatly on a left-right spectrum). This makes it easy to “otherize” those who disagree with you, and to assume nefarious motives on their part. That in turn gives room to the worst elements of both sides, like white nationalists and “anti”fascists. We’ve given up on trying to persuade each other to focus on beating each other.

            Persuasion is hard. Worse, it’s scary, because, in order to persuade another person to change their views, you have to first be persuadable. Listen, as well as speak. Build a rapport. Come to understand that this person who stands in the way of the better world you envision for yourself and your children also wants a better world. Approach every conversation with a little intellectual humility. After all, most ideas most human beings have ever had have been wrong. Most of yours probably are, too.

          5. Hap says:

            I’m happy to not have contempt for other people, because we are almost certainly going to live with one other another (there’s no partition that isn’t going to end very badly, for one thing) and we disagree on what the country should do and likely how it should do it. This is easier for me, though, because no one wants me not to exist or not to be here.

            I don’t know if most ideas are wrong; most ideas are incomplete, and may be used beyond their domains of applicability (because we have a pretty toy, and so we want to use it on everything), but they probably have some level of evidence. Given that people who think they’re gods (or should be) have been our biggest threat, there’s probably a good reason for arrogance to be disliked – it’s a cousin of other, worse sins, or their ancestors.

            Logic, though, can’t be beaten. If you want to do things, you need to follow the path most likely to achieve them, and if they’ve gone badly before, then you probably ought to have some ideas on how not to have that happen again. Hope is not a plan. If you make decisions that can’t get you what you want, and have lots of consequences for others, then people are going to get annoyed with you, and want you to make better ones. Assuming that your ignorance is as good as other people’s evidence is another version of arrogance; whether it works out any better than the other depends on whose mind is more closed.

          6. “We had no good choices in 2016.”

            This. When I went to vote, I was handed a ballot with the names of six candidates for President, in a state that does not permit write-in voting for President.

            Every one of them was utterly unfit for the office.

            So what do we do about it? With the exception of a few pundits at National Review who continue pointing out that their party’s candidate was awful, and who get excoriated for it as “RINOs” or “cuckservatives” by the tribalists on the right, everyone is busy pointing out how awful the other side’s candidate was. This accomplishes squat.

          7. Hap says:

            I don’t know that any of the alternative choices for the Republicans would have been obviously better (Cruz, Santorum, Walker), and the Democrats had few and they weren’t good (I don’t think Sanders would have done as well, and I don’t know if Biden would have, either). I think if lots of people in The Republican Party thought Trump had connections to the Russians that they should have been looked at sooner, but the party chooses who its members want.

            We don’t seem to want more parties, and so we need to choose better people to run for office, but I don’t know how that is going to happen. Everyone on my side is pure as the driven snow and slandered by the other party and doing what’s right. In theory, the reliance on evidence should be a hindrance, so that we have a check on our worst instincts, but that’s not working yet (and since there are fewer places to get information that anyone or everyone trusts, that seems not be improving).

          8. Martin says:

            Thank you, Andrew. I’m not an intellectual and have not had as good an education as probably most people reading this – I was a cleaner for the UK’s National Health Service till a month ago – and I have felt the contempt of people like jonnyboy for many years. It has become all the more evident since the Brexit vote here in the UK. I suppose I’ve got a chip on my shoulder and feel resentment but I do feel that when you have had the privilege of a good education you should not then look down your nose at people who, for no fault of their own, were not lucky enough to receive the same. To be humble and understand how others feel – the position you take – is like a breath of fresh air to me. Don’t despair, your words may fall on deaf ears with people like jonnyboy but they are a tonic to people like me.

          9. Derek Lowe says:

            This is a real problem, and it’s a difficult one to discuss without enraging one (or both) parties while doing so. I wrestled with some of it in this post, about expertise in drug research and in general:

            At any rate, I’m always very glad to hear from readers who come from outside drug research, outside chemistry, or outside a scientific background entirely. There are more than one might think. . .

          10. Hap says:

            This is a knife that cuts both ways, but: If you don’t people to have contempt for you, don’t treat others with contempt.

            For roughly the last forty years (in the US), it seems like a whole bunch of policies have been supported and enacted to marginalize or get rid of other people (e.g., why did making gay people not get married make heterosexual marriage stronger, particularly in the absence of changes to divorce laws?). If those are the policies you want, then complaining that people are mad at you because of them seems unreasonable. The policies have been made and supported for a long time, so the idea that others’ contempt for advocacy of them is the cause of your anger seems antihistorical. It sounds like people want to be able to implement their contempt for other people without having to take responsibility for it.

            If the contempt is secondary to what you really want, then that needs to be made clear to the people who you chose, or you need to choose different people. If your desired goals can be achieved without contempt for others, then maybe they should. If they can’t, then the contempt is going to be there, and expecting people to be not mad at you isn’t reasonable and won’t happen. The problem here is that the contempt seems to be the only reason for the choices people made – if you wanted the elite foxes away from the henhouse, hiring another fox to guard it doesn’t seem to have been a reasonable choice. If that’s the case, then expecting a pass on the contempt is not reasonable. People got what they wanted, and what they wanted was to hurt others. Expecting the others to be happy with that is not reasonable.

          11. Hap says:

            This actually works pretty well, though it’s been a long time since either political party trusted the other or politicians in general:

            Mocking people, however gently, isn’t a trust builder….It’s about trust, so, attack that underlying problem, of rebuilding the trust that was once there.

            That part I get, though it’s hard, because the gut responce to “#$%^ you!” is “No, $%^& you!”.

        4. Unperson says:

          This place really needs a “report” button.

    2. BKF says:

      Climate change has been happening since our planet had a climate. What you’re seeing will not be the end of the world, just different. And it is happening slowly enough that we will have every opportunity to find technological solutions to the problems that are presented.

      Check back with me in about 200 years so I can say “Told ya so.”

  3. Industry Guy says:

    We move closer and closer to the world portrayed in the movie Idiocracy. At the time it was released it was a ridiculous comedy, now closer and closer to reality.

    1. BK says:

      When I first watched Idiocracy when it first came out, I felt that it was a documentary even at that point…. However, now, it is becoming more and more apparent that the movie is a documentary. Want to go get some lattes?

  4. Hap says:

    It sounds more like politics here – throw in nationalist ick to get the core people to do what you want, and do what pays the bills. If the nationalism is good enough, then people don’t even ask what the policy you’re implementing has to do with your supposed ends. “You can’t reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into.”

    I wonder if a lot of countries are in a race to see how fast they can get to Venezuelan conditions. The winner gets…a signed copy of Hunger Games/i> and instructions on implementation?

  5. Chad Irby says:

    There is such a thing as “American science.”

    However, it tends to start with “hold my beer and watch this.”

    Not very rigorous, but a lot of fun.

    1. Hap says:

      For other people, sometimes (or if you’re far enough away).

  6. TCM(A) says:

    lol this is normal conversation for me: I practice alot of martial arts and everybody who does it is completely convinced that TCM is the real deal and ‘Western medicine’ is just a profit-making pyramid scheme based on lies and enforced by idealogue govts. The ironic thing is that the opposite is pretty much true. Most TCM was invented in the 1950’s.

  7. MoMo says:

    TCM goes back centuries if not millenia, and who’s to say Black Bear bile doesn’t work? But Modern Pharma follows their own Nationalist policies- drugging and saturating populations where they can while seeking insider information from governments or to influence our political leaders.

    1. John Wayne says:

      Black bears aren’t fans of this treatment

    2. Emjeff says:

      Thanks for checking in, and don’t forget to put your tin foil hat back on.

    3. Mad Chemist says:

      That’s not how this works. Medicine approval is based off of experimental and clinical data that indicates that the medicine is effective and doesn’t kill people. If you go by “who’s to say it doesn’t work”, you open the door for all sorts of quacks and fraudsters. I’ll agree there are flaws in the system, but that doesn’t mean the system itself is a problem.

      1. MoMo says:

        Like the tens of compounds from Modern Pharma pulled off the market after approval by “authorities” in the past.

        No matter what country you are from- you take the pill, you take the ride.

        1. Carbon Sandiego says:

          This is a textbook example of Whataboutism (

          What troll farm do you work for, and how much do you get paid? Also curious on the persona management software you people use to juggle accounts, and the types of web spyders that task blogs for your work queue – fast response times, these days..

        2. Bozo says:

          What about Mad Chemist’s point that modern medicine has to go through a trial to statistically prove effectiveness? Traditional medicine or indeed voodoo witchdoctory shouldn’t be exempted from the same standard of proof and anyone claiming it should is admitting that it would fail if put to the test.

    4. ;P says:

      I hear that Black Bear Bile is full of peroxynitrites…

      1. Mike D. says:

        Seriously? Man, that stuff was already a candidate for Things I Won’t Work With.

      2. Hap says:

        I think Lane is smart enough to leave this thread alone.

  8. Bagger Vance says:

    “We’re tackling these things a species!” he says, as his income is flat and job opportunities flee overseas.

    If Hungary didn’t have ‘strong nationalist sentiments’ it would have been absorbed long ago by any of the surrounding nations–not exactly sitting on an island there. In a hundred years Japan will still be Japanese, China will still be Chinese, and Hungary will apparently still be Hungarian. Replacing any of those populations with “smart immigrants” or Somalis will have the same result–a different people with different interests, culture, and scientific achievement.

    Everywhere else will apparently be Brazil. Derek’s grandchildren will be hated minorities in the country they inherit. And “open science borders for all” will only accelerate that result.

    1. Hap says:

      Yeah, but they might actually live and be able to feed their children. Nationalism hasn’t worked so well at making that possible.

    2. Hap says:

      Cultures are preserved by what they can do and make possible. When people are selling nationalism or cultural integrity, they generally haven’t actually been able to deliver anything that would make people want to accept their culture, but only fear.

      If you have to make people love and accept their culture, your culture has failed and should die. The question is how many people will get to join it in a shallow grave.

  9. anonymous says:

    I come from India and I know that the TCM causes havoc to native Tiger and one horned Rhino population as their body parts are prized in China. The African elephants were slaughtered and to my horror our native elephant god was made from these tusks! On being asked as to where they come from, I was told from China! It is crazy and what is going on in China is that it is practicing excessive capitalism with zeal, as if there is no tomorrow. Unlike the traditional Indian medicine that relays on natural herbs, plants and such, animals to the best of my knowledge are not involved. I wonder if things will changed for better? But am sure the great Hungarian minds such as Neumann, Polanyi, Gyorgyi, Olah are cringing in their grave.

  10. How can you ignore the seminal and groundbreaking studies by the Budapest Enthalpomics Group (BEG)?

  11. NMH says:

    Great. As the rest of the world becomes Venezuelan “blank-holes”, the smart science-minded people from these countries will move to the “west” (or what’s left of it) and compete with the smart science-minded natives for fewer and fewer jobs. Its funny how a few idiots in high places can really make things miserable for everybody else around the world.

    1. Design Monkey says:

      Actually those few eevil people in high places are elected there by huge mass stupidity of common people. That’ s absolutely the case with Hungary, Poland and so on, and, yeah, with USA too. As johnnyboy said, it’s The Rise of Angry Morons.
      And it’s nott pretty, because previous historical cases eventually elected, you know, that Adolph guy and similars.

  12. Billy says:

    I’m not so sure we’re any better than the Chinese. Every time I see a prevagen ad, I cringe.

  13. Design Monkey says:

    About China that is mostly no big deal. They have approx 1.4 billion population, and if they want to reduce and shorten it with use of their own traditional pseudomedicine, that is their own choice and their own local matter. The only two things to be sorry for, is: various endangered species, that Chinese are killing with it, and, stuffing people in jail for criticizing stupidity, too isn’ t good. Overall, a couple hundred millions or so Chinese less, that will be gradually offed with pseudomedicine use, doesn’t really matter much for civilization, especially when that is their own free will and choice, and especially, that it will off at first the poorest and stupidest ones. And if the Chinese want to degrade and destroy medical science in their country – not pretty, but again, their own choice and their own chosen and deliberately and carefully aimed shoot into their own leg.

    Now, that crawling Nazism, that is on rise in Hungaria (and Poland too as well, and maybe slightly less in Czechia, but there too) is more directly harmful to civilization. Supposedly European contries, bleeh.

    1. BernYeeIris says:

      China laughs at us for using acetaminophen, so pseudomedicine goes both ways. Here’s a blurb from a Chinese Medical Blog- Derek’s Asian equivalent.

      “Drug pushers and capitalism is a deadly mix. American pharma is proof of that”

      1. Design Monkey says:

        China has all rights to aim for India’s life expectancy and less, if they want. Indians too love their traditional medicinal bullsh!t of Ayurveda and likes.

  14. Hap says:

    Nationalism has mostly been affirmative action for bigots. I think there is enough evidence to conclude how well that works out.

    1. NMH says:

      Is not wanting your great, great, great grandchildren live under Sharia law considered bigotry?

      1. Hap says:

        So far, though, all it’s done is get lots of people killed while crapping all over the cultures it claims to honor. If your culture needs such a defense, it probably is not worth defending, and you will get something else in the future. Making your culture better would be a better idea. If someone intends to rewrite your culture or government by force, you have a police, and a military – but they’re there to preserve something, not to actually give you something to preserve.

      2. Hap says:

        Using nationalism to prevent Sharia law is like eating lunch and dinner everyday at McDonald’s to prevent a heart attack.

      3. Design Monkey says:


        How about not wanting your children to live under palefaces invasion?

  15. Philip says:

    Is Trump driving our climate scientists to France?
    Can we export Orrin Hatch to Hungry or China?

    1. MoMo says:

      Let’s hope so. France can pay for their upkeep and off the NIH welfare system.

  16. DCRogers says:

    Good news, my friend! This article is not (yet) blocked by the Great Firewall of China:

  17. Wavefunction says:

    What next, denouncing American or British Science the way the Nazis denounced Jewish Science or the Politburo denounced Capitalist Science (like Darwinism and resonance)?

  18. MMK says:

    That’s nonsense and misinformation, Derek. That Central European University is a private venture of George Soros, who is vehemently hostile (way beyond what is considered a “normal” democratic opposition in the West) to the Hungarian government, and is behind a massive propaganda campaign aimed at bringing them down. Not that Orban is a saint (far from it!) but this is just a part of a damaging propaganda war between Soros and Orban.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      CEU was indeed founded by George Soros. Is traditional Chinese medicine the cure for him?

      1. MMK says:

        Indeed it is not.

    2. tangent says:

      Not just a rhetorical question — so what does Soros do that goes past normal democratic opposition? Like in using abnormal or undemocratic methods, or do you mean he uses qualitatively normal methods in abnormal quantity?

      (Would you describe Soros as I might describe the way certain actors in the U.S. use our ‘normal’ tool of buying media outlets to shape their coverage, but to a degree that’s abnormal, or our ‘normal’ dirty tool of paying money for politicians’ sympathy, likewise?)

    3. Cymantrene says:

      Sorry to say, but that’s a big flat lie.
      Actually Soros helped the Fidesz and Viktor Orbán personally at the starts.
      Even a few years ago Orbán was defending Soros and the organisations connected to him.
      Now it’s simply on Orbán’s agenda to attack somebody/anybody to distract public awerness from corruption and stealing.

  19. Bagger Vance says:

    “Nationalism has mostly been affirmative action for bigots.”

    Nationalism is what created the countries as they are today. It’s funny how fifty years ago all of us in the anglosphere were horrible monocultural nationalist countries that put cured polio, discovered antibiotics and put men on the moon… and today we “need” diverse, multicultural (low-pay) scientists from every corner of the globe to maybe get FDA approval for another “me-too” drug. Progress!

    1. Hap says:

      We put people on the moon because of nationalists – if Hitler hadn’t sent us all his undesireds (and then lost), we wouldn’t have gone to the moon, among other things. So I guess nationalism worked well…at strengthening other countries. It’s done wonders for Serbia, Rwanda, Eritrea, Germany….

      Nationalism is a country’s suicide note to itself – it says that the products and methods of its culture are insufficient to sustain itself without force. At least some of the time, it ends up a murder-suicide, though. There’s that.

      I also hadn’t realized the US was a monoculture before 1950 – I bet all those immigrants who came here before then (and, what, ten million slaves) would be surprised to hear that. I guess history really does repeat itself, or at least rhymes.

    2. Derek Lowe says:

      OK Bagger, we cured polio, discovered antibiotics, and put men on the moon. Let’s see. Jonas Salk’s mother immigrated to the US when she was 12. Albert Sabin immigrated to the US when he was 15. Selman Waksman immigrated to the US when he was 22. Yellapragada Subbarow immigrated to the US when he was 27. Rene Dubos immigrated to the US when he was 23. Ernst Chain immigrated to England when he was 27. If you don’t know all of those names, this would be a good time to look them up. There are more.

      And as for going to the moon, you may have heard of Wernher von Braun? The rest of his team included Kurt Debus and others who were vital to the success of NASA in its early days. Gene Cernan was the son of E. European immigrants. Farouk el-Baz (from Egypt) was one of the main selectors of the landing sites. And so on.

      The US’s ability to attract talented, hard-working people who want to make a better life has been a huge part of its success. This comment did not increase my opinion of your intelligence nor your attention to detail. Even if you’re just trolling, you should try to do better: people will read this sort of stuff and think that perhaps there’s something not quite up to par about people who hold such opinions. And you wouldn’t want that.

      1. Bagger Vance says:

        All these years I don’t think I’ve ever seen Derek flat out call someone ‘stupid’ for disagreeing with him. Interesting. Humble Arkansan seeker after knowledge, or coastal elitist? Well, he’s been in Boston a long time now….

        I may troll a bit but I also just try to get a point across quickly, which in this case was: “this country did fine, and in many ways better, when it was a 90+% homogenous population. A few immigrants brain-drained from mostly developed countries didn’t impact the overall society the way mass third-world immigration, which is what Hungary is pushing back against, would.” And you can play the immigration game here up to a point but when small homogeneous countries like Ireland suddenly claim “we’re a nation of immigrants!” you have to wonder what’s going on–especially if you look at their demographics and see what Ireland will look like in 50 years.

        I mean, honestly, so many commenters here fall into the same trap as the MSM did last year when they think “the Nobel prize was won by immigrants!” is a great comeback–when these immigrants came from England, Scotland and Finland. Diverse multiculturalism! I should also point out that according to The Economist (I hope that’s high-brow enough for you) the US lead in Nobel prizes seems to be decreasing. Why would that be? Surely our diversity is our strength! (link in handle)

        Anyway all your name-dropping will avail you for naught, as the New Americans aren’t particularly impressed with anyone they can assume rose to prominence on the basis of White Supremacy. “Werner von Who? Everyone knows it was three sassy women of color that started the US space program, bigot!”

        1. Wavefunction says:

          The United States has always been good at attracting and assimilating people who then put the well being of their adopted country at the forefront of their efforts; Hans Bethe, Enrico Fermi, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar were all without a doubt patriotic Americans. If that’s the definition of nationalism, nothing wrong with it. When nationalism means giving priority to American interests without forgetting that sometimes America’s interests track well with those of the world, it’s a good thing. When it devolves into nativism, isolationism or straight up racism then we have a problem. I increasingly find a failure to define words to be a major part of the fragmentation of our national dialogue.

          1. Bagger Vance says:

            Well, I’d concur with much of that, although I don’t think it’s entirely by accident. “We changed some definitions around and whatayaknow, now you’re a ‘racist’!”

    3. anon says:

      Although I can not completely agree with you, emphasis on individualism and individual responsibility ( e.g. personal accountability and accessibility to GOD by protestant reformation) in the old Angelo-saxon culture created some unreasonable and unsociable people. It is these rebels and misfit who changed world, not the reasonable and agreeable ones. However, all scientists are the progenies of Greek Philosophy, Socratic Inquiry and Platonic God. In that sense, Science is and should remain a monolithic culture (regardless skin, clothe and language etc.).

    4. Chris Phoenix says:

      The U.S. has never been multicultural – remember that New York used to be New Amsterdam? Even the design of our democracy was based in part on Native ideas. And wave after wave of immigrants made us culturally stronger, more creative, and more resilient.

      Claiming that we have ever been any kind of “pure” or “monocultural” is pure ignorance.

    5. CD says:

      Re 50 years ago in the Anglosphere: it’s interesting how bigots get things so wrong when they try to be specific! My Dad was a mathematician and astronomer who contributed to the U.S. space program in the 1960s. He was an immigrant, as were most of his academic colleagues — French, Dutch, Italian, Indian, and Central European, prominently including Jewish refugees from European nationalisms. This is the milieu I grew up in, and it was emphatically neither monocultural nor Anglospherical.

  20. Hap says:

    Nationalism is an attempt to force the people of a country or culture to respect a culture (or, more likely, a version of a culture, anywhere from a mildly modified culture to a sick parody of it). You can’t enforce respect – fear and obedience, maybe, but not respect. If the people of your culture don’t understand its worth, the culture has failed. If your version of culture is incapable of commanding respect, then it is a failure. In neither case does nationalism make useful changes – it can’t achieve what the people using it claim to want. In that case, you have to look somewhere else for what the people espousing nationalism do want, and usually, when you look under that rock, you find what hangs out under rocks.

  21. Michael N says:

    “There is no national science, just as there is no national multiplication table; what is national is no longer science.”— Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
    In Anton Chekhov, S. S. Koteliansky (trans.) and Leonard Woolf (trans.), Note-Book of Anton Chekhov (1921), 18.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      Good for Chekhov! I hadn’t come across this quote from the good doctor.

      1. Tourettes of Chemistry says:

        Enlightenment Now (Pinker, 2017) captures some perspective on this.

        Lamar Smith, chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, has harassed NSF for things that are not in the interest of ‘defense or the economy – the national interests.’

        In response and as pointed out above: There is no national science in the same way there is no national multiplication table. – Chekhov; science does not recognize political boundaries is a grounded response.

        And here is what the good doctor on the Committee has to say:

        All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell … the Bible… teaches us how to run our public policy and everything in society.’ Rep. Paul Broun, MD, member, House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

        > There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’
        Isaac Asimov

        Linear thinking has been documented as the default standard of human mental function. Higher order and non-linear behaviors in the natural world and society are not intuitive without disciplined thinking. Data and observation are made subordinate to ‘gut feelings’ and steering from a wake of behavior that might not be in the current best interest – precedent is the uptown word. The constructs of man are always subject to being trumped by the constructs of Nature. Ignorance of the latter reality at scale and across time makes for choppy times.

    2. bruce says:

      Now let’s hear a quote from Sulu!

  22. Anonymous says:

    “… TCM at Semmelweis University.” The story of Ignaz Semmelweis should be inspirational He maintained careful records and observed that the rates of puerperal fever (childbed fever) and deaths differed from clinic to clinic. He investigated and eliminated many factors to determine why. The DATA led him to theorize that doctors were transporting “cadaverous particles” on their hands from autopsies and other surgeries to the childbirth clinic, thus spreading disease to the mothers. He introduced antiseptic hand washing with chlorinated lime solution as a simple preventive and the DATA showed that it worked. From wikipedia, “The mortality rate in April 1847 was 18.3%. After hand washing was instituted in mid-May, the rates in June were 2.2%, July 1.2%, August 1.9% and, for the first time since the introduction of anatomical orientation, the death rate was zero in two months in the year following this discovery.”

    Unfortunately for Semmelweis, the medical community was insulted by the insinuation that they were actually spreading disease. Semmelweis’ results were ignored, he was dismissed, and worse … and years later went insane and was institutionalized. He died from infections due to the beatings he received in the asylum.

    The danger of mentioning this story is that TCM supporters might only see that Semmelweis challenged medical authority and lacked a complete theory to explain his results. However, Semmelweis had SCIENTIFIC DATA to back up the effectiveness of his hand-washing treatment regimen.

    Let’s see some real scientifically valid data on TCM without any Uri Geller spoon bending tricks: “The reason it didn’t work this time is because there are skeptics (i.e., professional magicians) in the room.” “The patient is giving off negative energy, counteracting the benefits of the TCM.” “The Black Bear who provided this bile clearly had an attitude problem.” Etc.

    The NIH funds The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) which studies Alternative Medicine, such as TCM. Their budget for 2017 was around $130 M.

    1. Some idiot says:

      Amen… Good comment!!!

  23. Adam Thornton says:

    “The physical world does what it does independent of anyone’s political agenda or nationalist sloganeering, and pretending otherwise is shameful and stupid.”

    Your disloyalty to Glorious Trumpistan has been noted, citizen.

    1. anon says:

      All Politics are antithetic to Science. Please stop denigrating one political party and sanctifying another. It is too naive for the taste of an intelligent person.

  24. Mfernflower says:

    The reason dictators push garbage and often toxic TCM is simple:
    “Death solves all problems – no man, no problem.”

  25. Rubidium says:

    Time all should read or re-read: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan

  26. Istvan Ujvary says:

    I think the blog and (most of) the comments are misinformed and misinforming. The term ‘science’ is understood ‘natural sciences’ as the cited examples (famous Hungarian physicists, chemists, physicians; do mathematicians belong to this category?) demonstrate. Of course, there is no national(ist) natural science! But when it comes to social sciences and humanities, one can clearly define national(ist) studies but no sane people would dispute the legitimacy of such studies. And, of course, approaches in this field, I mean the field of non-natural sciences, are politically laden in every country and governments usually make distinction and retain the right to financially support studies they deem important. Prohibition, however, cannot be tolerated neither nationally nor internationally even in these areas, of course.
    As far as Hungary is concerned there is no politically motivated forbidden topic in natural sciences so the main message of the blog is unfounded and most comments are irrelevant (ill-conceived?).
    As for TCM: it depends on the definition. Didn’t aremisinin originate from TCM?

    BTW: Citing Werner von Braun here was a very bad example…
    Disclaimer ;-): I am no fan of the policies of the current goverment.

    1. Anonymous says:

      The article about Hungary is pay-only, so I can’t read it or comment. “Didn’t artemisinin originate from TCM?”

      Artemisia annua has been used in TCM (and elsewhere) for more than 2000 years. Willow plants, the source of salicylates (thus, aspirin), were also used medicinally going back to ancient Egypt (400 BC).

      Like salicylates, artemisinin was isolated and characterized by rigorous, scientific studies of the plant materials. Good science trumps hocus-pocus or voodoo medicine. I don’t think that anyone is saying to do away with TCM, just to validate or authenticate it using good scientific methods in order to protect customers (patients) from potentially harmful doses and effects and from dishonest brokers who might spike their herbs with commercial (synthetic) pharmaceutical ingredients.

    2. CD says:

      Re social sciences and the humanities, let’s try to think more carefully!. You can indeed study a nation, or aspects of a nation, as a social scientist or humanist. But such studies need not be nationalist, or even confined to a nation — there are for example flourishing and interesting programs of American Studies in universities around the world. Humanists and Social Scientists, just like Natural Scientists, are engaged in world-spanning projects of research. They publish in international journals, hire internationally, attend grad schools in foreign countries, and so forth.

      Of course governments provide and deny funding, but again I don’t see a bright line.
      Natural scientists, just like their social scientist and humanist colleagues, can discover that some bureaucrat finds their research “politically laden.” Your underlying, totalitarian, theme is that social sciences and humanities are mere political hackery, to be guided and instructed by national governments.

  27. Fuller says:

    Well, you could argue that the lack of plant extracts and supplements being marketed as disease cures is mightily weird. Look, ultimately, they are food, and every Mother knows that food is central to health. There are plenty of disease cured by a right diet. Only drugs get the attention because they are “real” so says super smart MDs. So, China may be going to far, but at least they are breaking this manipulation paradigm. See ” the best medical care in the world” editorial recently published in NEJM to see how bad our system is.

    1. Some idiot says:

      Er, depends on how you define “extracts” and “food”… All medicines are toxic at some level, and on numerous occasion it has been found that a toxin, administered in a small dose, has a beneficial affect. But that doesn’t mean that the source is “food”… Eating foxgloves as “food” would be a bad move (and probably your last one, for that matter), but digitoxin can be (or was) quite useful…

    2. loupgarous says:

      China, by removing scientific audit entirely from “traditional Chinese medicine” is actually hurting complementary medicine there worse than if they’d passed laws against it. No branch of medicine can thrive if its precepts are never tested scientifically.

      We’re not immune to the issue, either. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah has a horrible record of enabling “Enzyte” and other “male enhancement supplements” to be marketed despite much evidence they at best are unproven to treat andropause, and at worst contain ingredients whose safety when used as directed is also unproven.

      But the bad speech extolling such “supplements” can still be (and is) countered by good speech damning them as wastes of their consumers’ money. In China, it’s not only legal to “treat” illness with no qualifications to do so, but questioning that treatment is now against the law.

      Western medicine has come around to the idea that diet can maintain and even restore health, and has done so for years. An energetic debate goes on now about the relative merits of various diets for various diseases, because we respect freedom of speech in most of the West.

      The “manipulation paradigm” you talk about will fall a lot sooner in free societies, where we can discuss it freely. In China, if a similarly manipulative paradigm develops (if it hasn’t already) around traditional medications, no one can discuss it without being punished by the State.

  28. loupgarous says:

    Hap: No “reply” button under your response to me, so I’ll have to add another subthread. First, thanks for the good wishes. Second. I don’t care for refliexive nationalism as such. I do think anyone who claims to be a better candidate than a reflexive nationalist should demonstrate the fact by obeying the same law the rest of us must.

    A person who cannot or will not obey the law in something as basic as not accepting gratuities from other nations while serving as our country’s senior diplomat doesn’t qualify to be the nation’s chief executive officer. Especially when she resorts to moving the nation’s diplomatic Email onto an unsecured private server for reasons that don’t withstand close scrutiny.

    This is beyond not letting ignorant people vote. It’s about not letting dishonest people run the country. In 2016 I had to choose the candidate whose dishonesty had fewer horrible consequences.

    The aftermath of the “Russian Reset” is still reverberating globally. I can’t believe the Russians’ generosity to the losing candidate in 2016 and her family charity had no impact on the decision to remove Bush’s sanctions against the Russians over the invasion of Georgia in 2008, or not to oppose the sale of Uranium One (with its massive reserves of uranium in Kazahkstan ready to be made into nuclear weapons aimed at us) to the Russian nuclear energy monopoly.

    No special prosecutor was ever appointed to look into these matters, because neither of the two US attorneys-general in office from 2009-January 2017 was motivated to enforce our nation’s laws regarding bribery. The last such Attorney General had had a previous business relationship with Mrs. Clinton and ought to have recused herself from management of the case on that basis.

    I would say that voters who embrace a candidate with a record such as the also-ran’s in 2016 have a more fundamental problem than lack of education or sophistication in how politics works. They don’t care whether their President obeys the law, even in basic matters as not accepting bribes.

    1. Hap says:

      I don’t think I took those charges seriously, though, because there had been an awful lot of charges made and insisted upon by Republicans at Congress without much evidence (the current intelligence stuff in Congress doesn’t help my opinion any). I think the advantage of Mueller’s investigation is that external judges (who have biases, as in every Supreme Court nomination, but are likely to have to follow an externally validated process, because they can be overruled) is better. I don’t know.

      The Democrats had decided that Clinton was their candidate, and I don’t think they had an alternative to her that would have worked better (certainly for them, probably for everyone else). Had she been elected, it probably would have been a long four years, but I was pretty certain once Trump got chosen by the Republicans that it was going to be so.

    2. tangent says:

      loupgarous, was Uranium One a thing you were aware of before the election? I ask because, for my pro-Trump relative, it never crossed his radar until later, and he doesn’t miss too much on Fox. He certainly had alllll the Benghazi. But you may have additional media sources.

      So for him, he doesn’t use Uranium One as a reason he voted for Trump, and sometimes he’ll acknowledge that what Clinton did or didn’t do doesn’t logically mean we should lower our standards. But at the same time that’s what he does with it: it doesn’t really matter that Trump has weird Russian contacts, because politicians are all the same.

      (He doesn’t put it into a narrative that Clinton is generally Putin-friendly, though. His position is that Putin thinks she’s a bitch and it’s better for the country to have someone who can cut deals with Russia to kill terrorists. You could almost describe it as a “Russia reset”.)

      1. loupgarous says:

        Tangent, I read Peter Schweitzer’s article in the New York Times on the money flowing to the Clintons from Russia at the same time Mrs. Clinton failed to raise concerns at the foreign investment board when it appeared in 2015, long before the election.

        My opinion on Vladimir Putin is that he’s actually a greater danger to the United States of America than his Communist predecessors because he’s effectively an autocrat, and Soviet leaders were responsible to the Politburo, if no one else. I don’t care for his murderous tactics, his arrogance, or his revival of Hitler’s lebensraum expansionism.

        Trump’s publicly-expressed affection for Putin probably means as little as his praise for Chinese President Xi – just before he began playing hardball with China on trade. I don’t believe, to quote Stephen Colbert on the CBS Late Show, that our President is Putin’s “cock holster”, and I really wonder why Colbert wasn’t deluged by national condemnation for saying that. It seems that homophobia and crude idiocy are fine as long as they’re aimed at someone the Left doesn’t like.

        1. loupgarous says:

 is the link pointing to Peter Schweitzer’s article on the money trail from Russia to the Clintons in the New York Times that didn’t resolve, probably due to an error in my HTML. Sorry about that, folks.

  29. Scott says:

    The interesting part of TCM is that you pay the doctor to keep you healthy. Get sick and the doctor doesn’t get paid.

    Let me repeat that.

    If you get sick, the TCM doc doesn’t get paid until you’re healthy again.

    But I do agree that I prefer my medicines, regardless of where they come from, to not cause me any harm. Sure, someone with normal blood pressure would probably be in bad shape if they took my BP meds. But that person isn’t me.

    So I want TCM, if it’s advertised as fixing a problem, to undergo the same tests as Western medicine for effectiveness and lack of toxicity.

  30. David Edwards says:

    From Derek:

    A look at what Germany did to its own scientific establishment under the National Socialist government should be all that’s needed as an argument

    Having read Airey Neave’s Nuremberg at length, I’m reminded of how sciences with a biological connection tend to be the ones that suffer most under ideologically toxic regimes. Frequently because said regimes try to force biology to conform to ideology, an exercise that an astute 11 year old recognises as doomed to failure, but this still doesn’t stop idiots from trying. Neave’s account of the Nuremberg Trials covers, at some length, the manner in which Julius Streicher, possibly the most lowbrow of all the Nazis, wrote ever more fantastic proclamations on biological issues, which included some seriously bizarre claims. His ravings reached the point where even the Nazi medical authorities had to distance themselves from his diseased ravings. Apart from being an arch-racist with a penchant for lurid pornography, he was also a prototype anti-vaccine loon, which was the point of departure that led to the Nazi medical authorities issuing public statements keeping him at arm’s length.

    Those who have the requisite dark humour required to wade through the subject in question, can pick up a library copy of Neave’s book, and turn straight to the chapter devoted to Streicher, which, incidentally, will leave many readers with intact neurons reaching for a powerful disinfectant after they’ve encountered the nature of this individual, along with the obsessions that led him to be nicknamed “The Beast Of Nuremberg” even by other Nazis. Numerous phrases from Neave’s book give an indication how revolting he found Streicher to be – “This obscene dwarf was to pervert the course of history” being typical of sentiments expressed in the chapter in question.

    Monoculture fetishists tend to be morons at the best of times, but they tend to become, if anything, even more moronic when they have the ability to wield dangerous power. The moment they’re given the opportunity to try and impose their infantile wet dreams upon reality, tends to be the moment when the aetiology becomes florid to a rococo extent.

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