For thousands of years humanity was in the grip of terrible diseases. Polio. Tuberculosis. Measles. Bubonic plague. Cancer. And the only apparent remedies we had lay in the hands of shamans, faith healers, magicians, holy men and witches. People who, whatever their theological qualifications, knew nothing about biology, chemistry or reasoning. Instead of vaccines, spells. Instead of antibiotics, charms. Instead of surgery, chants. The victims died-horribly. Reality always trumps belief.
Slowly some began to learn the tools of reason. Of accumulating facts, and checking them. Realising that any theory had to obey two essential rules. 1 Does it fit with all observable facts? 2 Is it internally consistent?
Sometimes, this way of opinion prevailed. So it is heartening to report a rare success for our side. Today Nature reports on the marvellous discovery of hepatitis c, a terrible illness that ruined lives and often killed its victims. Here’s the report and a link for a short but enjoyable read.
A trio of scientists who identified and characterized hepatitis C — the virus that is responsible for many cases of hepatitis and liver disease — are the recipients of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine. Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice share the award. “It stands out as an emblem of great science,” says Ellie Barnes, who studies liver medicine and immunology. “We’ve got to a point where we can cure most people who are infected.”
Houghton has turned down high-profile awards because they didn’t acknowledge his collaborators, George Quo and Qui-Lim Choo. “It’s all based on the Nobel prize,” explained Houghton in 2013. “In his will, Dr. Nobel says there can be no more than three. All of the other major awards tend to copy that and limit it to three. It’s antiquated.”Nature | 5 min read & National Post | 5 min read (from 2013)
The other side are back in the ascendant. They have many advantages. The emotional luxury of wallowing in grievance, anger and cheap beer. The lazy luxury of not having to think. Of being backed by well funded media machines. By contrast, our side delivers tangible results. They can’t do without us forever.
#nobelprize #hepatitis #evidencebased #medicine #unreason