A New Cure for Cancer?
Tonight 60 Minutes ran a story about John Kanzius, a man with leukemia, who out of desperation to cure himself from his disease, developed a treatment for the disease using radio waves. Although he eventually succumbed to the disease in February 2009, a cancer research doctor who worked with him on his novel treatment is now have success at killing 100 percent of malignant cells in pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, leukemia, and more.
This discovery, which could be one of the most important medical discoveries of our century, happened the way most human innovation occurs. An unlikely person with the right knowledge and skills is thrust into a challenging situation, and with unrelenting initiative and sacrifice makes a discovery that might cure cancer in millions of future patients.
This type of discovery, like many great discoveries in the backyard, basement, or garage of Americans had nothing to do with the federal government. In fact Kanzius kept his research hidden from the government, out of fear it would be stopped. However, today after the discovery was substantially proven, his successor continues with a federal grant to safely test and bring this promising treatment to the market. Not only did the federal government have nothing to do with making this discovery, the chances of it occurring under the aegis of a federal program are infinitesimally small.
Evolution and Discovery
If you are a believer in the theory of evolution, you understand that chances of evolution to occur are much more likely when many members of a population freely interact with the environment. New World Encyclopedia defines evolution as follows:
Broadly defined, biological evolution is any heritable change in a population of organisms over time. Changes may be slight or large, but must be passed on to the next generation (or many generations) and must involve populations, not individuals.
This theory assumes that of the numerous members of a population, one member will find itself in a unique position with unique qualities to adapt to new environmental challenges. John Kanzius was such a member of a population. He brought about a human technological adaptation likely to be inherited and used by many members of future generation.
John Kanzius was not a paid federal researcher, and he would not fit the profile of a likely recipient of a grant. The federal government can only pay a limited number of researchers, and according to the theory of evolution, a limited number of decision-makers or researchers in a bureaucracy would be less likely to make such a discovery than an unexpected member of a more broadly dispersed population.
In my last post I wrote:
Unlike societies with fixed orthodoxies that foster dark ages, societies based on interpreted orthodoxies tend to change and adapt to new environmental circumstances, but changes are slow and inefficient. Such societies are likely to fail for reasons that F.A. Hayek saw the Soviet Union would fail. Centralized knowledge is never able to adequately grasp the spontaneous nature of society. It is like isolating one cell in your immune system and expecting it to develop the defense for a disease ravaging your body. Rather, it is when millions of cells freely encounter the virus cells, one of them will stumble upon a solution and the others will quickly learn how to fight off the disease.
Hayek’s critique of centralized economies and centralized knowledge draws upon the theory of evolution with his concept of a spontaneous order. It went a long way to explain why the Soviet Union could not adapt and evolve like competitive societies. Add to this the knowledge we have about the nature of bureaucracies from Max Weber through Ludwig von Mises to this year’s Nobel prize winner in economics, Oliver Williamson, who has applied analysis of bureaucratic behavior to the management of multi-layered firms where decision-making is concentrated.
If the theory of evolution supports dispersion of decision-making individuals, why do many supporters of evolution support centralized federal monopoly on health care? I have thought briefly about this apparent contradiction and have thought of a possible explanation.
One possibility lies in social conformity and the nature of “politically correct” views within established bureaucracies. Von Mises explained that an employee in a bureaucracy is primarily responsible to his superior and depends on pleasing his superior in order to keep his job or elevate his position. Thus, one will not challenge an authority upon whom he is dependent. Ben Stein’s movie Expelled began with a story about a scientist who was fired because he published an article with a politically incorrect conclusion on evolution.
This establishment reaction to novel discovery was discussed in detail by Thomas Kuhn is his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Because bureaucracies are created for an initial purpose by a central decision, and exist for that purpose, they are by nature conservative. They will oppose discoveries that would change them or make them obsolete.
But, if evolution is a prevailing “politically correct” theory in the scientific establishment, one that would be defended with religious fervor, why would a university biologist want a Federal Health Care program, even if the theory he defends a theory that would be consistent with a decentralized health system?
One explanation would be the fact that support for Federal Health Care would be the “politically correct” view in their workplace, and it might be perceived as providing some personal medical security and national social justice. However, these are psychological conclusions, not conclusions based on economic theories derived from evolutionary theory. What we seem to have it two politically correct views in opposition to one another held together in a person’s mind the way a mechanical engineer might somehow be extremely logical in his work and yet confess that he believes in the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Thus, social psychology tied to personal reputation, job security, and a general desire for justice frequently trumps drawing rational conclusions based on the historical experience and analysis of centralized governments and economies, and their long-term ability to provide for the well-being of citizens living in such systems.
The principle of subsidiarity, or the greatest responsibility to the lowest possible level, is not only a political principle implicitly proposed by the Founding Fathers, and explicitly promoted by F.A.Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty and given a full chapter in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0, it is a principle consistent with evolutionary theory. One would think that those promoting the theory of evolution would be the first to oppose a federal health monopoly.