by Greg Mayer
Jerry beat me to posting the just announced Nobel winners, John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka (see here also), but I can’t help but note that the prize was awarded for work in embryology, Gurdon having done classic cytological (cell and nucleus) manipulation experiments 50 years ago, while Yamanaka has applied more recently available molecular tools to the same problem. Gurdon was able to place an adult nucleus inside a frog egg, and induce the egg to develop into a normal tadpole (showing that the adult nucleus retains all the information for normal embryonic development), while Yamanaka discovered the molecular signals in the egg that tell the nucleus to “start over”.
Congressman Paul Broun (R-Georgia), of course, has just become a media star (see here, here, and here for just a few examples; some background on Broun and his colleagues here) for denouncing embryology as a hellish lie. That Broun is an MD spewing such nonsense is made deliciously comic by the Nobel Prize for Medicine being awarded for work in embryology the day after Broun became infamous, but the tale becomes tragic when you realize he is a member of the House Science Committee. Andrew Sullivan‘s take:
Fundamentalism is not about being dumb; it is an act of will to over-ride reality with totalist faith, so that nothing is left unresolved and everything can be explained by a single text, or a single religious leader.
As Bill Nye told Huffpo:
Since the economic future of the United States depends on our tradition of technological innovation, Representative Broun’s views are not in the national interest… For example, the Earth is simply not 9,000 years old… He is, by any measure, unqualified to make decisions about science, space, and technology.