Tag Archives: science

Turning a Nobel Prize to a Chinese for Artemisinin Into a Eulogy for Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Chinese herbal medicine and tea set
Chinese herbal medicine and tea set

A couple of weeks ago, Tu Youyou became the first Chinese national to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine “for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria.”  (Tu had already won the Lasker Award a few years ago for the same work, and had described her work this way.)  There were cheers and hopes that with the prize, more people would become aware of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and the tremendous amount of work being put in to update the ancient arts with modern science and technology.

But very soon in the West, I see popping up everywhere “straw man” arguments 1.

First, there is the line of attack that goes something like this: so what if Dr. Tu found one drug from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that turned out to work. That per se doesn’t validate the whole tradition.  As this Daily Kos post noted: Continue reading Turning a Nobel Prize to a Chinese for Artemisinin Into a Eulogy for Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Notes:

  1. From a wikipedia entry, a straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument which was not advanced by that opponent.

Rethinking the Freedom-Innovation Nexus

A lot has been discussed on this blog recently with regards to censorship, most of the discourse so far have revolved around the justice and standards of censorship. I want to take a different but related direction, and discuss yet another myth propagated by the democracy/freedom advocates – the notion that “free” societies are always more innovative than their “non-free” counterparts. To what extent is this actually true? More fundamentally, where does innovation come from, what actually stimulates innovation? How does innovation come about? I won’t pretend that I have all the answers, but here are some of my observations so far.
Continue reading Rethinking the Freedom-Innovation Nexus

(Letter from raventhorn4000) Political paradigm

A supernova occurring on July 4, 1054 formed the Crab Nebula, a well known supernova remnant in Taurus. The ancient Chinese recorded detailed observations. It was a previously unseen star that became for a time bright enough to be visible in the daytime. Some Native American Tribes also made records of the event.

Around the same time, Venice, Genoa, and the Byzantine Empire (or the Eastern Roman Empire) were near their full power. Yet strangely, none of these Christian nations of the time made any observation of the visible event, which lasted almost 2 years.

Historians attributed this to the problem of “paradigm” in scientific theories, where upon the scholars of the Western world were simply unable to break some basic assumptions of their theories, and thus consciously or subconsciously decided to ignore ALL data that does not fit their assumptions.

Western nations of the time, because of the Christian Church, believed in the “Immutable Heaven”, ie. the “celestial sphere” cannot change.

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Some historians have explained also, that Chinese astronomers were not bound by any theoretical assumptions, and therefore, they were able to make very detailed and accurate observations of the stars, without worrying about running into contradicting “Holy assumptions” of their times.

On the same explanation, there was a general argument that ancient Chinese were less interested in “theoretical causes”, ie. they didn’t bother to formulate too many theories about “why”.

Afterall, with the volumes of astronomical data in the Chinese historical archives, and the amazing astrological clocks built by the ancient Chinese, why is it that the Chinese never bothered to make many models for the solar system??

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Some have also theorized that the Chinese version of the “scientific theory” is more about systematic “trial and error” rather than a “Method and test” (as in the Western and modern scientific methodology).

Indeed, many Chinese inventions and discoveries were often more based upon “accidents”, rather than any methods of search.

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Of course, now we assume that the “Method and test” scientific method is the better way to get at the truth.

But we also know that historically, the “method and test” method has ran headlong into the “paradigm” problem over and over again.

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On the parallel of Political theories, analogous systems are seen in modern China and the West.

China, with its “trial and error” method of political reforms and leadership selections. Versus the West, “Method” is always right, regardless of the actual results.

Which one is better?

But let us challenge another basic assumption, Is the Chinese system really simply “trial and error”???

One could argue that one can develop mathematics and algebra by simple “trial and error”. Afterall, if one count the results of “1+1”, one can easily arrive at 2 as the answer.

One can reach “result oriented theories”, ie. 1 star will be at this location at this particular time of the year, just by repeated detailed observations. Without ever having known the composition or actual location of the star itself.

Given the problem of “paradigm”, I would posit that the “Western Method” of “democracy” is in a problem of “paradigm”, that its assumptions of “correctness” is simply another way for the adherents to ignore unwanted data.

In actuality, all political systems are based upon “trial and error”. Trying to develop a method to explain the correctness of own’s “accidental choice” is rather like explaining why one rolled a 5 in craps. Yes, you rolled the dice, but it’s not really a choice.