Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chauvinism

Arsenal 2 Juventus 0. A masterly display by the London soccer team left the team from Torino reeling as the Italians had two men sent off for foul play in the last five minutes. Such was the speed and movement of the former English Champions that the Italian league leaders resorted to ugly lunges and wild kicks as the Arsenal forwards sailed by them. A real triumph for England.

Except that there were no Englishmen in the London team. Plenty of players from France and Spain and the Ivory Coast, and one from Germany and one from Holland and even one from Belarus. The coach, too, is French. Mind you, the Torino team only had four Italians.

It got me thinking about our laboratory which contains Chinese, Russians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Mexicans, Canadians, Australians, Belgians, Dutch, Germans, Italians, Irish, Indians and Pakistanis. Any achievements will be credited to the Welsh charity that supports us.

If you go into the Jardin des Plantes in Paris through the entrance nearest the Gare d’Austerlitz.you will see a statue of the “Father of Evolution”. How generous, I thought, of the French to so honor an Englishman. But the statue bore not the bearded visage of Charles Darwin, but the bewigged features of Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet Chevalier de Lamarck, the Frenchman who went down the blind alley of inheritance of acquired characteristics.

Chauvinism meaning “bellicose patriotism” derives from Nicolas Chauvin a highly decorated veteran of Napoleon’s army, and the French are particularly good at it. You can read about him at http://www.chauvin.org.uk/story.htm .

We often hear arguments about the superiority of this of that economic system and this or that health service. I remember president Clinton trumpeting American achievements in science. He included in his list the splitting of the atom, which every school child knows was achieved at the Cavendish laboratory, Cambridge (that’s England not Massachusetts) by Sir Ernest Rutherford, a New Zealander.

Now New Zealand has a lot to feel chippy about. Apart from Rutherford there is a whole list of famous New Zealanders who are generally assumed to come from somewhere else, especially (perish the thought) Australia. The first man to climb Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, was from New Zealand. Film directors Jane Campion and Peter Jackson (remember Lord of the Rings) as well as actors Sam Neill and Anna Paquin are well known. Golfers will know Bob Charles, the left-hander and Michael Campbell, and equestrians, Mark Todd. Kiri Te Kanawa is one of the world’s greatest opera singers. The first surgeon I worked for, Harry Espiner, was a New Zealander and so are Myf Spellerberg and Adrian Copplestone who appear as a co-authors on some of my papers. Bruce Maclaren founded the Maclaren racing car company, Ngaio Marsh is a well known author though Katherine Mansfield is more important. Jack Lovelock was the first record breaking runner, but he was followed by Peter Snell, Murray Halberg and John Walker. William Pickering from Wellington was the man behind America’s first space satellite, Explorer 1. Keith Park, the RAF commander at the Battle of Britain was from New Zealand, as was Charles Upham, one of only three soldiers to win the Victoria Cross twice. We all know about Crick and Watson, the discoverer of DNA, but there was a third member of the team who won the Nobel Prize with them. Maurice Wilkins was a New Zealander. Harold Gillies was the maestro of plastic surgery who repaired the burned faces of Battle of Britain fighter pilots. He was from New Zealand. Robert Burchfield, the Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary was from New Zealand. Oh, and Xena, the Warrior Princess is from New Zealand. I believe there is also a promising young actor called Russell Crowe. However, he has moved to Australia, perhaps trying to emulate the actor who appears to be his hero, who hailed from there, one Errol Flynn.

The thing is that many of the above were New Zealanders when New Zealand was a British colony and were this British subjects, as were Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and WB Yeats, though the Irish claim them all. So, of course, were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson before they rebelled. So was Ghandi, whether in South Africa or India. Just as all Pakistanis were once Indians. Thought for the Day this morning on Radio 4 was taken from the Hindu scriptures and warned us of the danger of assuming that we all see things from the same viewpoint. The speaker also warned us about assuming that today’s historical assumptions applied when the events were taking place. I am sure Keith park thought of himself as both British and New Zealander. To suggest that Paul Revere’s message was “The British are coming” is crass. They were all British at the time. His message was “The regulars are out” or something similar.

It is an interesting question of where we get our drugs from. Monoclonal antibodies, for example, were developed by an Argentinean and a Swiss working in a British laboratory and funded by the British government which declined to patent them, reasoning that such a discovery should be for the whole world. The development of rituximab began with an Australian working in a British laboratory and funded by a Welsh charity who then passed the idea on to a Californian who also picked up a discovery of a man from Boston. A small biotech company in California was set up to develop the drug which is marketed in the rest of the world by a giant Swiss company.

Campath was originally developed in the same British lab that discovered monoclonal antibodies. It was originally developed and marketed by a British company before that company was taken over by another British company that wasn't interested in developing it further because it was more interested in AZT for AIDS which the first company had also developed, so it was sold to a German company that now markets it in America through its wholly owned subsidiary, but is currently fighting a take-over by the German subsidiary of an American pharmaceutical company.

One of the biggest sellers among drugs is Viagra which was discovered by British scientists working in the laboratories of the British subsidiary of an American company. Chlorambucil is British, but cyclophosphamide was discovered by an Austrian Jew who had escaped to Australia where he was working on a chemical to put a permanent kink in wool. He was invited to England and there pursued an illustrious career in cancer research. He was my friend.

My point is that we shouldn't get too Chauvinistic about scientific discoveries. Science is international and knows no boundaries. Though I sometimes joke that according to the Japanese 55% of all useful discoveries were made in Britain, I have to admit that like Arsenal we have often employed foreign mercenaries, and now that America has more money the mercenaries are playing for America.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome display of history Dr Hamblin.

Thanks for shining a light through the fog of pride and prejudice. I am often embarassed by my countrymen lately. Virtues such as learned knowledge, wisdom, and humility are considered part of a left-wing conspiracy of America haters - a conspiracy of intellectualism!

What we have because of it is an atmosphere where considered debate and agreeing to disagree is impossible. It is a frustrating almost daily exercise in restraint to not choke the living hell out of some ignorant fool who just got his opinion from some millionaire talking head who claims to be living just like the people.

The immigration debate is raging in the USA right now. Your blog reminds us that we are a nation of immigrants. If America has the right to be proud about anything, it is this: we are the only country on the planet that anyone from anywhere can come here and eventually through hard work and great legal effort earn the right to call themselves American.

This is an ideal that the people of the world can find inspiration and hope in. I think institutional (white) America resents this notion at the same time they use its ideals rhetorically to suit their purposes. "Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" has become to mean "send us more cannon fodder".

Steve Madden said...

Russell Crowe is definately a Kiwi, Martin Crowe (a relation) Captained NZ at cricket. He adopted Australia!!

Now all we need to do is figure out a way to get "Freddy" Flintoff to emigrate to Australia.

Anonymous said...

The immigration debate is raging in the USA right now.

I don't think so, although I hear many making this mistaken claim. The uproar is over ILLEGAL immigration.

Anonymous said...

I find it is the liberals and left-wingers who go histrionic at the slightest provocation.

No sane person would claim that intellectual achievement was the province of only one country. Talented people abound everywhere.

I find it interesting that the first poster claims that 'knowledge, wisdom and humility' are part of the left-wing conspiracy. Where did he get that? This is an example of the foolishness and lack of analysis that the left is truly guilty of.

I do see that this poster is admitting being close to committing assault on people he disagrees with. It is EXACTLY this type of left-winger who represents the real danger to reasoned debate and discussion.

I guess he thinks that if someone disagrees with him, he is an 'ignorant fool'. How neutral! What a deliberate analysis!

BTW, every country is composed entirely of immigrants. Humans didn't spontaneously evolve or were created everywhere. It is generally assumed that humans came from one area in Africa. Everywhere else, humans immigrated to.

I do agree that America is the only country on the planet that one can go to and become an American. It would be hard to go to China and become an American there, wouldn't it?

I fear for the safety of the people close to the first poster, who seems somewhat close to becoming unhinged.

Another Republican victory ought to do it.

Anonymous said...

Awesome display of history Dr Hamblin.

Thanks for shining a light through the fog of pride and prejudice. I am often embarassed by my countrymen lately. Virtues such as learned knowledge, wisdom, and humility are considered part of a left-wing conspiracy of America haters - a conspiracy of intellectualism!

What we have because of it is an atmosphere where considered debate and agreeing to disagree is impossible. It is a frustrating almost daily exercise in restraint to not choke the living hell out of some ignorant fool who just got his opinion from some millionaire talking head who claims to be living just like the people.

The immigration debate is raging in the USA right now. Your blog reminds us that we are a nation of immigrants. If America has the right to be proud about anything, it is this: we are the only country on the planet that anyone from anywhere can come here and eventually through hard work and great legal effort earn the right to call themselves American.

This is an ideal that the people of the world can find inspiration and hope in. I think institutional (white) America resents this notion at the same time they use its ideals rhetorically to suit their purposes. "Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" has become to mean "send us more cannon fodder".

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"No sane person would claim that intellectual achievement was the province of only one country."

This was exactly the claim made by Don Crawford recently on the CLL List. You are correct that no sane person would make this claim. Thanks for confirming my point.

"I find it interesting that the first poster claims that 'knowledge, wisdom and humility' are part of the left-wing conspiracy."

I got it from the analysis of the right-wing backlash movement of middle-America which is based largely on the religious right's anti-intellectual stance. One of the symptoms is the right's ideological attack on our higher institutions of learning (which tend to question authority) and are thus considered left of center. Also, the right-wing flag-waving uberpatriots are anything but humble and claim that anyone who isnt boasting about America is simply a traitor and hates America (they dont explain why liberals hate America, it just suits their purpose to make the claim).

"I do see that this poster is admitting being close to committing assault on people he disagrees with."

An impulse that I do not act on but readily admit. Why? Because anyone who has to have Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh explain to them what their opinion should be deserves to have his world rocked (but I just feel sorry for them instead for all of the interesting things in life they will never discover). These men are fools who spew because it makes them rich - period. They are playing on well-known base human prejudice that has been shown to act on the subconscious level. People who are unwilling to do their own thinking, their own research, question their own biases and predispositions easily fall prey to this sort of bile. Do some reading on why propaganda and marketing works and you will begin to understand these men's approach to the human psyche.

"I guess he thinks that if someone disagrees with him, he is an 'ignorant fool'."

No, but it easy to spot someone who is too lazy to think for himself. I do not suffer these fools and refuse to do their homework for them.

" It would be hard to go to China and become an American there, wouldn't it? "

A German or an American can not go to China and become Chinese. Turks in Germany are not considered German even after being naturalized. Americans who move to Mexico are never considered Mexicans. But anyone can move to America and by the previously mentioned virtues will be considered an American eventually. Clear enough for you now?

"BTW, every country is composed entirely of immigrants. Humans didn't spontaneously evolve or were created everywhere. It is generally assumed that humans came from one area in Africa. Everywhere else, humans immigrated to."

Cop out. Why dont you deal with the social history of the last thousand years? It happens to be relevant to the debate. Political boundaries were formed in the recent past. Evolution is another topic altogether.

" I find it is the liberals and left-wingers who go histrionic at the slightest provocation."
"I fear for the safety of the people close to the first poster, who seems somewhat close to becoming unhinged.
Another Republican victory ought to do it."

That's what this was all about - you got me - histrionics. And unhinged - another word used a lot by Rush Limbaugh and Bill o'Really!?

I am just a normal guy who calls em like I see em. What I see in you is someone who doesnt understand much about life's shades of gray. Someone who has a knee-jerk reaction to anything center-left. Someone who does not endeavor to add to the debate but who finds it easy to be critical. Your desire to be critical even has you parsing words over whether the current immigration debate is about "illegals" or not as if we arent all affected by the outcome (whose tax money is being spent on this issue afterall?) What about the legal American children of "illegal" immigrants? This isnt their issue either right?

You do realize that every point you make begins with the word "I", right? As if you are the center of it all - this is all about you! And the last resort of the uneducated right is always about who won (stole) the most elections! Excellent - another unworthy opponent...

Anonymous said...

hal skye of halskye@webtv.net said: how come you never mentioned my Onc. Dr.Brian Issell who hails from New Zealand, and who is head of research @ the Hawaii Cancer Research Center in Honolulu (methinks).

Chonette said...

Once again your very interesting historical data comes in your beautiful writting.
When peopled asked me in the past where I came from regardless of where I was, I always replied "I am a citizen of the Earth".
We should all share our knowledge and expereinces for the benefit of mankind any where in the world.
Chonette Taylor