Q&A Friday #104: Why Don’t We Spend Enough Money To Cure Cancer?

Question: If we can pour billions of dollars into a whole host of things, why can’t we put the necessary resources into finding a cure for cancer once and for all? — D-Vega

Answer: The success of the Apollo Project is rightly remembered as one of the greatest achievements of the United States.

However, there was one downside to that success: It cemented the erroneous idea in people’s heads that if the government picks a scientific goal and puts enough money and effort into it, it can be achieved.

That’s simply not true.

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Sure, a little lucre can sometimes get science over the hump. But usually, money, in and of itself, is not sufficient.

Consider, for example, that 400 years before the Wright Brothers, Leonardo Da Vinci came up with a concept for a “flying machine.” So, if the Italian government would have poured money into the idea back then, would it have worked?

No, of course not.

Since we don’t know how cancer will eventually be cured — or even if it will be cured — we don’t know what to even spend the money on to cure it. Some people may say they do, but scientists, even extremely brilliant ones, often make wild claims they can’t back up. A hundred years ago Tesla was telling anyone who could listen that he knew how to generate free power for everyone on the planet and that he was soon going to be able to talk to the aliens on Mars.

Right now, the federal government is budgeting almost 5 billion dollars a year on cancer research. Add in the money from “other federal government agencies, including other NIH Institutes and Centers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense, fund cancer research. In addition, state and local governments, voluntary organizations, private institutions, and corporations” and you’re probably cracking the 10 billion dollar a year mark — and that’s just in the United States.

If we’re spending that kind of money and not getting the job done, it’s pretty clear that money isn’t at the root of the problem.

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