Article 59

Hypocrites’ Isle

My next example of this clever technique of putting expressions of knowledge into the mouths of fictitious individuals in novels to bring such knowledge to the attention of the reading public was exemplified further for me by Hypocrites’ Isle by Ken McClure (cf Article 58), published by Polygon in 2008. This book opens with a quotation from Francois Rabelais, from Pantagruel, Book 4, Chapter LXIV. ‘Pantagruel then asked what sort of people dwelt in that damned island. They are, answered Xenomanes, all hypocrites, holy mountebanks, tumblers of beads, mumblers of ave marias, spiritual comedians, sham saints, hermits, all of them poor rogues who like the hermit of Longmont between Blaye and Bordeaux, live on alms given by passengers’.

Ken McClure’s book Hypocrites’ Isle then tells a fictitious story of how a graduate research student at Edinburgh University discovers how cancer cells can be destroyed in the laboratory by a process involving a product produced and investigated by a Swedish pharmaceutical company some twenty-five years previously as a possible cure for cancer, but which had failed to observe what he had now observed and which now opened the possibility that it could actually cure those suffering from cancer if further investigations were carried out; how he discovers that the company no longer manufactures this substance; that the patent has expired; that it cannot be re-invoked by the company; that it could be re-patented by a competitor company if the news of the student’s success were to be published in a scientific journal in the usual way; that consequently the originating company now wanted the student’s results to be suppressed; that the University authorities agreed to this suppression; that they preferred this suppression to the loss of further funding from the Swedish company; and that from this development the student concluded that money was more important to the company, and to the university authorities, than a cure for cancer; and that the sale of palliative non-cures was more lucrative in the long run than the sale of one-off cures in general; and that the former was the objective of the pharmaceutical industry rather than the latter.

However, this fictional presentation of the pharmaceutical industry is more incisive than the previous presentation of anthropogenic global warming (Article 58), in that this one is accompanied by an Author’s Note which I reproduce as follows. ‘Although a work of fiction, Hypocrites’ Isle is based on something that happened to me (Ken McClure) when I was a researcher in microbial genetics’. ‘I was working on the genes determining cell shape in the genus E. coli, when I stumbled across the reason why an old anti-biotic had failed in practice when, in the research lab, it had appeared to have great promise, and had been given an expensive launch by its manufacturer some twenty years before.’ ‘I had also discovered how it could be used to great effect if it were to be combined in a particular way with other drugs’. ‘My hope was that this new technique could be used to clear up a persistent, recurrent, urinary tract infection called pyelonephritis’. ‘This condition is nearly always caused by E. coli, and affects a great many people across the world, mainly women’. ‘Although not fatal, it often becomes chronic, and many women suffer from recurring infections throughout their lives’.

Ken McClure goes on to say, ‘I was naive in thinking that the drug company would be delighted’. However, ‘they didn’t want to know and I was later to discover that the anti-biotic in question was out of patent and the company no longer had the exclusive right to make it’. ‘Apart from that, it would have been difficult for them to relaunch a product which had already failed, and sales of their more recently developed drugs would have suffered’. ‘A more cynical view put to me at the time, was that chronic conditions are big cash-cows for the pharmaceutical industry, much more so than any condition they can clear up’. He goes on, ‘Not happy with the commercial view of things, I approached the university body which acted as an interface between academia and business’. ‘They were very excited at first, but became less enthusiastic when they learned that the new treatment did not involve any new compounds’. ‘They wanted something they could patent to protect the university’s interests’. ‘They thought it might be possible to patent the intellectual property of the idea and this was confirmed by lawyers, but in the end they pulled out, arguing that E. coli was a relatively soft pathogen and there were plenty of other drugs to treat it’. ‘I approached my employer at the time, the Medical Research Council, who had a similar body’. ‘They informed me that as I had already told the pharmaceutical company about my findings, it would actually be impossible for them to patent the idea, so they had no further interest’. ‘At no time did anyone think that just curing the disease was a good idea’: everyone I approached was primarily concerned with whether or not they could make money’. ‘My assertion that I just wanted to put my idea into practice cast me in the role of an ivory tower academic, who didn’t understand the real world’. Thus, spake Ken McClure!

Thus, in light of the content of my Articles 58 and 59, I now have to recognise that in addition to my recognition of the need to differentiate the knowledge/belief dichotomy, I also have to recognise that the ubiquitous reluctance to do so arises from money being just as easily be made from belief as from knowledge, if not easier; that this conclusion explains the ubiquitous failure of our species to adopt my newly definitive differentiation of the knowledge/belief dichotomy and with it those of truth/untruth, wisdom/folly, right/ wrong and good/bad in all of its policy-making since before and after Socrates first alluded to this difference over 2000 years ago; that with the help of the writings of Crichton and McClure, I and the readership of this website, might be able to correct this failure in the very near future; and that this was the objective of my third book, as it is of this website, and of my public campaign against belief-consensus, and for its replacement with debate-terminating conclusive whenever and wherever such is already available, or for the suspension of all belief until such corrective knowledge has been acquired by my newly definitive reality-evaluation of belief to positive or negative knowledge as exemplified throughout this website. 15/6/21.

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