Politics, science, and the White HouseBMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b4848 (Published 17 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4848
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Politics and religion are philosophies that function as software for the hardware
of our nervous system. Liberalism is read-and-write software that promotes
progress; while conservatism and fundamentalism are read-only software that
protects the status quo.
Competing interests: No competing interests
Harold Varmus and The Art of Politics and Science
Excellent international Editors, past and present, medical and non-
medical, have a way of making much of what they write encourage people,
politicians, and others to some kind of action. The action that Dr
Richard Smith, immediate past editor of the British Medical Journal by his
article (17 November) on Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus  encouraged me to
take, was to rush to Amazon and buy a copy of the latter’s book .
FOUR THINGS THAT ATTRACTED MY ATTENTION
First, Harold Varmus is said to have “worked in a mission hospital in
Uttar Pradesh as a medical student” . I must read more about that. Is
he a Christian I wonder? I am keen to find out. Next, he is on the WHO
Commission on Macroeconomics on Health . I wonder what they do. Does
that mean they make sure the European Union does not put a ban on our raw
materials, or/and that the USA does not dump rice at heavily subsidized
prices on African markets making our farmers broke, and leading to further
poverty? I am keen to know.
Thirdly, the interest in Global Health of Harold Varmus stems from “a
longstanding concern about disadvantages between rich and poor” . He
certainly would have seen poverty in India’s Uttar Pradesh, and I am keen
to read what he describes about poverty. Fourthly, and this thrills me to
bits, Varmus has “a passion for open access publishing” . Gone (or
nearly gone) are the days when powerful Editors decide whom they will
publish and whom not. If you discover something that has not been known
about before, and the thing comes from your own little tribe somewhere in
Africa, the powerful Editors in Europe look round their little domain for
“Experts” to check on what you have offered them. Of course they find
none, so they reject your paper with some very kind words like “We hope
some other journal publishes it soon for you”.
No kidding, this has happened to me and not a few others. Prove me
wrong by just GOOGLE-ing the words “Mid Pitch Arrest” or “Three Semitone
Gap” and find whose name comes up. This discovery of mine in Tonal
Linguistics with a medical dimension in Glosso-genetics was sent to the
two front runners in international medical journalism, but neither was
interested, only for Open Access Publishing to send it out to the world
[3, 4]. To hear that Harold Varmus had something to do with this open
access publishing endeavour, and that Dr Richard Smith is also ‘related’
to Public Library of Science (PLoS) gladdens my heart. I am keen to read
more from the book .
SCIENTIFIC ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
Here comes the fourth reason which makes me want to read the book:
For appointing this man, Harold Varmus, his “scientific advisor” 
President Barack Obama has confirmed my very high estimation of his good
judgment. New African, the widely read London based international monthly
published 21 comments from all over the world in a special SOUVENIR ISSUE
on the election of Senator Barack Obama as the 44th President of the
United States of America. I was hugely flattered when I found my comments
alongside those of President Nelson Mandela, Dr Kofi Annan, and Prime
Minister Gordon Brown [5, page 22]. The last sentence of my long comment
capsulated what I perceived Barack Obama was capable of – “For my part,
with my enormous interest in history, placing that subject above even
medical science, I make bold to say this: It is not at all hyperbolic of
me to prognosticate that, God preserving him, President Obama will one day
find himself the recipient of two Nobel Prizes, one for literature and the
other for peace” [5, page 23]. I said that in December 2008. Within 10
months Barack Obama got one Nobel Prize, and during that time his
perspicacity led him to appoint Harold Varmus his Scientific Advisor.
MY NEXT WISH IS FOR THEM TO HELP TACKLE GENETIC COUNSELLING
My next wish is for ‘Global Health’ to spare a thought for Genetic
Counselling and Voluntary Family Size Limitation (GCVFSL). One in 3 of us
healthy Ghanaians are walking about with a beta-globin gene trait
(NORMACHE), so 1 in every 9 matings between man and wife (as in the case
of my own NORMACHE parents) is a union that results in increasing the
genetic disease load (ACHEACHE) thereby dragging down Global health .
The reason I feel none of Bill Gates Global Health money has trickled down
to tackling this genetic public health time bomb is because Family
Planning is an extremely sensitive subject capable of being properly
handled only by the natives themselves [7, 8]. I sincerely hope Richard
Smith will, please, speak to Professor Harold Varmus to, please, speak to
President Barack Obama, to help us tackle in our own way, using our own
methods, with all the Ethical Sensitivity required, Genetic Counseling and
Voluntary Family Size Limitation (GCVFSL) both in the USA, and in Africa,
not to mention the needs of hundreds of thousands of at risk families in
the United Kingdom and Europe.
Felix I D Konotey-Ahulu MD(Lond) FRCP(Lond) DTMH(L’pool) FGA, Order
of The Volta. Kwegyir Aggrey Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics,
University of Cape Coast Ghana, and Consultant Physician Genetic
Counsellor in Sickle & Other Haemoglobinopathies, 10 Harley Street,
London W1G 9PF
Competing interests: None declared
1 Smith Richard. Politics, science, and the White House. BMJ 2009;
339: b4848 doi: 10. 1136/bmj.b4848
2 Varmus Harold. The Art of Politics and Science. ISBN 798-
0393061284 W W Norton & Co, 315 pages. 2009.
3 Konotey-Ahulu FID. Social pathology of cleft palate in the
African: Mathematical precision of pitch gaps in tribal tonal linguistics.
Ghana Medical Journal 2008; 42: 89-91.
4 Konotey-Ahulu FID. The Remarkable African Ear: Phenomenon of Mid
Pitch Arrest in Krobo-Dangme/Gã Tonal Languages of South East Ghana.
African American Museum of Philadelphia (AAMP) Award Lecture May 5 2007
5 Konotey-Ahulu FID. World Rejoices. New African. Dec. 2008 (No
479), pp 22-23
6 Ringelhann B, Konotey-Ahulu FID. Hemoglobinopathies and
thalassemias in Mediterranean areas and in West Africa: Historical and
other perspectives 1910 to 1997 – A Century Review. Atti dell’Accademia
dell Science di Ferrera (Milan) 1998; 74: 267-307.
7 Konotey-Ahulu FID. Sickle Cell Disease: The Case for Family
Planning. ASTAB Books, Ltd 1973; 32 pages
8 Konotey-Ahulu FID. Need for ethnic experts to tackle genetic
public health. Lancet 2007; 370: 1836 doi: 10. 1016/50140-6736(07)6177-
Competing interests: No competing interests