On December 9, 1969 the Washington Post ran a full-page ad that began
Mr. Nixon: You can cure cancer.
If America could put a man on the moon, she should be able to cure cancer. And why not? Well, because cancer research isn’t rocket science. (Actually, rocket science isn’t science; it’s engineering.) The science necessary to put a man on the moon was well known; the science necessary to cure cancer was not.
President Nixon was eager to comply with the request for massive funding for cancer research. However, many scientists were opposed to the idea. Cancer researcher Sol Spiegelman, for example, believed such a push was premature.
An all-out effort at this time would be like trying to land a man on the moon without knowing Newton’s laws of gravity.
James Watson warned
… we must reject the notion that we will be lucky. … Instead we will be witnessing a massive expansion of well-intentioned mediocrity.
How many scientists today would argue against a funding increase for their area of study?
Quotes taken from Emperor of all Maladies
Related post: Not exactly rocket science