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Re: Smoke and Mirrors at the United Nations

Unfortunately, there are a lot of "scientists for hire" out there.
After all, didn't the tobacco industry have its share of them for
years--probably still does? It doesn't make me feel warm and glowy
about science in general to know that there are people out there with
PhDs from respectable institutions who are willing to sell themselves
to the highest bidder and then use their prestige to tout whatever
line their buyer wants them to. Especially in an area that has so
potentially important an impact on our civilization. I guess I
wouldn't be too surprised to find out that the companies that are
doing their damndest right now to keep us from doing anything about
the prospect of global warming aren't at the same time angling to be
in a position to get the contract to build the dike around New York

A recent colloquium speaker at our school was JoAnn Burkholder,
co-discoverer of the Pfiesteria flagelate organism, that she and her
co-workers have shown to be one of the causes of massive fish kills
in the Maryland, Virginia and Carolina coastal waters in recent
years, and who, in the process of their work discovered that the
organism can also have serious effects on humans (the hard way--they
got sick). She recounted some of the calumny that was heaped upon her
and her colleagues by scientists who had been hired for that purpose
by the chicken- and hog-processing industries, which have been shown
to create the conditions which allow these organisms to proliferate.
The past ten years have been a very trying time for her, but it would
appear that she has largely won her war, and has had her
interpretation of the science accepted, but not without a high cost.
There has even been a book written about her experiences, "And the
Waters Turned to Blood," by Rodney Barker (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1997). I just got my copy and haven't read it yet, so I
can't tell if it is over-sensationalized or not, but I will say that
Burkholder didn't have anything bad to say about the book when it
came up in conversation. If you are interested in pursuing this
further, do a Google search on her name and sort out the over 500
hits that you will get. Many will be very interesting.

If this is what the hog-industry will do to keep from having to clean
up its act (literally), just imagine what the energy industry, which
is many times larger, and which potentially has many times as much at
stake, will do.


Hugh Haskell

(919) 467-7610

Let's face it. People use a Mac because they want to, Windows because they
have to..