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Re: [Phys-L] How Activism Distorts The Assessment Of Health Risks

We can continue to bicker based on sweeping generalizations. I doubt that the science community publications will come very well on them.

Instead, we could focus on the specifics. The article is written by a cancer epidemiologist in a first-rate institution. The article does not argue about climate change but about cancer risks. For example, the article points out to a rather obvious issue that if there exists only a single chemical that the IARC can vouch for as "probably not carcinogenic to humans" then the IARC classification is not very helpful and probably overly conservative.

As another example of a possible misapplication of the precautionary principle, we currently "believe" in the Linear Non-Threshold (LNT) hypothesis on the effects of radioactivity. That hypothesis is what causes much of the concerns and public panic around events like Fukoshima. Yet there is an interesting paper by Jaworowski (Z. Jaworowski, OBSERVATIONS ON THE CHERNOBYL DISASTER AND LNT, Dose Response, 2010) which traces the acceptance of the LNT hypothesis to the political climate in late 1950s, with its fears of U.S. atmospheric nuclear testing and Eastern-bloc and Unaligned countries political effort to stop it, rather than to any scientific evidence. In fact, the French Academy of Sciences has rejected the LNT model some years back, while the US keeps sticking to it.


On 11/21/2012 3:41 PM, brian whatcott wrote:
I am all but sure you're right Ze-ev: after all, those nicotine epidemiologists were feeding high off the hog for years n years, until for some unaccountable reason the cigarette makers caved - but that can be explained: sometimes it is just cheaper to settle after those troublesome researchers have done their work of poisoning the mind of the great American Public - it may just be more of the same here, wouldn't you say? I know there are researchers making a living off of climate change too - and just because we happen to run through a sequence of random earthquake, hurricane and storm extrema for a year or two, they have it all their own way, after all! :-)

Brian W

On 11/21/2012 5:21 PM, Ze'ev Wurman wrote:
Accepting for a moment your premise that veracity of content is largely driven by the generic characteristics of readers and writers, what would that make of professional magazines controlled by, and containing, articles written mostly by people feeding off variety of federal grants and read by the same, both keenly interested in enlarging the pie? Just wondering.


On 11/21/2012 1:45 PM, brian whatcott wrote:
On 11/21/2012 2:44 PM, Ze'ev Wurman wrote:
A well-written piece of the risks of the Precautionary Principle and science distortion by activism.


There are tree-huggers, there are innocent bystanders, there are users, there are folks who make money if people use a product.
And there are magazines that don't accept advertizing, magazines that speak to consumers and magazines that speak to investors.
Supposing this were an exhaustive list of the spectrum of products and reviewers, that would leave twelve pairings of readers and writers.
In this particular instance, we seem to have a magazine directed to investors, and it is a piece advocating the soft pedal for products that may possibly be labelled carcinogenic. Science distortion by activism would be somewhat comparable to results distorted by enlightened self-interest (In that amusing turn of phrase). Or is that last just The American Way? :-)

Brian Whatcott

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