Monday, August 18, 2008

Science Under Attack

The daily news continues to document the continuing decline of science from a search for the truth into a faith based system where belief and opinion transcend facts and observation. It is hard to pinpoint precisely when this decline began but it was already well advanced when Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” launched its’ attack on DDT. Even though contemporary scientific observation contradicted Carson’s postulations the media and the usual bevy of environmentalists unburdened by facts demanded in the name of SCIENCE that DDT be banned. The irony of this position was totally lost and DDT was banned even though Carson’s work was later proved to be a fabrication if not a complete hoax. Nevertheless DDT remains banned even though Malaria which was largely controlled by DDT is reaching epidemic proportions. Even more ridiculous is the recent report that ties the shrinking population of Polar Bears to the pollutants “like DDT” that are condensing out of the atmosphere and into the food chain affecting everything from plankton to polar bears. Of course DDT hasn’t been manufactured in over 40 years and the actual total population of polar bears seems to be growing. But science is no longer burdened by facts but is being driven by some sort of weird belief system that rests of the premise that humans are a destructive force and must be controlled if not eradicated and at the least reduced to cave man status.

Following DDT the next great assault on science came with the attack by lawyers aided and abetted by a group of “scientists” with a social agenda, on smoking. The initial cry was that smoking caused lung cancer and the lawyers made millions sucking the blood of deep pocket corporations. It is now considered common knowledge that smoking causes lung cancer even though there has never been any empirical evidence supporting that claim. In fact as the number of smokers declined the incidence of lung cancer remained constant. Clearly this could not true and there must be some other connection – hence the attack on side-smoke. The actual EPA report which was widely unread actually stated that there was no connection and even using their A PRIORI starting point (which allowed them to eliminate any contrary finding) there was never any valid statistical correlation and even worse there has never been any empirical connection to tobacco smoke and lung cancer. Nevertheless and undaunted by facts the media and that same group of social reforming busybodies have managed to successfully curtail individual rights which they disapproved even though there is not one shred of physical proof supporting their position. This is faith based science where a belief in a position is sufficient to take corrective action in the form of legislation.

But this attack on science even by scientists or at least those who claim to be scientists has escalated to the point to where empirical science seems to be disappearing altogether. There has always been a level of discomfort between science and religion. This discomfort began to grow with Darwin’s book “Origin of Species”. At the time Darwin was attacked by the scientific community starting with the simple fact that his book did not discuss or even address the origin of species but merely described how a given species adapted to its environment. With the growth of paleontological knowledge several problems arose beginning with the origin of life itself. Then there was the problem with Cambrian explosion of life. Life in the Precambrian was largely very simple life forms and pond scum followed by highly developed and diverse life forms in the Cambrian. Then there remains the problem of speciation. How species develop is BELIEVED to be through mutation and evolution, but no proof of this exists and transitional fossils either don’t exist at all or are believed to exist based on some conclusions and opinions.

However, Evolution and the problems associated with it really pale when the total picture is examined because today science seems to be nothing more than statistical studies, with very little examination of any facts or empirical evidence. So we see statistical studies that show that cancer is caused by such a variety of things that virtually everything is a carcinogen. Statistics are used to justify taking a variety high priced drugs to lower cholesterol and to control type two diabetes but the reality is that some people with low cholesterol have heart attacks and some people with high cholesterol don’t. Virtually everyone today has type II diabetes because the metric for determining the diabetic threshold was lowered from 199 to 100. This was done arbitrarily and precisely what causes diabetes remains unknown, but science marches on.

Beyond these statistical studies are the new “social” diseases like alcoholism and obesity. Precisely how one catches these diseases is unknown but clearly something must be done by the government or science or someone other than the individual in order to stamp out these diseases. The idea that both of these diseases are the direct result of personal decisions and actions by the individual involved is totally rejected. Instead there are calls by the usual coterie of self-described intellectuals and celebrities to stamp our fast food, to force children to eat only healthy food no matter how unappetizing while launching one excuse after the other so individuals no longer have to suffer the stigma of being called a drunk. Why is obesity being subjected to direct action but not alcohol? Well all of those folks calling for action on trans-fats and fast food are almost universally on a diet and only eat tofu and sushi anyway so it only seems right to force the rest of the population to conform to their dietary standard. But those same people drink wine – only good vintages though and then you have the advertising dollars, besides prohibition didn’t work anyway, so rather than address the disease of alcoholism the solution is excuse it as being something out of the control of the individual.

Where is the science behind all of this? Where is the outcry from the scientific community about this distortion of science? The silence is deafening as science slowly slips away from empiricism and into beliefs, opinions, and excuses.


Ed Darrell said...

I have been unable to locate any piece of research that calls into question anything Rachel Carson wrote in 1962. Can you point me to such research?

Last November Discover magazine noted that there are more than 1,000 studies published in refereed journals to verify Ms. Carson's claims. I cannot find a single one contradicting her claims.

Where should I look?

Royce said...

Well I would have replied directly but your WEB page doesn't permit direct contact. The source for Rachel Carson is "Big Fat Liars" by Chafetz page 54ff. He cites "Silent Spring at 40" published in June 2002 in "Reason"

Another study showed that DDT was not the culprit described by Carson

This DDT issue and Carson in general are examples of pop science with little to no scientific basis. The same is true for many of the ecological studies as well as Evolution, Origin of Life issues, Cancer, smoking, and the list goes on and on. The media and TV pundits are not noted for their knowledge, education, or critical reasoning ability.