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Junk Science Mar 09

March 19th, 2009 by Mike N · 1 Comment · Environmentalism

One of the reasons that government seems to be on a fast track to total power over all of us via the politicization of science is that John Q Public has little knowledge of basic science. By way of of March 16th is a post which links to Softpedia and an article on the sad state of public knowledge. The site’s science editor Tudor Vieru writes:

“According to a series of recent surveys among the general population, most US citizens seem to be unable to pass even the most basic science literacy test, a trend that has got experts very concerned. Because individuals lack this ability, they may find it very difficult to interpret scientific articles, and some may even misconstrue presented pieces of evidence and turn them into something they are not, like in the case of global warming. As people miss even the most basic background in science, they cannot actually emit an informed opinion, and the trend is growing with each passing year, experts note.”

I would blame a lot of this on the anti-conceptual philosophy of education that has gripped American schools for about 50 years I would estimate.Some of these earlier students are now in the media which aids and abets the general ignorance.

A case in point is two articles that appeared in the Detroit News on Mar 13th 09. One was titled “Pollution not only fouls air, it dims skies.” There should have been some mention that the pollution of the 1950s has been reduced by about 90% today. In a 2000 edition of Reason Magazine editor Ronald Bailey writes

“In the U.S., air quality has been improving rapidly since before the first Earth Day–and before the federal Clean Air Act of 1970. In fact, ambient levels of particulates and sulfur dioxide have been declining ever since accurate records have been kept. Between 1960 and 1970, for instance, particulates declined by 25 percent; sulfur dioxide decreased by 35 percent between 1962 and 1970. More concretely, it takes 20 new cars to produce the same emissions that one car produced in the 1960s.”

According to this our skies should be getting brighter not dimmer. The threat of dimming of course is just another attempt at scarring people into sacrificing more of their money and freedom to those who are collecting such sacrifices–politicians and enviros.

The second article is a new report from WAPO “Trace carcinogen amounts found in baby care products.” It states that:

“More than half of the baby shampoo, lotions and other infant care products analyzed by a health advocacy group were found to contain trace amounts of two chemicals that are believed to cause cancer, the organization said Thursday.

Some of the biggest names on the market, including Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo and Baby Magic baby lotion, tested positive for 1,4-dioxane, or formaldehyde, or both, the nonprofit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reported.”

The report did carry contrary statements by Johnson and Johnson to the effect that the EPA has found these products to be safe. But considering today’s anti-business climate, many readers will just dismiss the statements as routine business denials. Over at the website STATS, a division of George Mason University, Trevor Butterworth reveals that:

“First, the CSC is driven by a group of environmental activist groups with a long history of hyperbole. The study was self-published, it wasn’t peer- reviewed; in fact, it wasn’t even scientific – if one takes science to be formulating a hypothesis and testing it against the full range of data.”

He goes on to discuss both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, said to be found in the health products and concludes:

“But here we come to the fundamental methodological flaw in report – one that underscores the need for real, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of chemical exposures and health and not activist reports designed to maximize media attention through sensationalism:

The Campaign measured how much formaldehyde was in the product, but not how much a child would actually be exposed to or absorb in the course of using that product.”

On 1,4-dioxane Mr. Butterworth writes:

“The other confounding problem with 1,4-dioxane is that we are exposed to it routinely in tap water, either by drinking or when we shower (as a volatilized compound), and in seafood, cooked meat, fried chicken, deep fry oil, ripe tomatoes, tomato paste, peppers, coffee, herbs and spices (within the range of 2-15ppm). In fact, given that 1,4-dioxane is more easily absorbed by ingestion and inhalation rather than absorption (due to its propensity to evaporate), the route of exposure is much more likely from the water we wash and shower in than through skin absorption from a cosmetic lotion.”

What makes the CSC report dishonest is the fact that it presents out of context assertions. It claims that all amounts of a carcinogen are dangerous and government force should be employed to ban them. The context being ignored by such activist groups is the toxicology principle that ‘the poison is in the dose.’ The human body has been evolving on this planet for thousands of years and has developed methods for dealing with trace amounts of toxic elements. Most people today have trace amounts of lead, mercury, dioxin, arsnic, asbestos, 1,4-dioxane and probably many others. Why aren’t we all dead? “The poison is in the dose” is why.

Activist groups like the CSC deliberately use out of context assertions knowing that many people, out of fear, will jump to the wrong conclusions. This fear is how they get donations which they use to lobby for governmental control over you and I.

One Comment so far ↓

  • Andrew Dalton

    A common tactic of environmentalist groups is to issue self-published “reports” that reach a particular conclusion–and, of course, a policy prescription. The uncritical news media jump all over such “reports” like Ted Haggard on a gay hooker. And the general public, having been deprived of education in both the methods and the particulars of science, are unable to examine what they read, and so they tend to take anything as “scientific” if someone has labeled it as such in print.

    The best that can be done in the short term is to point out that these “reports” are all press releases by activists.