Thursday, December 10, 2009

Politicizing Science

Important people are gathering in Copenhagen just now to discuss global warming. We have learned that scientists doing real-world work on the topic have exchanged e-mails that discuss altering their respective findings. Who knows what those scientists now believe about the effect that greenhouse gases have on global warming? A firestorm has erupted as various interests horn in with strenuous efforts to (a) manipulate or (b) discredit the findings.
The hot air over global warming (all those portentous utterings themselves are surely contributing to the total output of hot air) is very frustrating. Global warming is an obvious fact. Polar ice and vanishing glaciers bear witness to the reality. The ice has never in any recorded history been so scant. The question then becomes : Whether greenhouse gases cause global warming. Are they simply parallel events, or is there a cause-and-effect scenario here?
Most mysteriously of all, the thing no one is willing to talk about is the finding on
global dimming.
This seems to be a deep, dark secret. It was first noted when air traffic was halted abruptly after 9-11, when all civilian air traffic was grounded. In those two days of silent skies, temperatures rose in the northern hemisphere by an average of 3 degrees. Other scientists had quietly been working on the problem for many years, and now there seems to be a veil of secrecy and a world-wide conspiracy of silence on the topic. Without the particulate absorption in the upper atmosphere, there would probably be no polar ice at all.
The efforts are only the latest in a long string of gradually intensifying situations in which hard science is being manipulated for the good of Big Business, Big Pharma, or Big Government. Attempts persist to get genetically modified food into Europe; though we can be grateful that resistance too persists.
Sometimes these attempts go sadly awry.
Because Big Business thought it could buy off a British investigatory panel, bribes were offered, bribes were taken, and the bribes were revealed. The hard science is there. Professor Arpad Pusztai of Edinburgh University unequivocally proved that GM soy led to brain damage in young rats. He was politically fired for his work--but then was hastily rehired when other universities, to which he had sent his findings, backed his position.
In other places politicized science has won the day.
Today in the United States we can buy hardly a product that is free of some GM content. Is the stuff safe? Probably not.
Millions of bottles of tap water (no, that's not a misprint) are sold despite the fact that mold-release chemicals in plastic bottles cause cancer. And we haven't even mentioned BPA that keeps the bottles flexible and soft. The water in the bottles is not separately tested. The bottlers shrug that off, claiming that they use just ordinary tap water from a municipal supply, which they say has been adequately pre-tested.
Two recent cases of immunization drugs are enlightening. (a) One drug is claimed to reduce incidence of cervical cancer--even though tests showed that it had little or no effect, and indeed could be deadly. (b) Recent tests of the H1N1 vaccine* revealed that it contains formaldehyde, antifreeze, and mercury. (There is strong evidence connecting mercury to autism. We have yet to learn what formaldehyde [an embalming fluid] and antifreeze can do down the road.) All this quite apart from the fact that the vaccine is grown in eggs and consequently is an allergen to some individuals.
More recently, the United States government came out with a new recommendation: Women should avoid mammograms. When they said this, they gave no reason; naturally enough, there was a tremendous outcry. When pushed to the wall, the panel admitted that, yes, mammograms cause cancer. They quoted quite high numbers for the number of cancers caused; yet the statistics are very suspicious. It looks as if the panel took the numbers for women who are genetically disposed to getting breast cancer with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. British studies of 2004** showed lower numbers than the US on the number of caes of breast cancer--but they still strongly urged that mammograms be replaced with sonograms, or, if really necessary, with an MRI.
The industry that manufactures mammogram equipment and processes mammograms is hanging on tooth and nail. It is a multi-billion-dollar industry and they don't want to lose their income. We believe they will lose this struggle, especailly since if a mammogram does show a shadow, the next step is often a sonogram. Why not skip the mammogram entirely and go directly to a sonogram? Would that be too rational? Insufficiently dramatic for the bragging rights and the hanky-twisting of the woman involved? Would it cause discontent in the stockholders?
As with all these matters, we look to science for the impartial, objective truth. We look to them to tell us the tradeoffs. Does the autism-causing mercury in the H1N1 vaccine negate the thousands of lives that it would save? Yes, the labs used the mercury because they had to make the vaccine hastily, but does that justify making it dangerous?
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* GlaxoSmithKline H1N1 According to the package insert itself, the influenza vaccine contains formaldehyde, polysorbate 80, squalene, thimerosal, mercury, egg protein, sodium deoxycholate, and DL-a-tocopherol.
** Lancet, 1 February 2004

2 comments:

Blue Skull said...

Nice article, interesting reading.

The Pagan Temple said...

China has become suddenly one of my new favorite countries in the world. I'll look more into this Global Dimming theory.