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Sep 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 15)

Activism, Mendacity, and Pathological Science

Distortion of Science Has Given Rise to Flawed Policies and Regulations

  • Decision Making

    Pathological science may confuse not only the public, but also policy-makers. Donald Kennedy, president emeritus of Stanford University and former FDA commissioner, chides bureaucrats: “Frequently decision makers give up the difficult task of finding out where the weight of scientific opinion lies, and instead attach equal value to each side in an effort to approximate fairness. In this way extraordinary opinions...are promoted to a form of respectability that approaches equal status.” 

    This kind of undeserved moral equivalence frequently compromises governmental decision making and has given rise to unscientific and inconsistent regulation of many other products and technologies as well, including pesticides and other chemicals, biotechnology applied to agriculture, herbal dietary supplements, and silicone breast implants.

    No one should mistake activists’ misdemeanors and mischief for naïve exuberance or excessive zeal in a good cause. In case after case, their motives are self-serving and their tactics callous—an ongoing example of the sentiments expressed by Linus Van Pelt in the Peanuts comic strip, “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.”


Readers' Comments

Posted 09/11/2009 by consultant

True, but rarely unpopular ideas turn out to be major discoveries.

You did not mention the time, effort and money that is wasted in adressing some of the examples you gave.

I think that mercury-containg is incorrect chemically and misleading too non-chemists. Assuming that mercury means elemental mercury. This was never a vaccine component. Thimerosal contains is an organic mercurial with anionic mercury. As we know 1 electron changes everything. Not that this means there is no potential harm. Everything has its other side. But let's be specific so that the risks can be properly attributed and evaluated.
There are infinitly greater sources of mercury compounds in the enviorment and these require attention.

Posted 09/06/2009 by Nurse Specialist Smoking Cessation

I agree with Bill's approach. It's the smoke inhalation that is causing the true public health problem. Sure poeple get addicted to nicotine surges and consequent dopamine release but it's the delivery vehicle that is the true health problem. Stopping the sale of any product designed to work by inhaling smoke is where we should be putting our energy, and using whatever non-smoke inhahalation device we have available to do this should be our focus.

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