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I avoid all these problems by living on pure grain alcohol and distilled water. I also smoke stogies, too.

Dude, the guy's name is Peter Piper? Seriously? That sucks. I hope he kicked the living shit out of his parents after hearing about a quadrillion "picked a pickled pepper" jokes in school.

"Now, I can't say how Professor Peter Piper conducted this experiment, but it seems a safe bet that it went something like this: He cultivated a few yeast cells in a petri dish. Then he poured in several heaping tablespoons of pure sodium benzoate. The cells, overwhelmed by this onslaught, began acting in peculiar ways."


This scientist's email address is:
Peter.Piper at sheffield.ac.uk

Why don't you ask him to comment on your blog post.

"Think I'm exaggerating? Hunt down a copy of Edith Efron's book The Apocalyptics and see for yourself."

Apply your own logic to this book. The authors and publishers make money by selling sensational books. How can you trust them?

Why don't you attack the financial and political clout of the chemical industry with the same vigor you attack science?


Benzine is a proven carcinogin. I have a graduate degree in molecular biology and ever since I heard about benzine I've been waiting for the related molecules to be found dangerous too. I've been wondering what has taken so long.

Most research is published. If you want to print the truth rather than risk perpetuating your own scam why don't you look up how this research was done tell us what you find?

I couldn't find the benzoate research on-line but here some similar research:

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=338074

Here is a list of his publications
http://www.shef.ac.uk/mbb/staff/piper

"I have a graduate degree in molecular biology..."

Why did you post under a bullshit name then? Post your real name and the institution where you received your degree.

"Why did you post under a bullshit name then? Post your real name and the institution where you received your degree."

Oh, come on Tom. What intelligent person wouldn't use a name like "jhw239yf9vg2q4r0u8"? It's obviously the result of a clever mind; it's not like a monkey was banging away at a keyboard.

"I have a graduate degree in molecular biology and ever since I heard about benzine I've been waiting for the related molecules to be found dangerous too. I've been wondering what has taken so long."

What? With your Ph.D. in molecular biology(snicker), you couldn't do the research yourself? Was the potential of having your name plastered all over the newspapers too much for you?

Birds of a feather flock together...

It's amazing that some people think writing fiction makes them scientifically.

...credible.

What is good enough for John Horgan is good enough for me:

"Q. What's your critique of most science reporting?

A. I have enormous respect for all my science-writing colleagues, but, in general, I'm distressed that science writers aren't more critical of science. We often don't get as much sophistication out of science writers as we do out of sports writers. Or political writers. Scientists are very good at intimidating science writers. They are always telling us you can't ''really understand'' science unless you are a scientist, which is absolutely absurd."

Neal: "it's not like a monkey was banging away at a keyboard."

Best. Comment. Ever.

To the critics:

I don't care about Piper's research one way or the other. My point is that this story is typical of how science is handled today: find an obscure and doubtful threat, tie it to media-worthy subjects, hype it in the press, and wait for the grant money to roll in.

A few cases in point:

Alar (the pesticide) will kill your kids!

Drinking coffee will kill you!

Global warming will kill us all!

I don't have to be a science expert to know alarmist hype when I see it.

And yes, it's not just government. The pharmaceutical and food industries are guilty, too. Increasingly, science (whether financed by Big Government or Big Business) is becoming a racket - and some of us, poor unlettered souls though we may be, are noticing.

If your point was to point out alarmist hype, why do it in such a bad way:

"Now, I can't say how Professor Peter Piper conducted this experiment, but it seems a safe bet that it went something like this: He cultivated a few yeast cells in a petri dish. Then he poured in several heaping tablespoons of pure sodium benzoate. The cells, overwhelmed by this onslaught, began acting in peculiar ways."

I mean, really. What are you trying to say with this paragraph?

That's not a rhetorical question.

Michael,

Good points. This is a good article from Michael Crichton with similar views:

http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches_quote03.html

>What are you trying to say with this paragraph?

I was aiming for sarcasm. Guess I missed the target.

Obviously I don't think Piper literally poured tablespoons of sodium benzoate into a petri dish. But usually experiments of this kind involve exposing the lab rats or cultured cells to a much higher dose of the chemical than they would ever receive in real life.

For details, see Efron's book. It's a serious, rather dry, very technical study of methodological problems in this area of research. Recent studies of hormesis make these problems even more acute.

Now, you're not going to dispute the fact that we live in an age of overhyped alarmist "scientific" scares, in which everything from cell phones to power lines, from carbon dioxide to asbestos, is presented as a grave headline-making threat. Are you? (Don't answer. That is a rhetorical question.)

Thanks, James, for the link to the Crichton speech. He's a fascinating guy, and his memoir Travels contains a lot of info on his global trekking and his exploration of paranormal questions.

Crichton mentions the hysteria about Y2K and about breast implants - two more examples of media alarmism based on faulty science.

As Crichton puts it: "We need to start seeing the media as a bearded nut on the sidewalk, shouting out false fears. It's not sensible to listen to it."

And sadly, we need to start seeing science, or at least media-driven science, in exactly the same way.

Although the article may not be the most elegant piece of work I do think that the point remains valid. There was an artist who "created" a piece of art by purchasing a urinal from a manufacturer and hanging it in an art gallery. Some observers confronted him and said "that's not art," he replied "but I am the artist, I say what art is." I fear that science has become what scientist say science is. By the way the amount of benzene you breath in every day from our polluted air is thousands of times greater than the amount an average soda drinker would consume. Also the human body contains many compounds that contain the dreaded benzene (yeah that's how you spell it) ring which are essential for human life. Benzene does not equal benzene-like. Although benzene is one of the most potent carcinogens known Dopamine contains the benzene ring and is a vital neurotransmitter.

Michael, I think you've got it mostly right on that Crichton line, because the fault isn't with science or scientists, but with the media. I have lost track o the number of golly-gee reports I've read, even in supposedly sober media like the New York Times, even in the supposedly scientifically savvy media like National Geographic, only to dig out the real references (why is it the media cannot link to their sources?) and find the professor in question said nothing of the sort, or that the quote itself was one of those musing comments some professors like to pepper into the Future Think section of the Summary just because they need to build some relevence of their work in the minds of the directors of their Department.

I'm not saying there aren't media-whores in lab coats or corporate puppets, but I do believe they are the exception. Data-smudgers typically very quickly burn themselves out, or become totally disgraced, as is happening in Canada over the sly omissions slipped into a recent study exonerating Chlorine Dioxide as a water treatment, conveniently overstepping the actual research result that said something like "risks of birth defects" ... the study was used to excuse a test on a live population in a field trial funded by the leading supplier of, you guessed it, Chlorine Dioxide. Now that is Bad Science, and what is worse, the media reporting on it has been spotty and un-sensationalized, although it has been persistent.

I guess it just means we, as learners, must be as scientific about our own fact gathering as we would demand of our learned scientists and the journalists who proxy for them!

Years ago, Dr Ernest Sequist, then dean of the Astronomers at the University of Toronto, had pinned to his corkboard a double-paged spread article from the National Enquirer (as William Burroughs put it, "the world's most widely read newspaper") screaming the headline, "University of Toronto Astronomy Professor says there IS Life in Outer Space!" -- the truth was betrayed by a short quote at the very end of the very long article: the Enquirer had indeed called Dr Sequist and posed their question, and he replied with the Drake Equation as an example, plus his real quote, "I'd be very surprised if there wasn't"

There's a name for all this hysteria-mongering: The Healthscare Industry.

Eating certain foods will kill you. Using this certain product will hurt you. Lack of sleep or too much sleep isn't good for you. Breathing city air can harm you.... Face it, life will kill us all eventually. Deal with it.

If I had a regular blog, I might have written a piece about a closely related issue that bugs me constantly: the number of media news items that open with the line: "Scientists say..." or "Research has shown...". I imagine what might have been the headlines if our newspapers existed in the days before the so-called scientific enlightenment. Perhaps something like "Bishops say..." or "Study of the scriptures has shown...".

The point is that the media has adopted science as the new religion and, no matter how much the scientists might howl in indignation at being compared to a priesthood, I suspect that they secretly enjoy their presumed infallibility and try to act the part.

Well, your sarcasm missed the mark by quite a distance. You definitely seemed to have made your mind up about the research without the slightest thought, which was odd.

Anyway, as others have mentioned, are the science scare stories a result of science or the media? We all know that journalists prefer a bad news story to a good news one, so why would they treat science any differently than, say, politics or sport or showbiz?

Sounds like professor Piper sent press release to newspaper, which applied the release and quite possibly made it "more understandable" to the general public by selecting some highlighted items. A bit like with rumours, story may have grown on the way?
Pretty much everything is harmful in large doses, including pure water.

I've updated the post (paragraph five) to make the sarcasm more obvious.

>You definitely seemed to have made your mind up about the research without the slightest thought,

True. I'm sick and tired of the litany of doomsday speculation. I've adopted an attitude of total preemptive cynicism toward all such claims, because they have been proven wrong so many times. Even the dreaded saccharine turned out to be not so dangerous (after it was banned). How many apocalyptic predictions has Paul Ehrlich made in his lifetime, all of them wildly off the mark? Look at Susan Blackmore's idiotic comments about global warming.

The media must assume their share of the blame, but some scientists - like Ehrlich and Blackmore - are complicit in this fear-mongering.

The point is that the media has adopted science as the new religion and, no matter how much the scientists might howl in indignation at being compared to a priesthood, I suspect that they secretly enjoy their presumed infallibility and try to act the part.

Absolutely true. And because of confirmation bias, neither the new priesthood nor their followers are able to even see the evidence suggesting that they might possibly be wrong about any of their core assumptions. . .

I agree when scientists use doomsday proganda which is all it is I personally think like many others here that Susan Blackmore is try to grab more media attention .

Michael: I'm glad you have the psychic balls to come out and say what you think about this new study on sodium benzoate and how there is too much environmental fear-mongering in science. Unfortunately scientists are only too late in the game of fear-mongering, as cancer research, skyrocketing under Nixon, has been funded and controlled by the same industries proven to create carcinogenic toxins.

In the West we, until now, have blissfully ignored the periphery of the empire -- where pesticides. like lead arsenic, are soaked onto commodities, like coffee beans, such that workers and consumers become overloaded in poisons.

The "brain of the planet" -- the Amazon -- is literally being replaced with soybean farms -- silica. Likewise the future of science is to replace the left-hand asymmetric carbon-based molecules with right-hand asymmetric silica-based molecules in the brain: biochips.

Mother Nature is the greatest ecoterrorist of all and may the ageing white males transform their denial into reactions of anger -- all to no avail.

Well whether or not soft drinks lead to DNA change or Parkinsons...this is a fact that:

In combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C, E300), sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate may form benzene, a known carcinogen. Heat, light and shelf life can affect the rate at which benzene is formed.

found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_benzoate

check your sauces, jams, fruit juices
Its in Torani syrup
How about a lil carcinogen in your coffee to help pep up your day! Eww

Three years ago I realized I was getting migraines immediately after drinking soda's like Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi or Dr Pepper. So I stopped drinking all soda!

Well, I kept getting occassional migraines and finally linked it to sodium benzoate in foods - condiments, fruit spreads, juices etc.

No sodium benzoate, no migraine. When I eat sodium benzoate I become very ill - and the effects last for days. It feels like a very evil "hangover"

I tell everyone I know about my experinces with these and other food additives (ie preservatives) and nearly all the people I speak with begin to realize they too are having ill effects from these ingredients!

It's important to remember food manufacturers put these perservatives in food to protect THEMSELVES not consumers. They add these subtances to lengthen food shelf life. They seem marginally concerned about the health effects on consumers.

So rather than call this and other food safety reporting sensationalistic or alarmist, I credit the author and researchers for daring to go against multi billion dollar food industries!

Remember, these soda manufaturers want everyone on earth to drink their soda or water or juice. Pepsi and Coke seriously want to replace water as a beverage of choice! And they are making pretty good headway on this pursuit!

Thank you for your interesting story!
I thought perhaps you may also find this related post interesting to you:
Longevity Science: Soft Drinks Linked to Aging ?
http://longevity-science.blogspot.com/2007/05/soft-drinks-linked-to-aging.html

The problem with science that you describe is a symptom of the general moral weakness of mankind. Scientists are no different from the church fathers who opposed Galileo. Should you dare to deviate from established paradigms, especially if it threatens the current funding pipeline or the current power structure, you will be cut down.

You can just look at how the Wright brothers were initially received or the bad press cold fusion research received to see this.

It is amazing to me that people put more trust in science than religion. After all the fundamental rules of physics have radically changed 3 or 4 times in the last century and are now known to be mathematically inconsistent. Things are even more uncertain in the healthcare industry. Remember medical science used to believe that radiation dosing and even cocaine was good for you!

Just as an addition: at work, I just formatted a market report into Vitamins and Mineral Supplements which had a section on the role of the media. They list five examples of positive and negative press. The positive examples came from a five month period, while the five negative ones came from a period of a year and a half. Not conclusive evidence, but worth mentioning that the negative ones needed to come from a far greater length of time in order to balance the positive.

Perhaps the bias of negative to positive reporting isn’t so extensive, and it is as much a case of people remembering the negative stories more than they remember the positive ones?

It's also a safe bet to say, that if you haven't taken the time to read Pipers research papers on the subject, as you freely admit, then your opinion about the subject is being formed by your emotional/ego needs

Find his paper, read it, and then comment. I haven't, and withhold judgement about the subject until I do. That's what science is, Michael. Piper may be wrong, but you need to show where he's failing.

How much more of an object lesson in media hype can you provide then to do the exact same thing yourself? Can't you see this?
Here, let me show you.

"I haven't read any of Michael Prescotts books, but I'm sure they're unfit to wrap fish in. It'd be an insult to the dead fish". Now, respond to that. Then read your response, and we'll see if any lighbulbs go on.

Find his paper, read it, and then comment. I haven't, and withhold judgement about the subject until I do. That's what science is, Michael. Piper may be wrong, but you need to show where he's failing.

Piper's work may very well be correct. However I think the larger point stands, which is that the media tends to lap up most scientific findings almost like stone tablets handed down from mount sinai, and that many of the "scare stories" from scientific research end up being unfounded.

As for the specific case of sodium benzoate, I haven't read the research and so won't comment on it.

>"I haven't read any of Michael Prescotts books, but I'm sure they're unfit to wrap fish in. It'd be an insult to the dead fish". Now, respond to that.

Okay. I'd say I'm the last person in the world who can objectively assess my own work, so the critic may very well be correct!

However, your analogy is not very good. To make it better, you'd have to say something like this: "I haven't read Prescott's books, but if they're anything like a whole bunch of suspense novels that have come out in the past ten or twenty years, then I'd bet that they're sensationalistic and trashy. Here are some examples of the sensationalistic and trashy books I'm talking about. [Examples given.] This trend toward sensationalistic trash bothers me, so as a result I don't pay much attention to suspense novels anymore and I don't plan to read Prescott's books."

I would consider this to be a perfectly reasonable position.

Yes, I agree with the scamminess of the grants given for research At least Peter Piper used yeast and not live primates or other unfortunate animals, but if he gets more money, no doubt his research as with other similar kind of reasearch might cover the cost of animal experiments.

Good day to you, Mr. Prescott.

I'm not sure that I dsiagree with you regarding the current state of science. At the beginning of your commentary you write:

"What I really mean is that science, as it is increasingly practiced today, is a scam. There is nothing wrong with the scientific method, so long as it is not misunderstood as the be-all and end-all of inquiry. But the way modern science is carried out is more and more problematic. Bureaucratized, corporatized, and above all politicized, science is becoming a highly questionable endeavor."

In this modern 21st century era one looks around and all one sees is that everything is as you put it above. Religion, I dare say, is the most "bereaucratized, corporatized,(and worst of all)...politicized." And religion as practised today is most certainly a "a highly questionable endeavor" and most definitely a "scam".

Of the two, science and religion, I fear religion and it's incidious impacts of our world far more than science.

Thank you for your thoughts. A most interesting read.

"Of the two, science and religion, I fear religion and it's incidious impacts of our world far more than science."

Personally, I disagree(I don't speak as a religionist). I think people nowadays are conditioned to believe this by authors such as Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc. There are/have been extremely dangerous people in the mainstream scientific establishment. Scientists like James Watson, E.O. Wilson, etc. have taken up positions that could potentially be dangerous for society. It is extremely dangerous when a society abandons its discernment and skepticism with regard to any institution. This has happened with the scientific establishment in the Western world(at least among the leftist urban intelligentsia). We don't have anything to fear from science, but we do have to fear scientism.

How can you not be wary of the scientific establishment when they put out ideological nonsense like this:

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bloom07/bloom07_index.html

I really hate it when weak disciplines like psychology try to hide under the mystique of modern physics.

Hi Michael,

While I agree with your overall sentiments, I also feel a certain double-standard in your application of criticism to Piper's work. Many of us have been critical in the past of Michael Shermer debunking Rupert Sheldrake without reading his work. See also the recent BAAS meeting in which Sheldrake asked a critical scientist if he had read the actual papers:

Dr. Atkins: Well, you can’t rely on any of these experiments...there is no serious work done in this field. The samples that people use are very tiny, the effects are statistically insignificant, the controls are not done in a scientific way.

Dr. Sheldrake: Well I’d like to ask him if he’s actually read the evidence? May I ask you Professor Atkins if you’ve actually studied any of this evidence or any other evidence?

Dr. Atkins: No, but I would be very suspicious of it.

Your comments about Piper's research seem to echo Atkins' approach a little - "you can't rely on any of these experiments...I would be very suspicious of it".

My 2 cents anyhow...

Kind regards,
Greg

I posted this to my blog (apparently it somehow didn't comment earlier):

I wrote this as a comment in reply to this post. It really irritated me, especially with all the posts expressing vacuous agreement.

---------------------------------------

You'd get along well with Steven Milloy (the founder of junkscience.com) -- in fact, I wonder if you've been influenced by him.

Check him out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Milloy

A choice quote:

"In 1993, Milloy dismissed an Environmental Protection Agency report linking secondhand tobacco smoke to cancer as "a joke". When the British Medical Journal published a similar study in 1997, Milloy said, "it remains a joke today." When another researcher published a study linking secondhand smoke to cancer, Milloy wrote that she, "…must have pictures of journal editors in compromising positions with farm animals. How else can you explain her studies seeing the light of day?"[4] While at FoxNews.com, Milloy continued to attack research on the harms of secondhand smoke.[5]

During the time that Milloy was attacking the credibility of secondhand-smoke research, his junkscience.com website was receiving editorial oversight and content directly from the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.[6] Milloy's supposedly independent organization TASSC was funded and coordinated by Philip Morris[7] with the goal of "utilizing TASSC as a tool in targeted legislative battles."[8] A confidential 1994 Philip Morris memo listed Milloy's organization under "PM Tools to Affect Legislative Decisions".[9] Milloy himself was listed on Philip Morris' payroll, being budgeted over $180,000 in payments in the years 2000 and 2001.[10]

On June 27, 2006, summarizing over 10 years of scientific research, the United States Surgeon General issued a comprehensive scientific report concluding that secondhand smoke is a carcinogen with no risk-free level of exposure, refuting Milloy's claims.[11] The Surgeon General's report also stated that secondhand smoke exposure is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory problems, ear infections, and asthma attacks in infants and children.[11]"

There are plenty of other similar examples. You would also be a global warming denier, I'm betting, who believes that the synthetic chemicals pervading our environment are getting a bad rap and hurting business.

Mind pointing out some real examples besides alluding to some book with a flashy name?

What's interesting is that in the past "science" (influenced by government) scammed the public into believing things like something like marijuana is harmful and things like DDT are not. Today we've got scientists telling us the opposite.

Today we also have the irrational Christians on the defensive. Coincidence? I think not.

When you discount the danger of synthetic chemicals (enjoy your Teflon fumes and volatile plasticizers with a good dose of cadmium, I'm guessing?) and drugs you serve as a corporate apologist, just like Milloy.

Today health problems are rampant among the masses, yet people who cook their own meals and avoid chemicals tend to go to the doctor sparingly, if at all. That should be encouraged. Many of the chemicals we use today are not actually very necessary, and the more information that people have about their risks the better.

Health effects is one of those areas that we say in economics is dominated by imperfect information, which leads people to make bad choices. If you care more about your health, choose juice instead of soda. The only people you'll be hurting really is the soda companies.

Parkinson's has been linked to pesticides. This is simply a strong statistical correlation. Take of it what you want.

Genetically engineered foods pose significant health risks. Many people are unaware of that, and at first glance it would seem that genetically engineered foods pose little risk. After all, genetic changes happen naturally. But these major changes can produce unexpected side affects. The most blatantly unhealthy modifications get caught in the lab (GM peas cause allergic lung damage in rice), but the others can have slower, long-term, insidious effects, as the researcher Arpad Pusztai has shown.

In conclusion, you are very wrong. The new millennium calls for a different kind of science - but that science should be more cautious, not less, when it comes to potential health effects. After all, what do we have to lose? A few less cans of soda, or rice with human proteins in it?

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Of course, there is potentially more to lose than the lost opportunity to taste human-rice. There is an argument that GM (genetically modified) foods are necessary to food the world's growing population. I think that's false; we can obviously more than feed the world right now. The poor in developing nations right now don't even accept GM foods (they refuse to take much of that food anyway), and when they do accept GM foods, their farmers are forced to pay pharmaceutical companies. The poor need money and livelihoods. That would be best served by helping them sell their own food; that means we need to reduce trade barriers and food subsidies in the US, as well as do what we can to build basic infrastructure (water and energy) and put pressure on despotic governments.

>I also feel a certain double-standard in your application of criticism to Piper's work. Many of us have been critical in the past of Michael Shermer debunking Rupert Sheldrake without reading his work.

Yeah, you're probably right. One of the problems with blogging is that it tends to be a shoot-from-the-lip enterprise. In this case, I probably shot myself in the foot by mentioning Piper at all. I should have confined myself to a general discussion of the "healthscare" and "enviroscare" trends in science and media, without impugning Piper's research. After all, there are plenty of examples of apocalyptic pronouncements that haven't panned out. Just look at any of the Club of Rome's predictions from the '70s, or Ehrlich's books, or the "New Ice Age" fears of thirty years ago, or the comments of Undergroundman (above). With so many better examples of fear-mongering available, there was no reason to bring sodium benzoate into the picture.

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Underground,

No offense, but spare us the neo-Luddite bullshit. All of the studies you have posted are contested in the scientific community.

Undergroundman,

No offense, but spare us the neo-Luddite bullshit. All of the studies you have posted are contested in the scientific community.

Tom: So nice of you to point out that they are contested without pointing out any wheres or whys. Arpad Pusztai's study is disputed among politicians and some scientists, but the biotech industry is lucrative for scientists. Otherwise, none of the science that I alluded to is disputed - secondhand smoke is conclusively dangerous, cadmium is conclusively dangerous, and plasticizers are volatile and well kown to be endocrine disrupters. Since even people like Michael Prescott agree that incentives matter, it seems strange that people conveniently ignore that incentive.

Regardless, I suppose don't have time to debate with close-minded people. Prescott's examples are hardly even relevant. The Club of Rome was hardly science - it was economic predictions from people who weren't economists (not that economists have a good track record, but its economics, for Chrissakes). Paul Ehrlich, who didn't see the Green Revolution coming, touches upon another economic-related issue. Look, economics is not an exact science. Predicting economic trends fifteen to twenty years down the road is like trying to predict stocks - and there's a reason people have diverse portfolios.

I'm not very familiar with the "New Ice Age" fear of the 70s - could you post a link?

I'm actually a bit dubious of Piper's research. The sugar alone is enough to make soft drinks unpleasant to me, but sodium benzoate is in almost everything.

But the idea that many of the pollutants and chemicals in our environment are not harmful is just stupid, as is the idea that GM food doesn't pose potential risks. The harms that I linked to all have a much more solid scientific foundation than Piper's research. (Again, read the New Scientist article on the GM pea.)

By the way, more economically aware people know that commodities resources are finally exploding in price - signaling that they are becoming scarce. In a free-market world, of course, they will never become impossibly scarce, but the higher prices will squeeze businesses and make items more expensive. Recycling may help to make up for it. But it might be that the Club of Rome was just 20 years too late - which is not surprising, considering that the growth in the developing world (currently driving the higher prices) which was expected by all the IMF and World Bank economists didn't really work out like they thought.

I think what you're really proving here is that journalism turns everything it touches into sensationalism.

Vast quantities of scientific research are done sensibly and properly; however, fame (from which the canny can usually extract fortune) awaits those who court the press, so we *hear about* the tiny minority of 'science' that is done to get attention, disproportionately; and we *hear about* the science which, though done honestly, fits with journalism's agenda (senastion).

So no, science isn't a scam, but journalism corrupts everything it touches. And what, in our modern world, doesn't journalism touch ?

Hi Michael,

Certainly - as I said, I agree with your main points. Being raised a farm boy, and seeing farmers blamed for the (always impending) end of the Earth, I certainly know to take the hysteria with a grain of salt or three.

It's why I hardly ever blog, because I feel I have to fact check everything I'm going to say...eventually it's just easier to think about it than write!
;)

Kind regards,
Greg

>I'm not very familiar with the "New Ice Age" fear of the 70s - could you post a link?

http://denisdutton.com/cooling_world.htm

Michael -- this is the internet. This is your brain on the internet. It's easy to ignore the ecological crisis because capitalist prices do not reflect the true cost of economic transactions. Julian Simon's attack on Ehrlich is precisely based on this misnomer. The Economist, for example, doesn't even acknowledge quantum chaos in it's review of "The Wealth of Nature" by Professor Robert Nadeau, even though quantum chaos is the main topic of the book.

Your ignorance of global environmental issues is not the bliss of the majority on the planet. TNCs are by far the main source of destruction with only a handful dominating each sector of the economy. But the CIA PR propaganda is to constantly push "individual" consumer solutions based on guilt -- of course you're going to have some sort of red-neck reaction, just as is expected.

Undergroundman,

I'm not making comments on the actual content of the research, but on the way things are blown out of proportion from one modest study. Let me offer a comparison: Quantum electrodynamics is widely considered to be the crown jewel of all scientific theories, but even its founder, Richard Feynman, had serious misgivings about it. He admitted that there might be serious problems with its foundations (ad hoc renormalization procedure). The theory is accurate to something like 14 decimal places, but Feynman was honest enough to admit the theory's limitations. My point is that Big Science is losing scientists who are willing to approach topics soberly and with brutal honesty. Things have become so bureaucratized and politicized that they have to make overblown claims about modest experiments; experiments that surely have less validity than QED.

This has nothing to do with science and everything to do with faulty journalism and quacks trying to make a buck. And this problem has already been talked about in much more entertaining way:

http://www.badscience.net/?p=172

"It is my hypothesis that in their choice of stories, and the way they cover them, the media create a parody of science, for their own means. They then attack this parody as if they were critiquing science."

Kind of how you did in this article by critiquing non-science as if it were science.

http://www.badscience.net/?p=230
http://www.badscience.net/?p=340

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