Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Pecunia non olet

Though the name of this blog has its roots in medicine my interest has become more general. In fact, I seem to be more and more interested in the maltreatment of science and how certain factions prefer misrepresenting the facts to serve their ideology.

Just recently have I written about an exposé showing science is for sale. Meaning, you can now buy the outcome you require to protect your financial interests. Unsurprisingly there are more examples to add to that unethical behaviour.

As I initially observed, Emilie Udell for the Center for Public Integrity reported how
Critical Reviews in Toxicology and Regulatory Toxicology and  Pharmacology 
 are the go-to journals for
misleading, industry-backed articles that threaten public health by playing down the dangers of well-known toxic substances such as lead and asbestos. The articles often are used to stall regulatory efforts and defend court cases.
The article showed how the asbestos industry bought scientists to opine the link between asbestos and mesothelioma is in dispute. For an explanation on the technique used see manufactroversy.

Climate Progress updates the #Exxonknew-meme  by reporting and showing a reportage by Frank Capra from 1958:
In this film, Dr. Research (Dr. Frank Baxter) explains to The Writer (Richard Carlson) that unrestricted carbon dioxide emissions could lead to a world where “Tourists in glass bottom boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami.”
They conclude
Scientists have been warning us about the dangers of unrestricted CO2 emissions, global warming and climate change for over six decades. So much for the myth that climate scientists used to believe in global cooling a couple of decades ago — a myth that has been utterly debunked in the scientific literature (see here). Heck, thanks to excellent reporting by InsideClimate News, we now know oil giant ExxonMobil had been told by its own scientists in the 1970s and 1980s that climate change was human-caused and would reach catastrophic levels without reductions in carbon emissions.
Another example of politicians confusing facts for fiction: voter-fraud. John Oliver shows us the utter fiction of it.

But, this is not about science, it is about politics. By corrupting science the usual suspects are able to sabotage necessary legislation: f.e. to combat smoking related deaths, global warming, gun control, derail vaccination programs, et cetera,

Nevertheless, as I write this we still are defrauded by politicians invoking the "it is nothing more than a global hoax by liberal-commie-nazi scientists"-tactic.

All the misrepresentations by politicians evoke som paranoid response in me: Cui bono? Which leads me to conclude we are in need of some mandatory regulation in politics.
  1. Politicians must be able to say whatever they want. They should be able to make any suggestion, propose or block any law, make any claim they want.
  2. Following their suggestions (to implement, or block, policy/law) it should be mandatory to show evidence of a) the need for this proposal/its refusal, b) the proposal has the claimed effect, c) the claimed effect outweighs the expected negative impact.
  3. For the purpose of ascertaining the available facts politicians themselves are not considered experts in the field. 
  4. The evidence shown can not be "I strongly believe," or "god said so," but has to be based on a review by an independent expert in the relevant field. This expert has to a) share with us the mainstream view among the relevant experts, b) state that in case of any discrepancy between the politicians statement and communis opinio among these experts this is entirely reasonable and reflects an actual debate among experts, c) in case of politicians withholding  such studies they are obliged to mention the result and reason behind not mentioning it.
  5. In the absence of verifiable evidence politicians are obligated to either withdraw their suggestions/comments or admit they are only sharing their private opinion and that layman opinion is more important than evaluation by people with real knowledge: otherwise known as experts.
  6. Any proposal based on non-expert guestimation shall be publicly presented as make believe or truthiness
  7. Akin to nearly every other profession I would suggest accountability in case of policy that can not be reconciled with expert opinion, or lacks reasonable arguments to ignore the patently fallacious solution presented.
Concluding I think there is to much room for misstatements regarding science, and we should better protect society against those who mislead us for personal gain.

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