Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Hyping for Headlines And Hiring

The invaluable JunkScience.com--which publicizes "faulty scientific data and analysis used to advance special and, often, hidden agendas"--unveiled this year's Top Ten Most Embarrassing Moments, including:
  1. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that obesity caused 400,000 deaths annually in the U.S., a figure approaching the annual death toll for smoking. . . However, in the past month, The Wall Street Journal published several articles arguing the study inflated "the impact of obesity on the annual death toll," and that the CDC plans to revise its obesity death toll downward.

    As it turns out, "even before the disputed study was published, several scientists at the CDC expressed misgivings to their superiors about its methodology and findings…The dissenting scientists complained that their concerns were ignored and that the agency's rigorous standards governing scientific research hadn't been followed," reported the Journal.

  2. A new report by the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment cautioned "Global warming could cause polar bears to go extinct by the end of the century by eroding the sea ice that sustains them." JunkScience.com says the report doesn't connect greenhouse gases with any alleged warming. Indeed, the reports debunks itself in a graph on Page 23:

    Observed Arctic Temperature, 1900 to Present (click to enlarge)

    In the past hundred years, arctic temperatures have fluctuated in cycles roughly 40 years long. And, as George Taylor also has shown, the near-surface Arctic air temperature was higher around 1940 than now, despite all the greenhouse gas emissions since.

  3. A study in the Feb. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that all levels of antibiotic use were associated with increased risk of breast cancer and death from breast cancer. The study triggered an avalanche of “Antibiotics Linked to Breast Cancer” news reports. According to JunkScience.com, however, the study supplied no evidence that antibiotics caused the cases of breast cancer examined. . .

    Without a plausible biological link between antibiotic use and breast cancer, the researchers relied exclusively on statistical analysis. . . Though the researchers acknowledged their study doesn’t prove antibiotics cause breast cancer and that many other possible explanations for their reported results could exist, they called for more research -- that is, more taxpayer-funded research like this study.
Liberals and the mainstream media often unearth new environmental threats that later are retracted (remember Alar?) or ignored when a Democrat is President (remember arsenic?). Still, they seem convinced the end is near, and zero is the only appropriate ceiling. As I've previously noted:
why is the left so passionately committed to unproven fear mongering? Genetically modified foods, which could increase farm yields and reduce death from starvation, are widely vilified--without a single fatality. The press faithfully headlines every pronouncement of warmer (or cooler) weather, without checking the facts. The media rarely acknowledges scientists who predict no or insignificant global warming. This puts assumptions about man-made warming to the left of even the United States Senate, which called the Kyoto treaty "dead on arrival," and refused to consider ratification, by a vote of 95-0.

It's hard for layman like us to dispute science experts. But it's easy to take account of incentives and bias. Few lefties bother.
Some researchers survive on government funding; others hope for a break-though bringing tenure. Either way, professing alarm is substantially more remunerative and noteworthy than debunking. This isn't to fault researchers--only to caution that scientists aren't necessarily simon-pure. And the media is uninterested in good news; the imminent destruction of Earth, however, is a by-lined, front-page story (and a possible Pulitzer).

In sum, the most appropriate environmental policy is skepticism. That's the value of JunkScience.com.

(via Dave Koppel)


Anonymous said...

And all that hot air from the eco-freaks at GREENPEACE and from the mouth of AL GORE what a bunch of nit-wits

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