Time was when any yahoo of a preacher could trump any debate by yelling “the Bible says….” It sufficed. Nobody dared say another word. Nor did it make any difference whether the Bible really did say it. Anyone with a clergy collar could say it did and that was enough.
Is that the case now with science? Several recent reports suggest that the best way to get scientific endorsement for any pet product is to fund a study. That way you can get learned scientists to intone that your stuff is the way to go. The fact that you bought them is not noticed, or if it is, is not deemed relevant.
The online science journal PLoS Medicine published the results of, not just a study, but a study of studies [!] published between 1999 and 2003 on nutrition. Harvard researchers and analysts from the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that if the food industry sponsors the study, results are up to 8 times more likely to be favorable for them than if someone else sponsors the study. It is bias, they suggest, not deliberate lying. Just how do you ask the questions? Exactly which questions do you ask? How do you interpret the data? Such factors that will influence your conclusion and are built into the study by researchers who hope to arrive at a desired result.
“This is yet another attack on industry by activists who demonstrate their own biases in their review by looking only at the funding source and not judging the research on its merits,” fumes Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, as if they'd shot her dog. “The science is what matters-nothing else!” But I suspect she is merely recalling who signs her paycheck.
Then there is mold. The Institute of Medicine is a federally funded (mostly) nonprofit organization. Reviewing 2004 research, it said “studies have demonstrated adverse effects - including immunologic, neurologic, respiratory and dermal responses - after exposure to specific toxins, bacteria, molds or their products.” In 2001 a Texas jury awarded $32 million [!] to a family whose home was mold-infested. But don’t try to pull such a stunt yourself. Colin and Pamela Fraser did, more recently, and their medical expert wasn’t allowed to testify. The judge blew away their concerns, declaring them “unsupported by the scientific literature.” She was swayed by what the American College on Occupational and Envirernmental Medicine wrote: “Scientific evidence does not support the proposition that human health has been adversely affected by inhaled mycotoxins [from mold] in the home, school, or office environment” Defendants in mold lawsuits now routinely and with considerable success rely on this paper.
What they don’t tell you is significant. The defense paper is authored by scientists who are paid experts for the defense in mold litigation. They don't work cheap either. Depending on which expert the defense summons, they'll pay $375 to $720 an hour!
Which organization has the truth: the Institute of Medicine or the American College on Occupational and Environmental Medicine? I have no idea. Likely the truth lies somewhere in between. The point, though, is that when we’re solemnly informed science says this or that, we’re likely being flimflammed. It may not be science at all. It might be politics, self-interest and business, with some science “toppings.”
When it comes to drug studies, we all know the pattern. The study that tells us Healthexa is wonderful stuff invariably is funded by Healthexa corporation. We hear it repeated....um....repeatedly..... through advertising: it's safe! it's safe! it's perfectly safe! Ask your doctor!
Then people drop of heart failure, cancer, or stroke.
Oh...........sorry...... Healthexa says, and gets their lawyers cracking to deny any blame.
And don’t get me started on that study that declared violent entertainment produces angels. Tom Fishandchips is still steamed over that one.
Better we should leave science out of it. Just say who paid how much to make what point.
"It's impossible to make a man understand something when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it." -Upton Sinclair