In recent years, "You don't trust science!" has become one of the more predictable and laughable battle cries of the actual-science-hating Leftist.
1. In 2005, John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, published a paper, “Why most published research findings are false,” mathematically showing that a huge number of published papers must be incorrect. He also looked at a number of well-regarded medical research findings, and found that, of 34 that had been retested, 41% had been contradicted or found to be significantly exaggerated. Since then, researchers in several scientific areas have consistently struggled to reproduce major results of prominent studies. By some estimates, at least 51%—and as much as 89%—of published papers are based on studies and experiments showing results that cannot be reproduced. Take, for example, former Harvard researcher John Darsee. In 1981 he was found to be faking data in a heart study. Eventually investigators at the National Institutes of Health discovered that data for most of his 100 published studies had been fabricated.
2. William McBride, an Australian obstetrician, was hailed as a whistle-blowing visionary in 1961 when he sounded a warning about the dangers of thalidomide, a sedative prescribed for anxiety and morning sickness. In a letter to the journal The Lancet, McBride suggested that the drug was causing infants to be born with severe limb deformities. The approved drug had been doing damage for years, and his warning was not taken seriously at the time.
3. In 1983, astronomer Carl Sagan coauthored an article in Science that shook the world: "Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions" warned that nuclear war could send a giant cloud of dust into the atmosphere that would cover the globe, blocking sunlight and invoking a climatic change similar to that which might have ended the existence of dinosaurs. Skeptical atmospheric scientists argued that Sagan's model ignored a variety of factors, including the fact that the dust would have to reach the highest levels of the atmosphere not to be dissipated by rainfall.
4. At the University of Utah in 1989, chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced that the world's energy problems had been solved. They claimed to have created nuclear fusion on a tabletop by electrolyzing deuterium oxide — heavy water — using electrodes made of palladium and platinum. No further scientific corroboration was forthcoming.
5. In the 1990s, the government estimated that American taxpayers paid some $25 billion to determine that power lines don't do anything more deadly than deliver power. In 1989, Paul Brodeur published a series of articles in The New Yorker raising the possibility of a link between electromagnetic fields and cancer. Eight years later, after several enormous epidemiological studies in Canada, Britain, and the United States, the danger was completely discounted. "All known cancer-inducing agents act by breaking chemical bonds in DNA," says Robert Park. "The amount of photon energy it takes is an ultraviolet wavelength. So any wavelength that is longer cannot break chemical bonds. Visible light does not cause cancer. Infrared light is still longer, radio waves longer still. Power-line fields are preposterous. The wavelength is in miles."
6. Antibiotics are not miracle drugs, as sometimes claimed by science. Even when antibiotics were warranted, patients were not sufficiently warned about the dangers of not taking the drugs for the full course of treatment. When the symptoms of their infection abated, patients often threw away their pills, allowing the bacteria that had not been killed off to mutate. Now there are whole categories of antibiotics that no longer work. And there are some potentially deadly bacterial diseases, including tuberculosis, that can only be beaten by one or two of the strongest, most expensive antibiotics.
Please send any questions or feedback to questions@GeoffreyBotkin.com.