Since the late 1960s and early 1970s the ‗population problem,‘ as an immediate threat to humanity, has
been trumpeted by a number of ‗technological luddites,‘(look-up the meaning of ‗Luddite‘ ), including Paul R. Ehrlich [The Population Bomb (1968)], Garrett Hardin [―The Tragedy of the Commons,‖ Science, 162 (1968), 1243-1248], and the authors of the Club of Rome Report – Donella H. Meadow, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William W. Behrens III [The Limits to Growth (1972)]. The following list of source materials is quite controversial, since many contemporary so-called ‗scientists‘ have chosen to abandon the ‗Baconian Scientific Method,‘ and have willingly substituted a ‗belief-system‘ (which is one of the definitions of ‗religion‘) for empirical testing of hypotheses. It would be well to look up each of the
authors discussed in this course on the internet and discover their academic backgrounds and reliability as
‗scientists‘ in their chosen professions.
“What is science?”
―The scientific method
―In Defense of Bacon,‖
Dr. Michael Crichton, M.D. 2005. ―Complexity Theory and Environmental Management,‖
November 6. Available under ―Speeches,‖ at: www.crichton-official.com
__________. 2005. ―The Role of Science in Environmental Policy-Making.‖ Statement before the
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, September 28. Available @:
__________ . 2005. ―The Case of Skepticism on Global Warming.‖ January 25. Available
under ―Speeches,‖ at: www.crichton-official.com
__________. 2003. ―Environmentalism as Religion,‖ Speech to the Commonwealth Club, San
Francisco, CA., September 15. Available under speeches, at:
____________. 2003. ―Aliens Cause Global Warming,‖ Lecture California Institute of
Technology, Pasadena, CA, January 17.Available under speeches, at:
__________. 2002. ―Why Speculate?‖ April 26. Available under speeches, at: 1 www.crichton-official.com
__________. 1999. ―Ritual Abuse, Hot Air, and Missed Opportunities: Science Views
Media,‖ January 25. Available under speeches, at: www.crichton-official.com
__________. 1993. ―Mediasaurus: The Decline of Conventional Media,‖ April 7. Available under
speeches, at: www.crichton-official.com
Paul Ehrlich. 1968. The Population Bomb.
Scott Gordon. 1958. ―Economics and the Conservation Question,‖ Journal of Law and
Economics, Vol. 1, 110-
Garrett Hardin.1968. ―The Tragedy of the Commons,‖ Science, 162, 1243-48.
Sir John Maddox. 1972. The Doomsday Syndrome. [Sir John Maddox (1925 - ) served as
the editor of the prestigious scientific journal, Nature, for twenty-two (22) years – 1966-
73 and 1980-9].
Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William L. Behrens III. 1972.
The Limits to Growth.
Julian L. Simon. 1980. ―Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of False Bad
Ideas,‖ Science, 208 (June 27), 1431-7.
__________. 1981. The Ultimate Resource. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
__________. 1986. Theory of Population and Economic Growth. New York: Blackwell.
__________. 1990. Population Matters: People, Resources, Environment and Immigration.
New Brunswick, N.J.: Transactions Press.
__________. 1999. Hoodwinking the Nation. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
The ‗population explosion/resource depletion/global warming‘ problems expressed by the ‘global doomsday’ crowd cannot be examined and/or evaluated in isolation. There are a number of social and
economic issues that are all too frequently either skirted or totally ignored, and in some cases, outright denied. One of the fundamental purposes of this outline is to draw these supporting currents into full view,
so that individuals can arrive at informed decisions based on ‗scientific facts‘ and not sloppy research, distorted information, and biased opinion.
Posing the Issues
John Stossel in Chapter Six of Give Me a Break (2004) ―Junk Science and Junk Reporting,‖ begins
by employing a quotation of a statement made by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former U.S. Senator and: 2
―Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts.‖ In his comment Moynihan comes close to
expressing the view that: ―There are many opinions, but, despite the feelings of their holders, only one is
3 correct.‖ Stossel begins the chapter with the following example of the chapter title‘s nexus – how reporters are ―…supposed to double-check and get it right‖:
Remember the news coverage about how schools had become much more violent?
Newspaper reports said a survey found today‘s teachers‘ worries were (1) drug
abuse, (2) alcohol abuses, (3) pregnancy, (4) suicide, (5) rape, (6) robbery. But in
the ‗40s, teachers worried about (1) talking, (2) chewing gum, (3) making noise, (4)
running in the halls. It was a powerful illustration of social deterioration, and reporters
loved the list. It appeared everywhere – newspapers, magazines, the Congressional
Quarterly, Ann Landers‘s column.
Then Yale School of Management professor Barry O‘Neill finally checked the survey
out. He poured through hundreds of references to it without finding the original study.
Instead, he found ―the International Herald Tribune picking it up from the
Congressional Quarterly. They just took it from the Wall Street Journal.‖ O‘Neill
finally traced the story back to Texas oil man T. Cullen Davis, who said he made it up.
―When he talked to me, he said, ‗I know what the problems in the ‗40s were, because I
was in school then, and I know what they are now because I read the papers. I didn‘t
make these from a scientific survey.‘ He had no idea that professors and government
officials were all using the list that he‘d sat in his house and assembled.‖
Journalists joke that some stories are „too good to check.‟ This was one of those. (97-8,
This example may call to mind CBS Evening News and Dan Rather‘s insistence on the ‗authenticity‘ [since it may support and sustain preconceived ‗opinion,‘ ‗hope,‘ or ‗political bias‘] of the so-called ‗Killian documents‘ that emerged during the 2004 Presidential election. Once again, apparently: ‗…some stories are ‗too good to check,‘ even for the mainstream, self-anointed ‗media elite‘ on the ‗public airwaves‘ (ABC, CBS, and NBC), and especially the so-called ‗Public‘ Broadcasting System (PBS) which is supported by
Federal tax dollars, extorted (the ultimate threat of the use of ‗force‘ by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The individual my COSTLESSLY avoid the tentacles of the media elite of ABC, CBS, and NBC by not watching them (which affects their ‗ratings‘ and the advertising fees that they command, but she is forced
to support PBS through her taxes.
Stossel addresses the following issues in ―Junk Science and Junk Reporting‖:
Science Worship –
When covering what scientists say, reporters are particularly prone to getting the story
wrong. Most of us have little training in science, little understanding of how it works,
and too much faith in any one given scientist. When I started reporting, I thought
scientists were dispassionate observers, so what they published must be objective truth.
I considered the top scientific journals ironclad arbiters of fact. After all, most studies
submitted to the journals are rejected, so every study that‘s accepted has to pass the
withering scrutiny of peer review. 3
Then my brother Tom, who had become a research scientist and worked for some of the
journals, pointed out that much of what is published turns out, a few years later, to be
irrelevant or wrong. Science is not as precise as I thought it was. (98, emphasis added)
Scientific consensus is important. When the majority of respected scientists working within
their field of specialty …… (98, emphasis in original)
… now I realize that individual scientists reach dubious conclusions almost as often as the
rest of us do. But when scientists reach them, we reporters are less likely to question the
conclusion Have you cut down on salt because it‘s bad for you? Pumped up on vitamin C to ward off colds? Forced the kids to eat spinach because it‘s uniquely healthy? Then And, just what is the cause/source of such a plethora of ‗junk science‘? In part, ironically the ‗scientific you‟re a victim of junk science – peddled by a gullible press. (99, emphasis added)
method‘ is itself part of the cause … all scientific principles are ‗provisional‘ – subject to revision as more and better information is acquired. The history of science is rife with examples, perhaps one of the most
illuminating is the curious case of Alfred Lothar Wegener – his is not a name that is well-known to most folks.
Alfred Lothar Wegener (1880 – 1930), a German scientist and the ‗father‘ of ‗continental
drift theory‘, earned his PhD. in astronomy at the University of Berlin in 1904. He had an
early interest in geophysics, and meteorology and climatology, and wrote a pioneering
meteorology textbook used in German schools. In 1906 he joined an expedition to
Greenland to study polar air circulation. In 1911 he read scholarly reports of ‗identical‘
plant and animal fossils on both sides of the Atlantic … the prevailing ‗scientific‘
explanation for this distribution was the existence of ‗land bridges‘ that had facilitated the
diffusion of various life-forms across the world. Additionally, Wegener noted the close
correspondence of coastline of western Africa and eastern South America. During 1912/13
he joined another research expedition to Greenland and published his ‗hypothesis‘ of
continental drift in The Origins of Continents and Oceans (1915). He continued to
gather evidence supporting his hypotheses regarding continental drift throughout his life.
Wegener was drafted into the Germany Army and was wounded during World War I, and
then served in the German Army‘s weather forecasting service until the war‘s end. In 1924
he accepted a professorship in meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz
(Austria). In 1930 he undertook his last expedition to Greenland.
He postulated that some 300 million years ago all of the continents formed a single ‗super
continent‘ he designated a Pangaea (‗all earth‘), which broke up and drifted into their
current locations. In nearly all geology and physical geography textbooks used today
accept Wegener‘s views on the super-continent and continental drift.
Despite the current acceptance of Wegener‘s views, when his research was originally published in 1915, it
was disparaged nearly universally:
Reaction to Wegener‘s theory was almost universally hostile, and often exceptionally
harsh and scathing; Dr. Rollin T. Chamberlain of the University of Chicago said,
―Wegener‘s hypothesis in general is of the footloose type, in that it takes considerable
liberty with our globe, and is less bound by restrictions or ties down by awkward, ugly
facts than most of its rival theories. www.ucmp-berkeley.edu/history/wegener.html
Stossel‘s second major heading in Chapter Six, is the ‗Crack Baby‘ syndrome:
5 Crack Babies –
What could be more heart-breaking than an innocent new-born addicted to cocaine and
handicapped for life:
In the late ‗80s and early ‗90s, the media used a few small studies of babies born of cocaine-
addicted mothers to convince America that thousands of children were permanently
damaged. Dr. Ira Chasnoff, of the National Association for Families and Addiction Research
and education, after studying only 23 babies, reported that mothers were delivering babies
that ‗could not respond to them emotionally.‘ He told People magazine that the infants
‗couldn‘t respond to a human voice.‘ This led to a frenzy of stories on ‗crack babies‘. Many
people still believe ‗crack babies‘ are handicapped for life.
It isn‘t true. It turn out there is no proof that crack babies do worse than anyone else. In fact,
they do better, on average, than children born to alcoholic mothers …. (99-100)
In seeking answers to what went wrong, why such erroneous conclusions were accepted? Stossel
interviewed Claire Coals, a psychologist at Emory University: He asked her:
How could that happen?
Well, they wanted to get published.
Wow! Facts don‘t matter, just getting ‗published‘ … the more papers that an individual publishes in the Academy, the sooner they get promoted, the higher their pay, the fewer the number of hours
you‘re forced to spend in the classroom (so-called ‗release time‘ to support research), the grander their ‗reputation‘ among other scholars! Now that‘s REAL science! All of this is taking place on the taxpayers‘ dime, at Universities‘ which profess that their goal is educating the taxpayers‘ children!
Stossel continues by noting:
It is easier to get your work published, and, more important, funded, if you find something
If you go to an agency and say: ‗I don‘t think there‘s a big problem here, I‘d like you to give
me $ 1 million,‘ the probability of getting the money is very low. (101)
We‘ve been taught to expect certain levels of fraud from the business community, degrees of dishonesty from politicians, but the ‗self-serving,‘ intellectually misleading, and in many cases
intellectually dishonest, behaviors by members of the academic community largely have been
ignored … despite the costs that they impose on others – students and taxpayers alike! Stossel maintains that:
It‘s also easier to get funded if what you conclude feeds someone‘s political agenda. (101)
Vitamin C –
Stossel‘s second target of opportunity is the vitamin C mythology created by the Nobel Prize (in
chemistry) winning Linus Pauling, that megadoses of the vitamin will help ward-off colds! He notes:
… the press reported his claim enthusiastically, and the public believed. …. No matter that
Pauling‘s Nobel was in chemistry, not biology; no matter that dozens of follow-up studies
found no evidence that vitamin C prevents colds. The pills still fly out of stores. (102)
*N.B.: There is a ‗hidden‘ explanation for the ‗popularity‘ and ‗prevalence‘ of so much false bad news and misinformation – the silliness of the unquestioned acceptance that expertise in one field (chemistry
or entomology) qualifies an individual to speak with authority on issues in all or other fields that also
demand their own unique levels of expertise (biology or economics). While I have a PhD., that
degree does note qualify me to practice law or perform surgery, let alone teach chemistry.
Stossel explains the source of misinformation in the media by reporting the comments made by his
As my brother explains it, ‗You reporters have trouble ascertaining whether arrogance, bias,
or money has colored a scientist‘s opinion. You gravitate to scientists considered the ‗elite.‘
But the irony is that elitism fosters arrogance and does not immunize against error. Pauling,
for example, was spectacularly right about the fundamental principles of chemistry, but he
was wrong about the structure of DNA, as well as about vitamin C.‘
Stossel, then observes ironically:
Scientific communication is very stilted, as if to convey impartiality. Scientists are happy to
have nonscientists view them as uniquely unbiased, and reporters fall into the trap of believing
them. But supposedly ‗dispassionate‘ scientists are as passionate about their ideas as an
As far as he goes, Stossel is correct, when he writes ‗… scientists are as passionate about their ideas as an entrepreneur.‘ There is a major difference between ‗scientists‘ and ‗entrepreneurs‘ – scientists are ‗intellectuals‘ that live in the world of ideas (the inner world of the mind), while
entrepreneurs are ‗businessmen‘ and live in a world of products, services, and customers (the external world of people and things). These distinctions are significant … First and foremost, scientists and their ideas must please other scientists in a controlled „market place‟ overseen by other ‗intellectuals‘ with no explicit prices; in contrast, businessmen and their products and services, must please customers in a „free competitive market place‟ with explicit prices.
Empire Building –
7 According to Stossel, ‗empire building‘ ―… is another corrupter of science.‖ As an example, he
points to the emerging bureaucracy:
The U.S. government now has an antisalt bureaucracy that churns out thousands of pamphlets
and run public service announcements that warn Americans to cut back on salt.
‗We should eat ‗no more than 2,400 milligrams a day,‘ says Dr. Jeffrey Cutler, the official who
runs the government‘s antisalt campaign. ‗It should probably be lower, but that‘s a reasonable
interim goal.‘ ….
Cutler decided that Americans should eat less salt because high blood pressure can lead to heart
disease, and eating less salt can lower blood pressure. It‘s a plausible theory, but it doesn‟t prove
that less salt leads to less heart disease. Too many other things may be going on. (103, emphasis
in the original)
Those with even a simple working knowledge of introductory statistics know that ‗correlation is not
causation‘ and that there are ‗spurious correlations.‘ So, Stossel continues:
Experts on blood pressure told us there isn‘t enough scientific research to justify the govern-
ment‘s antisalt campaign, and there definitely isn‘t enough to justify Cutler‘s 2,400-milligram
limit. … (103)
‗I can‘t imagine how they came up with that number. I mean, there isn‘t a single bit of evidence
that suggests that 2,400 milligrams is better than 2,100 or 3,700,‘ says Dr. Michael Alderman,
who headed the American Society of Hypertension, America‘s biggest organization of specialists
in high blood pressure. (104)
I confronted Dr. Cutler at his office at the government‘s huge National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute (the institute‘s recent budget was ($ 2,569,794,000).
John Stossel: In the Journal of the American Medical Association, [it says] reducing salt in diet
has little effect on blood pressure.
Dr. Jeffrey Cutler: My study has not concluded that.
John Stossel: We just called up ten leading cardiologists, major hospitals. Nine out of ten said
they don‘t think this is a reasonable program. I mean, nine out of ten.
Dr. Jeffrey Cutler: I don‘t know what kind of sample you…
John Stossel: People at Stanford, Johns Hopkins. It suggests you‘re just trying to build a
Dr. Jeffrey Cutler: I don‘t accept that……
Now isn‘t that an example of the pursuit of the Scientific Method … the use of hypothesis testing …
―My study…‖ and ―I don‘t accept …‖
… If he finds that Americans ‗eat more than twenty times the salt your body needs,‘ he may be
on Good Morning America, and his supervisors may assign more people to work for him. He‘s
important. (104-5) 7
If he finds no threat, he is just another bureaucrat. (105)
8 The ‘Facts’ vs. the Truth –
Perhaps one of the more disturbing elements of the entire abandonment of the Baconian Scientific Method – the search for ‗truth‘ – substituting for it an intensified search for ‗facts‘ to substantiate a preconceived conclusion. Now that is really ‗junk science‘ – unsubstantiated ‗facts,‘ discovered using spurious relationships (correlation), and testified to by ‗expert‘ opinion! Stossel opens this segment of the chapter provocatively:
One good thing about science is that in the long run the truth usually comes out. The media may
be gullible, but other scientists are skeptical. They keep testing – questioning – so gradually we
keep moving closer to the truth. (105, emphasis added)
He continues more starkly, and even more shockingly:
When I began reporting, I assumed America‘s courts would help this process along. But now I
realize lawyers are more concerned with winning than with truth. If the lawyers have money on
the line, truth may not matter much at all. (105, emphasis in the original)
Notice Stossel‘s wording: ―If the lawyers have money on the line, truth may not matter much at
With a former tort lawyer, Senator John Edwards, who made millions of dollars suing corporate 2America, lives in a multi-million dollar, 20,000 ft home, and is running for the Presidency of the
United States, can anything that he says during the political campaign be trusted as TRUTHFUL?
Stossel then continues, observing:
Since reporters pay so much attention to court decisions, a lawyer who can sell junk science to
a few judges and juries can get reporters to sell junk science to the world.
That‘s what happened with silicone breast implants. Lawyers used the media to terrify the nation.
In the 1990s, lawyers told women that Dow Corning, an evil chemical company that made silicone,
was responsible for their ‗being poisoned by their own bodies‘! Silicone from their breast implants
was probably leaking into their breasts and would soon give them cancer and autoimmune diseases.
One lawyer got on a TV news show and told women they had ‗time bombs‘ in their breasts. (105, all
One question leaps immediately to mind and looms large: ―Where is the ‗epidemiologic‘ evidence (fr. Gk., epi + dēmos – on + the people) for such claims?‖ Epidemiology is a science – a science that deals with the incidence, distribution, and control of disease in a population. It may be diseases in
humans, in plants, or in animals. Such claims made by the purveyors of ‗junk science‘ are irresponsible, and dangerous in the extreme. This ‗junk science‘ approach is designed to transfer
8 ‗income‘ and ‗wealth‘ from those that have produced it to alleged victims and their ‗tort-lawyers‘ (who ‗earn‘ a third of the final judgment, plus costs … ‗several‘ dollars for each photocopied page of ‗documentation‘ and the so-called ‗expert witnesses‘ testifying to the ‗potential‘ physical
9 damages to health and ‗potential‘ economic losses to earning power.
John Stossel next observes that:
The women‘s fear and anger were palpable. At least one was so desperate to remove her implant,
she took a razor to her own breasts. At an anti-implant demonstration, an ABC cameraman
captured the fury of the women when a skeptical reporter dared ask, ‘Where’s the evidence that
the implants cause these diseases?’ (105-6, emphasis added)
The reporter asked a very reasonable and ‗scientifically appropriate‘ question, but the answers he/she received from the ‗demonstrators‘ reflect the rejection of the ‗Baconian scientific method‘!
Demonstrators: We are the evidence! We are the evidence! We are the evidence!
Woman with breast implants: It‘s in throughout my body. And it‘s eating at my muscle tissue.
Demonstrators: We are the evidence. (emphasis in the original)
…. While some women had complaints…most were satisfied.
Then doctors reported that about 1 percent of women who have breast implants – 10,000 American
women – had connective-tissue disease. To reporters, that was evidence that implants caused the
disease. But 10,000 illnesses didn‘t prove anything. It turns out that the same percentage of women
without implants got the disease. (106, emphasis added)
Once again confusion over the issues of ‗correlation‘ and ‗causation‘ arises. It is necessary to constantly keep in mind that ―Correlation is not causation.‖ In a well-known statistics book, the authors cite a newspaper article that describes a correlation between the Dow-Jones stock index and
the number of whales killed over a given period – the correlation coefficient [r] was high (r = 0.94), but this does not mean that the buying and selling of shares of stock on the Dow Jones kills whales
in the Arctic or the South Atlantic! A little knowledge of basic statistical techniques and their 2appropriate use, say the χ (Chi-Square) Test of Independence, should be sufficient to ‗prove‘ this nonsense is false!
Stossel reports another anti-scientific aspect of the breast-implant situation – the fact that the same proportion of women, with or without implants acquires ‗connective tissue diseases‘:
That fact wasn‘t publicized. Instead, lawyers ran ads on TV like ‗Your breast implants may be
making you sick! Call us, Kind Lawyers Who Protect Women, 1-800…..‘ (106)
Have you seen recent examples of such advertisements by ‗tort‘ lawyers? For injured drivers seeking claims against insurance companies – ‗Fast‘ Eddie Ferrah or Harrell and Harrell? For Mesothelioma?
Women called; the lawyers brought them into court. With the help of ‗expert‘ witnesses who said 9 implants caused the disease, they convinced juries that Dow Corning had recklessly poisoned
‗Juries‘? Do the jurors have degrees in medicine or advanced degrees in the biological sciences? Are
they ‗qualified‘ to understand the ‗scientific issues‘ at hand? Then, there‘s the issue of ‗expert‘ witnesses! Consider: 10
Two of the most influential experts on breast implants were Drs. Nir Kossovsky of Los Angeles
and David Smalley of Memphis. Both had tests that they said detected whether a woman‘s immune
system was affected by silicone. But then surgeon Leroy Young at the Scripps Research Institute
tested the ‗experts‘ tests. Young sent Dr. Smalley blood from women who didn‟t have breast
implants – and they tested positive. The tests were bunk.
But juries didn‘t know that.
… Facing thousands of lawsuits, Dow Corning declared bankruptcy.
But where was the science? Studies by the Mayo Clinic, Harvard, Brigham and Women‘s Hospital,
and others concluded that women with implants were no sicker than those without. It didn‘t matter.
The ‗doesn‟t cause connective-tissue-disease stories‘ got much less media attention. People still
think implants cause disease.
And the lack of scientific evidence didn‘t stop the lawyers. Even after America‘s top scientists
concluded that implants did not cause disease, the lawyers kept suing, and winning. After all, they
didn‘t have to convince a majority of scientists – they just had to convince a jury. (107)
Scientifically Clueless –
How is it that the reporters and the media can be manipulated by ‗tort‘ lawyers into perpetuating ‗myths, lies, and downright stupidity‘ (the title of Stossel‘s latest book: 2006. Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel – Why Everything You Know is Wrong) that permits lawful theft – transfers of wealth and income from producers to lawyers and their clients? Note:
these ‗tort‘ lawyers may be responsible for doing great harm to the rest of society by destroying
incentives for the development of new and better products, including life-saving drugs!
Those familiar with basic economic principles understand the phrase written by Gwartney, Stroup
and Lee: ―Incentives Matter.‖ [James D. Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup & Dwight R. Lee. 2005.
Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity.] In simple terms, if you want more of a certain activity or behavior, reward it, if you want less, then penalize it. The ‗reward‘ may be profits (sales), an ice cream cone (a child minding his/her parents),
or a kindly word (a ‗Thank you‘) for a good deed done. The penalty may be a higher tax on the activity, a spanking, or deprivation of a pleasurable activity (watching a favorite TV program for a
naughty child) or a rebuke for bad behavior. Responses are not instantaneous, but require time for behavioral adjustments (a ‗lagged effect‘). Since the effects are ‗lagged‘ there is a general tendency
by ‗economic illiterates‘ to fail to make the connection between ‗cause‘ and ‗effect.‘ This failure
provides politicians with the opportunity to avoid responsibility for their actions, and, then blame the free market, in general (so-called ‗market-failure,‘ à la A.C. Pigou), ‗greedy businessmen‘ who place ‗profits‘ above all other things, or member of the opposing political party! Perhaps the classic example of such dishonest posturing may be found an early article written by the former Chairman
of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan: 10