Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Worth a read: State of Fear, by Michael Crichton

I must admit that 99% of by reading time is allocated to non-fiction. I'll read about one novel a year. However, when my dad gave me a copy of Michael Crichton's State of Fear, I decided to put down Robert Massie's masterful Castles of Steel for an evening or so - and give Crichton's work a go.

State of Fear is an techo-thriller wrapped by an indictment of group-think "science" that is being foisted upon. "Being foisted upon us by whom?" you may ask. Well - I'm not going to get into the details in the book - but I'll relate to you a true life example of the type of truth-bending and even complete fabrications that elements of the academic elites employ to help achieve political aims.

In early 2004, in an attempt to influence the US elections, a group called the Union of Concerned Scientists (or UCS) published a letter indicting the Bush science policy. As reported in the Globe and Mail, UCS front man Dr. Neal Lane stated:

One of the most egregious cases mentioned in the report was the issue of the panel on appropriate levels of mercury and lead in paint, and in the environment in general," said Neal Lane, a former director of the National Science Foundation and a former presidential science adviser.

The letter stated that a the Bush adminstration had "dismissed" a Dr. Weitzman from an NIH scientific advisory panel dealing with lead issues - and replaced him with another academic - a Dr. Banner - who they portrayed as in industry lackey for having testified for the defense in a product liability lawsuit.

This is a clear example of the type of fearmongering described in Crichton's book. The implication is that those evil industry types are taking over and that children will soon be poisoned by lead. UCS types believe reflexively that anyone associated with 'industry' is bad.

The trouble is that this most egregious case of supposed malfeasance is fabricated. In fact, Dr. Weitzman's term on the panel was expiring. The administration was simply filling the position- and attempting to bring more balance to the panel. Dr. Banner has not subsequently attempted to poison children by raising the allowable lead exposure levels. The minutes of the advisory panel meetings are published in the web - and they certainly show Dr. Banner as an informed and active participant, rather than the ignorant stooge that the UCS would have us believe him.

I exchanged a few emails with Dr. Kurt Gottfried on this matter. Gottfried did not refute the inaccuracy. He claimed that Weitzman had been told informally that he would remain on the panel - despite having been on for the normal maximum. Gottfriend indicated that the 'real issue' was the fact that the HHS Secretary had igored CDC staff recommendations.

Of course, none of this detail was in the smeer job that UCS foisted upon the unsuspecting public. They simply said that Weitzman was 'dismissed'.

I'm still waiting for Gottfried to get back to me.


Blogger Tor Poli said...

You'll love this post...
It's sealed for history in the archives of the city of Toronto:

Data are exaggerated to huge degrees, and the reporters are never challenged.

October 17, 2006 at 8:08 PM  

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