Wednesday, May 28, 2008
As one who remembers the Alar scare of the late 1980s, I am hardly surprised that for all the government- and media-fanned panic about it, Bisphenol-A (BPA) is actually safe. Nancy McDermott of Sp!ked reports:
The Canadian ban and the subsequent panic has an almost Orwellian feel for anyone who actually follows scientific discussions of BPA. To appreciate fully the gulf between the public perception of risk and the reality, it is worth knowing something about the discussion of BPA among scientists. Scientists have been studying the chemical intensively for the better part of a decade since it was first suggested it might pose a risk to human health by Frederick vom Saal of the University of Missouri at Columbia. More than 4,000 studies and several major risk assessments later, scientists in the US, Japan and the European Union have exonerated it.That sounds like old hat. McDermott also makes some interesting observations about why scientific evidence is getting short shrift in this latest panic:
It is of course very tempting to put these distortions down to journalists' predisposition for sensation, or perhaps to an environmentalist bias among some parents - but the story's grip on the public imagination suggests that there's more going on here. It is not that the facts are unavailable or that parents and journalists are incapable of grasping them. It’s more that it never occurs to them to be critical. They are blinkered by a mistrust of the fruits of modernity and by deep pessimism about the future. [bold added]McDermott is on to something here, but she's not being hard enough on journalists -- or others on the continuum of intellectual occupations. Consider the following from some past commentary about environmentalist "safety" scares by Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute:
Environmentalists got the pesticide DDT and the apple preservative Alar off the market with claims that each causes cancer--based on studies using mice fed the equivalent of over 100,000 times normal human consumption. To "prove" that fossil fuels cause cataclysmic climate change--first, global cooling in the 1970s, now, global warming--environmentalists cite the predictions of wildly inaccurate computer models that, according to climatologist Dr. Patrick Michaels, perform "worse than a table of random numbers when applied to U.S. temperatures."The "blinders" of which Ms. McDermott speaks are both the unfortunate long-term result of several generations of "progressive" education mixed with propaganda and the shorter-term effect of the overwhelming overexposure such environmentalist scares get in a news media dominated by altruist-collectivists -- who know, by the way, that the best way to stir panic is to imply that infants and children may be in danger.
The environmentalists' proclamations of danger and doom are not honest errors based on an overzealous concern for human safety and well-being--they are a dishonest scare-tactic to make their anti-industrial policies appealing to those who do not share the environmentalist belief that nature should be preserved at human expense. [bold added]
In the long-term, we see the epistemology of the general public becoming less rational, and in the short-term we see that this is opening the public up to the active evil of environmentalists.