Not only did Americans vote on members of Congress this week, but citizens of several states also voted on various science- and health-related policy issues. How did those turn out? On the upside, an anti-fracking law was defeated. On the downside, workplace vaping was banned and bogus medical marijuana laws passed.
science and law
There aren't many things today that unite both sides of the political aisle, but leave it to some environmental activists to achieve the impossible. There's bipartisan opposition to a proposed Colorado law that would severely curtail fracking in the state.
Jurors in California awarded $289 million to a man who claimed that his cancer was due to Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate – even though that's biologically impossible. Even the judge acknowledged that there was no evidence of harm. Yet trial lawyers manipulated a jury’s emotions and the public’s misunderstanding of science to score another jackpot verdict.
Europeans, who overwhelmingly claim to accept the science consensus on climate change, deny a far stronger consensus on biotechnology and believe GMOs are a crime against nature because a gene has been precisely modified by scientists.
This law firm shows no concern for the truth. It fits comfortably and profitably into our postmodern world, in which truth and lies are no longer distinguishable. Unscrupulous people can make a lot of money by exploiting the public's confusion over vaccines, chemicals and pharmaceutical products.
A coffee lawsuit has turned science upside-down by requiring coffee companies to prove that their product isn’t unsafe. That is absurd, not only because it violates 400 years of common sense about coffee, but because it is impossible to prove a negative. Science also cannot prove that ghosts aren’t real. Perhaps all California residences should carry a poltergeist warning, just in case.
The war on science has at least three fronts. First, there is the widely reported political war on science, widely and erroneously believed to be waged exclusively by conservatives, when in reality, progressives are just as eager to throw science under the bus when it suits their agenda. (ACSH President Hank Campbell and I wrote an entire book about this topic, called Science Left Behind.) As a general rule, when science and political activists clash, the activists usually win.
A California judge is going to determine whether or not coffee causes cancer. Think about that. We live in a society where judges and lawyers – not medical doctors or scientists – get to determine the credibility of biomedical research. And guess who paid in the process?
Lawyers are routinely required to solve problems that they themselves created. If something like this were to occur in any other area of life, it would be called racketeering. So beware, science: a lawsuit-happy nation turns its eyes to you.
We have never seen anything like this. Climate scientist Mark Jacobson has sued the National Academy of Sciences for publishing an article that disagrees with him. For his hurt feelings, he wants $10 million.
Hollywood will make no sequel to Erin Brockovich, nor will Pacific Gas & Electric be reimbursed $333 million. However, after nearly 20 years the truth about hexavalent chromium has finally been revealed by California regulators.