TCS Daily


Science in the Media Sausage Grinder

By John Luik - September 5, 2006 12:00 AM

Recent weeks have offered a rich harvest of new "health" threats with splashy headlines warning us about the supposed dangers from processed meats, hair dyes, and tanning parlors.

While all of these stories are all a little odd, perhaps the oddest is the one about how meat increases the risk of stomach cancer. This story was featured on the networks and in several major papers. One news outlet even went so far as to tell its readers just how much bacon they could eat before being at risk for cancer!

What makes the meat and stomach cancer story odd from the get-go is the fact that compared to the rest of the world, North America has one of the lowest rates of stomach cancer incidence and mortality in the world at 10 per 100,000. The highest rates are found in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe. And the pattern of declining incidence found here is repeated throughout much of the Western world.

But the really peculiar thing about the meat and stomach cancer scare is how fundamentally at odds the news reports were from the actual science.

Back in the Spring the Journal of National Cancer Institute in the United States published a study on meat intake and the risk of stomach and esophageal cancer by a research team led by Carlos Gonzalez of the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, "Meat Intake and Risk of Stomach and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma Within the European Prospective Into Cancer and Nutrition". The researchers looked at cancer and nutrition involving some 520,000 Europeans for over six years. According to Gonzalez, there was an increased risk of stomach cancer associated with total meat intake, red meat intake and processed meat consumption. But a mere 330 subjects developed stomach cancer, and in those most at risk of developing it -- those over 60 -- the absolute risk of developing it over 10 years was 0.33% for the heaviest meat eaters groups versus 0.26% for the near vegetarian crowd. Where's the epidemic, and the big difference?

But then came another study, "Processed Meat Consumption and Stomach Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis," by Susanna Larsson from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Larsson conducted a meta-analysis of 15 previous studies on the relationship between processed meat consumption -- including bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami, ham and various smoked meats -- and stomach cancer risk that were published between 1966 and 2006. She found that "increased consumption of processed meat is associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer."

The world media dutifully reported this frightening news, scaring people off their BLTs and sausage at breakfast, and no doubt saving many a pig's life.

Only the conclusion was compromised.

To start, only seven of the 19 studies included in the study had results that were statistically significant. Of the seven studies linking bacon and stomach cancer -- the headline grabber -- only two were statistically significant; while of the nine regarding sausage only three had statistical significance. And to top it off, Larsson's own study of processed meat and cancer, which she included in the meta-analysis, showed no statistically increased risk of stomach cancer associated with eating bacon, sausage and hot dogs, and ham and salami.

The studies that were statistically significant reported relative risks that were so small as to be indistinguishable from chance. For example, the relative risks for stomach cancer from an increase in processed meat consumption of 30g a day was 1.38, where relative risks below 2 are considered not to indicate a causal connection. Even eating ham, which had the highest reported risk, had a relative risk of only 1.64.

Meanwhile, contradicting Larsson's metaanalysis was an enormous prospective study, "A Prospective Study of Diet and Stomach Cancer Mortality in United States Men and Women" in 2001 done by the American Cancer Society. It involved 436,000 Americans and found no increased risk of stomach cancer associated with eating processed meats. That study, during 14 years of follow-up, documented 439 stomach cancer deaths in women and 910 in men. It found that: "none of the food groups examined were associated with risk of stomach cancer except for an unexpected increased risk with vegetable consumption in women."

Why hasn't anyone warned women not to eat their veggies? It would have been ridiculous, of course, just as it is now to exaggerate dangers from processed meat.

All of this highlights a major flaw in the way in which the media covers food and health stories that was pointed out recently by the International Food Information Council's Food for Thought, a report on how the media reports on food issues.

According to the IFIC, there were more than 3,000 assertions of harm or benefit of some food based on a scientific study in news stories in 11 leading North American newspapers in 2005. Yet only 2% mentioned whether the study found a statistically significant connection between something like the food and the disease. In other words, whether the connection was real or not was never reported in the overwhelming majority of the stories.

With reporting like that, we can be assured of a continued run of headlines warning that bacon causes stomach cancer and ... whatever. Let the pigs rejoice.

John Luik is a writing a book about health policy.

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108 Comments

reference doesn't seem to support statement
Luik writes:

>According to the IFIC, there were more than 3,000 assertions of harm or benefit of some food based on a scientific study in news stories in 11 leading North American newspapers in 2005. Yet only 2% mentioned whether the study found a statistically significant connection between something like the food and the disease. In other words, whether the connection was real or not was never reported in the overwhelming majority of the stories.

This seems utterly incredible: nobody does any "study" of the effects of any food on health without subjecting the data to statistical tests. I looked at the site and didn't find this referenced. Perhaps the author can supply the context.

Are you suggesting
that there are no bogus health scares out there about diet? Fact is, imagined scares or fetishes about diet are as old as recorded history. What Luik could have added, is that these stories tend to multiply during summer as media scramble to fill up space and air time in the absence of anything resembling news.

"This seems utterly incredible: nobody does any "study" of the effects of any food on health without subjecting the data to statistical tests."

Really? There's all kinds of nonsense put out using supposed statistical methodology that in fact fails any kind of test of statistical significance. Happens all the time.

Not at all
But to say that 97 percent of all stories about health studies are unsupported by statistical evidence seem ridiculous. I have trouble remembering a story that doesn't have at least some statistics. I mean, otherwise, why would it be a story?

It's a story
because of the need to manufacture news during the dog days of summer when nothing interesting is going on. There's always all kinds of marginal research out there that attracts attention from the media irrespective of its scientific merit. I would clarify the 97 per cent number by suggesting this might apply to those health scare stories reported by the media.

A few examples will suffice; namely the current fuss over the supposed increase in stomach cancer from eating meat. It's a metastudy, hence not original research, and most of the studies referenced show the opposite, namely that eating vegetables produces more stomach cancer (i.e. the result was negative for meat) but that didn't stop the author from claiming the contrary.

Another example from years ago was cyclamates, supposedly based on rat studies. At the concentration levels they were given, even distilled water might have been carcinogenic, but the poor research didn't stop a panic over cyclamates anyway.

In both cases, one just developing and the other from decades ago, they were health scares with their widespread panic(?) brewed up by the press during the silly season looking for sensational headlines.

No, there's lots of good research with good statistics done. Problem is, it's usually boring with rather uncontroversial results, which is why we never hear of it in the media. They'd far rather talk to us about food fetishes.

I mean, sure, some flaky stuff gets published
But the allegation was 97 percent of the stuff published was not just flaky but flat-out unsupported by any statistical evidence. That seems to me ridiculous.

I mean, to a first approximation, all "health scare" (another word than "scare" is "warning" stories begin as publications in medical journals. a few such publications might be anecdotal, but basically in order to be considered science, the research has to involve statistical analysis of result, whether experimental work with rats, or clinical/lifestyle analysis of humans.

>It's a metastudy, hence not original research,

It's statistical analysis of previously published research, yes.

>and most of the studies referenced show the opposite, namely that eating vegetables produces more stomach cancer (i.e. the result was negative for meat) but that didn't stop the author from claiming the contrary.

Then how could the metastudy conceivably have come to this conclusion? Here's the abstract of the study:
http://jncicancerspectrum.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/jnci;98/15/1078
Please document your claim.

>No, there's lots of good research with good statistics done. Problem is, it's usually boring with rather uncontroversial results, which is why we never hear of it in the media.

You mean, it doesn't imply that something that people are putting in their mouths might be dangerous. Yes, if research indicates that a food or other substance might be dangerous, that will be covered, particulalry if it's a publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Do you think it shouldn't be?

sure, blame the media
This time i will stand up for the MSMs. They may often pick and choose what they are willing to print, but when a supposed "scientist" (in this case I use the term extremely loosely) reports results that aren't backed up by the evidence (As is still the case with ETS; which has an even smaller increased incidence rate) you can't blame the media for reporting them. Blame the psuedo-scientist who made the claim.

This is exactly why people are growing less and less trustfull of science as a whole.

Health Studies worse than AGW studies
"The commonly-held belief that the best diet for the prevention of coronary heart disease is a low saturated fat, low cholesterol is not supported by the available evidence from clinical trials. In the primary prevention, such diets do not reduce the risk of myocardial infarction or coronary or all cause mortality. Cost-benefit analyses of the extensive primary prevention programmes, which are at present vigorously supported by Governments, Health Departments and health educationalists, are urgently required.

Similarly, diets focused exclusively on reduction of saturated fats and cholesterol are relatively ineffective for secondary prevention and should be abandoned. There may be other effective diets for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease but these are not yet sufficiently well defined or adequately tested. The circumstantial evidence of benefit from oils, particularly olive oil, vegetables, fruit and fish is strong. "

http://www.omen.com/corr.html

Human metabolism like the global environment is a very complex system and it is difficult to perform controlled studies leaving models and statistical studies with highly uncertain data.

Roll in big business and government regulations, and voila, junkscience.



So your alternative to peer-reviewed science is what??
The system works across the spectrum of scientific research in all kinds of areas.

You don't like the results in just 2 areas: AGW and food dangers. Does this say something about the system, or something about you?

Or if you think we should get rid of peer reviewed science, please say so. Along with what you think should replace it? OK from the White House?

Peer Review
"Papers in CQG are not generally reviewed by a member of the Editorial
Board; if two referees recommend acceptance, the papers are accepted.
The Editorial Board sees papers when two referees disagree, or when an
author appeals a negative decision, or sometimes when the refereeing
is delayed too long (typically because a referee simply doesn't send in
a report). The Board, or at least a Board member, might also look at a
paper if someone who was not a referee drew attention to a problem.
But it's not routine.

As far as I know, this is the procedure for most physics journals. In this
case, the Bogdanoff paper showed that two referees can sometimes
fail to tell sense from nonsense. I don't think that should come as such
a shock. Referees are volunteers, who as a whole put in a great deal of
work for no credit, no money, and little or no recognition, for the good
of the community. Sometimes a referee makes a mistake. Sometimes
two referees make mistakes at the same time.

I'm a little surprised that anyone is surprised at this. Surely you've
seen bad papers published in good journals before this!"

http://www.lepp.cornell.edu/spr/2002-11/msg0045698.html

What I am saying is that to actually perform real experiments in nutrition or in global climate, significant effort and money must be expended for solid data.

Beacuse of that, the variance of much data in many fields is very high. And this leads to speculative conclusions hyped by those with economic interests.

So what's your alternative?
Submt results to the White House?

Sure, science is news. Get used to it.

>And this leads to speculative conclusions hyped by those with economic interests.

Like those who sponsor this website, absolutely.

Trust but verify.
As the media have amply demonstrated, they have been lacking on the latter weakening the former. Science is beginning to join their ranks.

Verify how???
You're going to go out & do a 1500-subject double-blind trial on your own? Find one on the Internet?

Be as sceptical as you like: that's a good thing. But the fact is, science works. Not immediately, always - scientists can be wrong -- but the process is self-correcting and eventually gets it right.

But when its conclusion potentially costs people money, then those people often try to cast doubt on the science, and not just the study in question, but science itself as a process. They did it with smog research, research on lead in gasoline, and aersols, on cigarettes.

And now they're doing it with a new set of studies. Before you attack science or complain about scientists, please consider the source of the complaints.

Science in the Media Sausage Grinder
You misunderstand what the article says. It reports how the media covered food studies, NOT how the studies were conducted. According to the IFIC report, only 2% of newspaper stories which reported on food studies noted whether the study had statistically significant results. This shows how little reporters understand about whether a scientific study should be taken seriously. The full IFIC report is titled: Food for Thought VI: Reporting on Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety, 1995-2005. It is prepared by the International Food Information Council Foundation and can be found at ific.org The report on statistical significance is found in Table 3.

That's not the issue
The issue of whether or not 'science works' is not in dispute. In fact, the very fact that 'science works' is the reason this is an issue at all.

The real issue is the way the media reports the 'science'.

Hypothetical situation: some researchers do a nice long complex study about, of, say, whether or not eating processed meats causes an increased risk of stomach cancer. The results are complex, possibly contradictory in some areas, and most likely ultimately inconclusive. In other words, the study fails to show any significant risk for stomach cancer as a result of eating red meat. However, technically, the study might perhaps show a slight statistical difference, which technically means there is an *increased risk*, and thus makes the media's ears perk up, because it is now *NEWS*.

After all, 'Dog Bites Man' does not make for much of a headline. As is so aptly demonstrated every day in Best of the Web, the 'Bottom Stories of the Day' are the bottom stories of the day for a reason. 'Eating Meat Not Found to Increase Risk of Stomach Cancer' is not a newsworthy headline. But 'Processed Meat Consumption Found to Increase Risk of Stomach Cancer' is a doozy of a 'man bites dog' story. It has Zing! It has Zip! It has legs! Run that baby! (as the Bloom Picayune's editor would say).

The breakdown occurs when those responsible for making sure that those 'man bites dog' stories are credible cannot be bothered to do their jobs. This has been shown to be especially true through the years when any story has anything to do with science, doubly so for something which is scientifically complex (which is most of the time), such as health, or 'man-made global warming'. It is also abundantly clear in the way they treat political issues as well.

The inevitable conclusion is that, at every level, the 'msm media' do not particularly care whether or not the stories they sell are in fact credible. Taking into account the overwhelmingly leftist bent of the msm, it is clear that the only thing they genuinely care about is whether or not any particular story enhances their own worldview, and in some cases whether or not it helps to further their own '4th estate' agendas.

And, although I don't have any data to support this, I would bet you a good-sized chunk of money that far more liberals consider 'red meat' to be evil, and something to be 'done away with' than conservatives. That's probably a discussion for another time, but it's certainly no surprise that 'eating meat' easily found itself in the crosshairs of the msm as something to yell about and rail against. Animals have rights, you know. We shouldn't be eating cows, we should be letting them vote. ;)

Hogwash!
O.K., maybe not total hogwash. Still, the source has to take some responsibility. When a "scientist" reports such a claim they had better have the facts at hand to prove the claim. If they go public and their own study shows they are either wrong or "over-hyping" the result they should face criminal charges or, at the very least, be stripped from every again receiving funding and work.

the media relies on sources. Without the people in the sceintific community making outrageous claims or pushing bogus science, there is no story.

Yes, the MSMs are biased and liberal and tend to give "legs" to a story that isn't worthy of a single second of air time. But, ultimately, the fault for this kind of "scare tactic" trash lies directly on the heads of the so-called experts who put out this garbage.

If scientific magazines, journals and publications, and even science itself, wants to salvage whatever credibility they have they will start becoming self-regulating in this area. If they don't, the public will use it's one tool, the government, to do it for them.

That would be tragic and is something I hope never happens. But, at the presently accelerating rate questionable scientific conclusions are being pushed on the public, I do see this coming in a big way.

You're right, but...
But consider..

Joe Scientist, who has spent half his life living in his parents' basement, and the other half trying to figure out why the girls won't go out with him.. suddenly he is asked to appear on NATIONAL TELEVISION... or is quoted repeatedly and at lenght in NEWSPAPERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND THE WORLD.. and all because some msm stooge latched upon some insignificant little detail in Joe's recent 'study'.. It will not be long before Joe figures out that it is those minor, often-misleading little details which are responsible for his new party invitations, and sudden interest among certain female faculty members (even the ones who do yoga).. Joe likes his newfound celebrity, and frankly, all that objectivity and dedication to honest discourse in pursuit of scientific truth was beginning to become a bit of a downer anyway.. not his fault, after all, if some uneducated media boob winks and nods and deliberately misinterprets/misconstrues Joe's findings.. besides, a lot of new sources of funding have suddenly come online after his big 'revelations' were reported on NBCBSBCNN.... if he suddenly comes out and says that the media are making his work look like it says something that it does not... well then, it's scary to think what might happen.. he does have a Volvo payment to worry about after all.. And besides, nothing wrong with a little social engineering by the smarter among us.. it's all for the good anyway, even if none of it is really true..

**

Anyway, rambling I know.. but you may be asking more of these guys than they are willing to give. I still contend that it is the primary responsibility of any good editor to verify before publishing, and that means corroboration, examination, and never never NEVER taking a single source at face value. Even if the story DOES dovetail nicely with the agenda already in place.

All it will take is for a few big MSM outfits to publicly repudiate the claims of some 'scientist' with verifiable facts and research to make these media-***** scientists get back to doing what they are supposed to be doing, instead of trying to slant their studies in as favorable a 'media-spotlight' manner as they can.

Getting a little carried away, it seems
The thing is, scientists faking or hyping results is news too, and they can (and do) lose their jobs if they get caught doing it.

You're taking a fringe phenomenon and making it the norm with no backup and no examples.

>All it will take is for a few big MSM outfits to publicly repudiate the claims of some 'scientist' with verifiable facts and research to make these media-***** scientists get back to doing what they are supposed to be doing, instead of trying to slant their studies in as favorable a 'media-spotlight' manner as they can.

Your also missing the dynamic. Scientists don't publicize science. They write articles for peer reviewed publications. The institutions they work for - universities, companies, etc - do have specialists who look for results of general interest (and health dangers fall into this category) and try to bring them to the media's attention.

>I still contend that it is the primary responsibility of any good editor to verify before publishing, and that means corroboration, examination, and never never NEVER taking a single source at face value

Ok, here's how this works for peer reviewed science. A reporter comes on a release about new reseearch, or perhaps reads a peer reviewed journal and picks something up. Usually they'll call a few other specialists in the field for comment, and write the story. What's wrong with this drill? What else should they do?

A few things to consider...
As a scientist, (who spent almost no time in my parents' basement) I can tell you that in epidemiology, as in many others areas of science, it is very difficult to prove a causal relationship statistically. Two things merely happening at the same time doesn't pass muster statistically. The press doesn't get this. Never have. In the biotech industry, we've become all too familiar with the damage that "sound bite" science can do. That's why you need to go to the library (at the local University) and read the article in question.
Do you remember what happened last last year when one study from the CDC claimed a ridiculous number deaths caused by obesity? That study was closely followed by ANOTHER one from the same building with a far more reasonable estimate. The leader of the first study, WITHOUT DISAGREEING WITH THE SECOND STUDY, refused to change her policy recommendation. First, its irresponsible to make any policy based on dodgy data. Second, some scientists think their agenda is worth pursuing even if its not backed up by the truth. For these reasons its very important to continue ANY debate from global warming to obesity to biotech. Scientists who bristle at having their data and conclusions questioned are usually lying or telling you half the story.

While I agree almost entirely…
…there is a flaw in your logic. On a scientific breakthrough or new study, there is often just one source; or just one willing to come forward and be quoted. While I agree editors need to be a bit more skeptical than many seem to be these days, your editors, at a large daily, reads through 30,000 words of copy each issue. (That is just one section by the way. Most big dailies have several editors for this purpose.) The volume of data stories and reading preclude "making sure" all the facts are right. The editors have to trust the copy people and the reporters. But, the meida, does a generally decent job of regulating itself; especially compared to some of the bums they use as sources.

But, yeah, you are right about the rest of this. The media does often put its own twist on things and I'm sure there are many in the scientific community who react the way you said. It is sad.

Thank you
This is a good look at things with a very good example. What I, and many other on both side of the debate, wonder is this: Why would someone seemingly dedicated to the truth through scientific study risk their reputation and standing by lying or misrepresenting the facts?

Here is wehre I agree with Lemuel, it doesn't make sense. But to him this is proof they don't do it. For me it seems obvious that this is happening quite a bit and I believe science, and all scientists, are losing their credibility because of it. Why does the scientific community stand for this? Get rid of the bums and start trying to rebuild that credibility.

What's the press supposed to get?
this is taught to undergraduates:

>.. I can tell you that in epidemiology, as in many others areas of science, it is very difficult to prove a causal relationship statistically. Two things merely happening at the same time doesn't pass muster statistically.

Sure. And that's why edi studies have to be rigorously controlled for numerous variables, and are never conclusive. However, these exact arguments were rolled out for years by the cigarette companies challenging connections between smoking and disease.

> The press doesn't get this.

Should the media have ignored the mounting pilie of epi studies? What they did was quoted the studies and also quoted the cigarette guys, after a time. Was this irresponisble?

> Scientists who bristle at having their data and conclusions questioned are usually lying or telling you half the story.

Depends on who is doing the questioning. Questions from publicists from companies is worried about profits from a hazardous product being affected? Yes, some scientiists may not react well to those questions.

almost agreement
>But to him this is proof they don't do it.

In no way shape or form. It's happened in the past, and it will go on happening as long as there's science.

The thing about science, though, is that the system contains checks and balances. If a scientist (as opposed to, say, a politican or businessman) lies, it's almost impossible that a reporter will be able to expose the untruth: they don't have a lab, they can't duplicated an experiment, they can't themselves check the equations.

However it's almost inevitable that other scientists will, and the truth will (usually soon) come out. And when it does, the consequences for the scientist who lied, or was in any way connected with the lying, are severe -- much more so than in many other disciplines and jobs.

Several recent "scientific" revalations…
…have had little in the way of consequences for the original scientist. More often than not they are able to just say "oops, well I was right about …" and move right along. Also, because much of the world doesn't fully understand, the "checks and balances" often go unnoticed because they are not, or are seldom, reported.

"If a scientist (as opposed to, say, a politican or businessman) lies, it's almost impossible that a reporter will be able to expose the untruth: they don't have a lab, they can't duplicated an experiment, they can't themselves check the equations."

This I agree with completely. But I also agree this is why newspapers should be very cautious reporting on science. As you have said, science is a process and seldom is new information fully "the truth" and complete. But reporters tend to be pretty literal. When a scientist says this is what their study shows, the reporter will report it just that way. This is why I say the blame is more on the scientist than the reporter or editor.

But scientists don't publicize their work
The press works from press releases from (mostly) university p.r.departents, plus some R&D companies, plus PR from NSF, NASA, etc.

And, sure, some of this is hyped or wrong (the university science writers aren't scientists) but I don't see that the harm in having a few bad stories outweights the harm in not reporting on potentially important research.
But that's just my view...

What are you talking about?
Very often (if not darn near always) the scientist, or the lead of a scientific team, is questioned and quoted. What you say is true, in the body of your post; but the subject line is very inaccurate to the point of being misleading.

What's the harm? Are you kidding? People take this stuff quite seriously and, when it is health related, could actually do things to cause themselves health problems. That is only a small beginning on the potential harm.

But it is not the media, in my opinion, that causes this one; it is the scientists who are being irresponsible.

Ditto!
P-You beat me to a response!! "Might be, could be, may be harmful so lets scare the hell out of people" might work for you, Lemuel...but lets ask the apple growers who used Alar.

Just another one of many
Thanks Loren. How about all the bad press around cyanide and hard rock mining, in spite of the fact that there have been few health problems or deaths ever related to it?

God, the list is endless and the media has, as often as not, been duped by some "scientist" with an agenda. Not that it takes much to dupe a media with an agenda of its own; but science needs to take responsibility for what it reports as fact or probable fact.

Sure. Quoted
Any press relase about science will have a quote from the scientist. A news story based on the release (or on the publication of the scientist) will also have a quote from the scientist. Should scientists refuse to answer reporters' questions?

>People take this stuff quite seriously and, when it is health related, could actually do things to cause themselves health problems.

Sure. And if some studies aren't written up, people who might be warned may continue to do things to cause themselves health problems. The problem cuts both ways. Saying nothing can be as irresponsible as saying something.

>But it is not the media, in my opinion, that causes this one; it is the scientists who are being irresponsible.

Again, I don't see how, in most cases. These people spend their lives training themselves, and then they put their skills into practice by doing research -- in the cases we're talking about, research that might save people's lives. One possbility is that they're incompetent scientists. but to say scientists simply shouldn't talk about research seems perverse - I mean, it's what they know, why shouldn't they talk about it?

So where do you draw the line?
cigarettes might-be, could-be have something to do with lung cancere. But let's not scare people. let's ask the tobacco growers.

Regarding alar - the fact is, the stuff _was_ a carcinogen, which was established after further tests.

Why not just put out the facts & let people make up their minds?
Sure, some stories are wrong. When this happens other stories come along to correct them. Many other stories (alarming though they may be) are correct. Why do we want to keep them from people they might help?

And what's the alternative here? Forbid writing about science? Set up a science story censorship board? Why isn't a free market of ideas what we want to encourage here?

You seem to want to blame the media here
I said nothing of the sort. Perhaps properly muzzling any agenda and simply getting out the facts. Then, if the media twists those facts it is on the media. I don't think the media does that too often, it is scientists with an agenda that do it for them.

The answer? That, as usual, is a lot tougher than the question.

BTW - I wouldn't have a problem if the facts, and only the facts…
…were being fed to the media. There is entirely too much "scientific opinion", often in disagreement with the "facts". That is the issue. That is what needs to be stopped. How is the real question.

I'm for science groups setting up a very strict set of rules for dealing the the publication and release of any scientific information. Violation fo those rules would carry an automatic suspension of all funding of reasearch for that scientist, and a suspension of funding for any project that person is involved with at any level.

Call it a scientific "death Sentence".

The trouble is, "facts" are precisely what's at issue
Particuarly when you have powerful interests who don't want certain facts to emerge - viz, big tobacco v. cancer research. The "facts" were just allegations. The problem is, there aren't referees for this stuff. Media have to figure it out. That's why its a good thing we have a lot of different news organizations.

That's what Science and Nature do
They have strict guidelines about publicizing researech they publish, and enforce them both against scientists and reporters. Also, universities and R&D firms live on research grants. For them, if a researcher or publicist is caught fuzzzing, lying, etic. is a catastrophe -- it affects not only the researcher, but the instituion.

Really
Just about anything CAN be a carcinogen when consumed (or force fed) at many times body weight. The dose makes the poison. Heck, you can consume enough caffeine to kill you. BTW, I happen to believe that cigarettes really do cause lung cancer. People who smoke get cancer far too often to explain away using other variables. Breathing in particulates just ain't good. Conversely, what disease does alar cause when consumed in REAL LIFE concentrations?

True, no real arguement here
But bringing in the "Big Tobacco" arguement is a bit of overkill. The problem is the disinformation campaign seems to rage straight out of the sceintific circles these days. that just ain't right!

Unbiased Nature or CYA?
"Now obviously whatever else the NAS Panel did, they did not "more or less endorse the work behind the graph". So we sent the following letter tracking the form of language of the Mann et al letter to some extent:

Your News story “Academy affirms hockey-stick graph” (Nature 441, 1032; 2006) states that the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel “more-or-less endorses the work behind the [Mann et al hockey stick] graph”. This conclusion was not stated in the NAS report itself nor by any of the panellists at the NAS panel press conference releasing the report.

Many specific findings of the NAS panel show that they did not endorse the work behind the hockey stick. The NAS report stated that the Mann et al decentered principal components methodology should not be used; that temperature reconstructions should avoid the use of strip-bark bristlecones and foxtail proxies; that the Mann et al reconstruction was strongly dependent on these problematic proxies; that their reconstruction failed important verification tests; and that they had incorrectly estimated uncertainties in their reconstruction.

At the press conference, panel chairman North said that he agreed with the “substance” of the Mann et al reconstruction. However, this language is nowhere used in the report itself, where the panel expressly referred to the reconstruction merely as “plausible” and specifically withheld any attribution of confidence intervals for the period before 1600.

Nature, who seem to have abandoned any attempt at an even-handed treatment of the issues, even where they have themselves inaccurately reported on a matter, replied:

Thank you for your Correspondence submission, which we regret we are unable to publish. Our news story was indeed citing North’s comments at the press conference, which as they say "substantially" support Mann et al., and which is clear from the text of the news story.Thank you again for writing to us.

For comparison, once again, here is the letter from Mann et al which was published:

Your News story “Academy affirms hockey-stick graph” (Nature 441, 1032; 2006) states that the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel “concluded that systematic uncertainties in climate records from before 1600 were not communicated as clearly as they could have been”. This conclusion is not stated in the NAS report itself, but formed part of the remarks made by Gerald North, the NAS committee chair, at the press conference announcing the report.

The name of our paper is “Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the past millennium: inferences, uncertainties, and limitations” (Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, 759–762; 1999). In the abstract, we state: “We focus not just on the reconstructions, but on the uncertainties therein, and important caveats” and note that “expanded uncertainties prevent decisive conclusions for the period prior to AD 1400”. We conclude by stating: “more widespread high-resolution data are needed before more confident conclusions can be reached.” It is hard to imagine how much more explicit we could have been about the uncertainties in the reconstruction; indeed, that was the point of the article!

The subsequent confusion about uncertainties was the result of poor communication by others, who used our temperature reconstruction without the reservations that we had stated clearly."

http://www.climateaudit.org/

Natural Carcinogens
"Bruce N. Ames of the University of California, Berkeley, has studied natural pesticides produced by all plants to ward off insects, fungi, and other predators. In a recent letter to Science (244:755- 7, May 19, 1989), Ames points out that we ingest about 10,000 times more natural pesticides, by weight, than synthetic pesticides. Of the 42 plant toxins so far tested on laboratory animals, 20 have been shown to be carcinogens, Ames notes. Among the foods containing natural pesticides that cause cancer in rats or mice, he says, are: anise, apples, bananas, basil, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, grapefruit juice, honey—dew melon, horseradish, kale, mushrooms, mustard, nutmeg, orange juice, parsley, parsnips, peaches, pineapples, radishes, tarragon, and turnips. Ames has also developed an index that ranks the relative hazards of human exposure to known natural and synthetic carcinogens. The index expresses the human potency of a carcinogen as a percentage of its potency to laboratory rats and mice. On this relative index, the hazard from Alar in a daily lifetime glass of apple juice is 0.0017%. In comparison, the possible hazard from natural hydrazines in one daily mushroom is 0.1%, and that from aflatoxin in a daily peanut butter sandwich is 0.03%."
"An earlier important perspective on relative risks was reported in a 1981 paper published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (66:1192-308, June 1981). It presented results of a monumental study of avoidable cancer risks by Richard Doll, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, and Richard Peto, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, UK. Doll and Peto examined the incidence of about 40 types of cancer that were attributable to various environmental and life-style factors. They then estimated the proportion of US cancer deaths in 1978 that could have been avoided if these factors were controlled. They found that the combined effects of environmental factors—food additives, toxic chemicals in the workplace, air and water pollution, and industrial products—accounted for 7% of 1978 US cancer deaths. But the combined effects of life-style factors—including alcohol, diet, and smoking—were related to 70% of US cancer deaths."

http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/papers/vethumtoxicology31(6)p589y1989.html

So there's no point in doing science at all?
No studies have any meaning?

>BTW, I happen to believe that cigarettes really do cause lung cancer. People who smoke get cancer far too often to explain away using other variables.

great. welcome to the real world.

>Conversely, what disease does alar cause when consumed in REAL LIFE concentrations?

Cancer, according to good studies.

Take it to the NSF
Amazingly enough, they have not changed their views on human-caused climate change. Maybe you didn't make your case correctly. I'm sure they'll change the position soon if you bring the correct information.

And this means scientists shouldn't investigate artificial carcinogens?
Wy?

Good studies??
"Cancer, according to good studies."
You mean the ones from the Consumers Union (read shill for the organic food movement) and the expert commentary from the "Albert Einstein" of food science, Meryl Streep (read another shill for the organic food movement). Your post is a perfect example of how the press and "pop scientists" like Streep, Prince Chuck, Paul McCartney and Mrs Jerry Garcia, and their allies at CU, CSPI, Greenpeace and FOE (just to name a few of each) operate. If their science is hogwash, trot out a few celebs to make people believe. After all, if they didn't know what they were talking about, they wouldn't have the soapbox. Would they?

How can science do this?
"but science needs to take responsibility for what it reports as fact or probable fact."

There is no proffessional organization that declares who is and who isn't a scientist. (And there shouldn't be.)
So there is no way to punish people who claim to be scientists, yet who abuse the process of science.

Most of the worst offenders work for groups whose agenda the "scientist" is pushing, so it's not likely there's anyway to get the person's employer to punish him.

science
most of the scientists who do this kind of abusing, are working for groups with an agenda. So the scientist in question is already doing the bidding of the guys who sign his check. I don't see any method, short of totalitarianism, to get these groups to stop funding their pet scientists.

more myths, by the master of myth
And just how did big tobacco prevent scientists who work for universities from doing cancer research?

everything is a carcinogen, at high enough doses
The fact remains, that Alar was safe at levels many times higher than that found on any apple.

Loren didn't say that
She said that the dose makes the poison. Doing research to find out safe exposure levels is valid.
Just declaring that anything that can cause cancer, regardless of dose, should be banned, is not science, it's religion.

why the sudden retreat to pathetic strawmen?
Could it be that you recognize how badly you are losing the argument, but you aren't man enough to admit it?

the story straight
for once.

Even more meaningless than usual
For once?? Go back to sleep.

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