UPDATED on August 29 with link to German language version of this blog (see below)
This is the next in a series of guest blogs on BRHP. The opinions expressed in it are of Olli Tammilehto himself. Publication of these opinions in BRHP does not imply that BRHP automatically agrees with or endorses these opinions. Publication of this, and other guest blogs, is to assist in development of an open debate and free exchange of opinions on RF and health.
This blog is open for commenting… The social media sharing buttons are at the bottom…
Olli Tammilehto is an independent researcher and writer. His most recent books are “Cold Shower, Preventing climate catastrophe by a rapid social change” (so far only in Finnish) and “The Tragedy of Transport” (available in English). Earlier he has taught environmental philosophy in the University of Helsinki. His internet site is www.tammilehto.info.
The original version of this guest blog was first published in Voima-lehti as a blog. It is also available here as pdf: Olli Tammilehto Guest Blog in Finnish
This guest blog was also translated to German by the Elektrosmog News. Link to the German version
LYING IS AN ECONOMIC NECESSITY
Science and the corporate interests
by Olli Tammilehto
An civilized person thinks usually that natural science is above politics. Especially men and women with a scientific education and rational world view believe that unlike social science natural science is independent of values and social goals.
However, ordinary people lacking the light of civilization are not willing to believe this. Its folk wisdom says: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” And somebody is paying also for scientists, isn’t it?
But this kind of archaic wisdom does not apply to the modern science! Why would some quarters like to influence science? Isn’t it in everybody’s interest to know how things really are and allow the scientists to work in peace without outside pressure? However, it is crucial to remember that scientific research is not only general observation of micro and macro world and search for prevailing regularities. In practice it is commonly connected to industrial activities: on the one hand, research consist of refining old technologies and development of new technologies and products, on the other hand, sorting out the various effects of technologies, industries and products.
Detriments of detriment knowledge
In the development of technologies and products big money is involved. In most cases the primary goal is to get the invested money back many times. Or else the goal is to develop new weapons and other application wanted by the military-industrial complex. All the effects of a new or modernized technology are not known beforehand and often they even cannot be known before bringing it into wide scale use. Moreover, usually there are only insignificant investments on the research of the effects.
However, sooner or later research findings showing negative effects will appear. Usually these results do not stop or even decrease production and sales. Instead, the research on the field at issue gets politicised. The researchers employed by the industry downplay the critical studies and find some mistakes in them. Corporations carry out or finance studies where no detrimental effects are found. Furthermore, PR firms are employed to guide the public perception so that the risks brought up by the research will seem improbable or insignificant. If this is not enough and the voice of critical scientists begins to carry far, heavier methods are introduced: scientists, their funders or directors of their institutions are pressed and threatened.
For many this must sound unbelievable. But for those who have for long followed various environmental, occupational safety and human rights issues, the intervention of corporations and other power wielders on research is so familiar. The strangeness of the matter is only due to the fact that in general and scientific education there is an enormous hole: the sociology and politics of science is hardly taught at all.
The most well-known cases are tobacco and fossil fuels. For these the evidence of serious negative effects has gradually become so strong that corporations haven’t been able to influence the development of general scientific view. Instead, they have brought up many kinds of quasi-science with the help of PR agencies and influenced strongly the way how scientific results are mediated to lay persons and politicians.
Mobiles rescued from radiation research
A more typical case is mobile phones. Harmful effects of the microwave radiation utilized by them were knows even before the first mobile phone: radars emitted similar radiation. In many studies continuous exposure to microwave radiation was found in the short run to cause for many people sleeplessness, head ache, cardiac insufficiency and other serious symptoms. In the long run, more cancer cases were found in the exposed population. For example, during and after the Korean war those soldiers were examined who were exposed to radar radiation. The occurrence of tumours in the respiratory organs and mortality were found to correlate with the intensity of radiation exposure. However, the researchers getting this kind of results were quickly deprived of funding and the publication of the results were delayed. Thus when the use of mobile phones began in the early 1980’s, the dangers were known only for very few.
In the United States the regulation of electro-magnetic radiation has rested with the Food and Drug Administration or FDA, which has a great influence on the formation of international norms. It stated in 1993 that according to many studies micro-wave radiation increases the risk of cancer. Yet, the FDA decided in the following year that mobile phones can be introduced to general use without any safety tests. Mays Swicord, who worked in the FDA as a radiation expert, had an influence on the ruling. Soon after the decision Swicord moved to Motorola company which was the leading mobile manufacture at the time.
Also in the EU the regulations were managed to be minimized. In general, before carrying out any project you must do an environmental impact assessment. The EIA is compulsory for example before constructing power lines, piggeries or henneries. When erecting a mobile phone mast, no EIA is needed.
Since the 1990’s plenty of studies have been published which show that mobiles and mobile masts cause cancer and other illnesses. There are also many studies according to which micro-wave radiation is harmless. Henry Lai, scientist working in the University of Washington, went through all the 326 studies carried out in the years 1990-2006 which concerned the effects of micro-wave radiation. In half of them negative biological effects were found, in half not. Of the studies funded by mobile phone industries, only 30% found negative impacts. Instead, 70% of the independent studies found harmful effects.
When studying the influence of funding on research results, Swiss scientists Martin Röösli and Mattias Egger from the University of Basel ended up by and large to the same result. A similar influence of funding was also found by Seung-Kwon Myung in a study published in Clinical Oncology in 2009. According to Seung-Kwon’s article the studies funded by independent sources and finding an effect on the occurrence of cancer, were better in regard to the methods used than the studies funded by the industry.
Professor Dariusz Leszczynski has made a long carrier in the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland. In many of his studies he has found negative effects of mobile phone radiation but in the public appearances he has been rather guarded. He has often applied the precautionary principle, commonly used in environmental issues, for the benefit of the industry rather than for the benefit of public health. Anyhow Leszczynski said in an interview published in Tiede (Science) magazine in 2011: “Everyone knows that if your research results show that radiation has effects, the funding flow dries up.” In the following year the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority decided to discontinue the research on the biological effects of mobile phones and discharged Leszczynski.
Better or more convenient argument
Science does not differ from other knowledge because its representatives were more intelligent or wiser, or they had more books and more expensive instruments than others. The crucial difference is that scientific knowledge is not based on authority, tradition, economic interests or on the preferences of persons on the top of a social pyramid. Instead, knowledge formation is founded on the unforced force of the better argument that is manifested in the debate of the scientific community. All what makes an appearance as science is not really that. Instead, it is the same kind of conventional knowledge of organizations as that represented by the scholars of the Catholic Church and with which Galilei and other pioneers of science clashed 400 hundred years ago: in lieu of the better quality of an argument deciding factor is how it fits with the interests of a power system.
When the economic interests in spreading and maintaining the faith in the harmlessness of a product are enormous, science gets corrupted almost inevitably. In these cases the scientific community needs support from social movements which can relieve the condition of dissident scientists and help to raise the famous torch of science from the quagmire of profit seeking and power struggles.
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I think anonymous comments should not be allowed to appear.
Read my past blogs in Washington Times, here on BRHP and on the Round Table Initiative site to find answers. I criticize, when needed, both sides of the debate…
I did not judge whether their opinions are correct or incorrect. I just said that they put their name on them. On the other hand you drift towards populism by saying that any opinion with face on it is, in my thinking, correct. You are badly mistaken and such populism is unfair and shows you biased attitude…
You think that your opinions are correct but you hide and are unwilling to present yourself. It seriously hampers your credibility.
“Whatever they do they put their name and face on it. They stand by it… ”
So standing by misinformation, deception and pseudoscience makes it better? Madoff put his name on his hedge fund – does that lessen the transgression?
I’d like to know how often you and Ellie criticize anonymous anti-wireless posters.
Whether you agree, or disagree, with what Ellie Marks and Devra Davis say, both of them do it without hiding behind an alias. Whatever they do they put their name and face on it. They stand by it… On the other hand, you criticize them very strongly but you have no courage to say who you are. It is impossible to determine whether you have any scientific and other credibility, while their credibility and expertise, whatever they are, are out in the open… and you judge them from behind an alias hideout…
No, it would be uninteresting. Do you ask this of every anonymous blogger? Or do you just pick on those who document the duplicity and hypocrisy of anti-wireless activism?
My criticism and contempt for the pseudoscience in the letter to Senator Baker is valid. That’s what you should address.
BTW the philosopher-in-a-lab-coat now wants to know what “persons, meetings, memos, advisors, phone calls, or other factors” led the CDC to remove its alarmist message and restore the science-based one. I’d like to see the emails associated with EHTrust’s positions.
Bironemf, it would be wonderful to know who you are. Please identify yourself. Thank you.
How the $2.5 billion would be spent is not my immediate concern (I’m fairly certain industry will put the kibosh on it).
The point is that money corrupts on both sides and this needs emphasis. Here we have an unqualified and untrustworthy individual positioning herself as as an eminent and unbiased scientist all while fundraising and lobbying government. There are many other parties who benefit in kind. The author of this blog post is ignoring or in denial of this.
Real scientists, seeking to “raise the famous torch of science” are few and far between.
The $2.5 billion would be to support research, not any activism. Or perhaps, if it will continue to be legal to generate and emit the agent into public and private spaces, some of the $ could go to foundations/agencies able to help support individual people (and their families) who suffer illness(es) when exposed to this physical agent. I’ve never looked into the details, however, I assume that sellers of alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, various foods, activities, etc. generally charitably fund helping organizations that support people who suffer due to accidental or intentional overuses or abuses related to the sales of products/services from which the sellers profit. [p.s. I will not be responding, nor reacting, to any posts that are direct or indirect comments or questions that intend unkindness or derision regarding these illnesses, or that pretend naiveté about it, or that intend unkindness or derision about this p.s. For anyone who presently prefers to be mean-spirited or to appreciate any mean spirit in this regard, I hope your life improves very soon so that you don’t feel it’s necessary to hurt other people in order for you to feel good and achieve goals.]
I saw no mention of the economic benefit of fear-mongering.
Let’s start with Dr. Devra Davis, one of the most outspoken activists on the negative health effects of wireless technology. Dr. Davis, whose PhD was awarded by the Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago, claims that ICNIRP scientists are engineers and physicists without adequate training in biological effects (a look at the ICNIRP membership committee suggests otherwise). I find this criticism from a philosopher-in-a-lab-coat quite amusing.
Dr. Davis has proposed a $1 fee per cell phone contract per year for five years in the USA and European Union for “independent research” — whatever that means. With a conservative estimate of 500 million phones, that’s $2.5 Billion. I think that’s a lot of money — do you think it’s possible that this sum of money might introduce some bias? Let’s not forget that she also published a book on the subject — a book that would probably not sell very well without the fear.
Furthermore, Dr. Davis was an author of a very misleading letter to Hawaii State Senator Rosalyn Baker.
The letter is full of pseudoscience including an unsubstantiated link between breast cancer and carrying cell phones in bras.The letter also notes that cell phones share the Group 2B Carcinogenic classification with DDT, lead and engine exhaust, conflating toxicity with carcinogenicity. Professor Leszczynski has blogged about this in BRHP:
This misleading letter included the names of several scientists and medical professionals who should know better. With $2.5 billion at stake, should we not be worrying about the corruptive influence on the activist side?
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