Edward Calabrese challenges Science Magazine to right a 59 year-old case of scientific misconduct
Dr. Edward Calabrese shared the below letter to the editor in chief of Science Magazine with several of his professional colleagues. One of them shared it with me. I immediately contacted Dr. Calabrese and obtained his permission to share it with Atomic Insights readers. Dr. Calabrese did not initiate this coverage of his ongoing investigation of the events and meetings that resulted in the establishment of the linear no threshold dose response assumption, which is also known as the “no safe dose of radiation” assertion.
The text between the lines below is a direct quote of Dr. Calabrese’s letter, but I have chosen not to use the “block quote” tag. I’ve learned that some people skip over indented passages when reading blog entries, and this particular letter should not be skipped by anyone.
August 11, 2015
Dear Dr. Marcia McNutt:
Editor-in-Chief of Science.
This letter provides evidence that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation Committee – Genetics Panel committed Scientific Misconduct in the form of fabrication and falsification based on the U.S. Federal Government definitions as given below. This occurred in the June 29, 1956 issue of Science, Genetics Effects of Atomic Radiation, 123:1157-1164.
Action is sought now as I recently discovered such misconduct during detailed historical research on the history of the dose response relationship. This misconduct is the product of the entire 17 member panelist actions. While their actions occurred some 59 years ago, the impact of this paper and its recommendation to adopt a linear dose response model for risk assessment had immediate and continually profound effects upon the U.S. and the entire world. At the heart of the misconduct was the intent of the panel to achieve their linearity goal regardless of scientific honesty, and in the process abused the journal Science, making it the vehicle of their dishonesty that would be spread across the world and across multiple generations. Given the historical and continuing impact of their scientific misconduct it is imperative that Science act to confirm my peer-reviewed allegations. If confirmed, I would fully expect that this paper would be retracted, along with a detailed contextual explanation for the Science readership. I would be pleased to discuss this issue with you and others at Science.
I also want to address several other issues. I have contacted the NAS and requested information about how it would handle potential misconduct by NAS Committees. I never received an answer to this question despite contacting high level offices in the various sections of the NAS. I have sent my material to the President of the NAS. He has responded but has not addressed my technical issues. Being a journal editor myself, I have had to confront the issue of scientific misconduct. Thus, I am aware of the definitions, their interpretations and the seriousness of the allegations. In the case of the NAS, I have also served repeatedly on its committees in the area of toxicology. Thus, I have deep affection for the NAS and its reputation. However, we all are serving the goal of truth and it is our responsibility to get to the bottom of issues and to set the record straight. It is my opinion that the NAS in 1956 failed terribly in its scientific and moral leadership and society is paying a steep price for this and it must be corrected.
My specific fully documented claims are embodied in the attached paper, just published in the journal Environmental Research, following its standard peer-review process which involved three reviewers selected by the editor.
Specific Claim # 1
In the Science paper, it is stated that the Chairman of the Panel invited the geneticists on the Panel (13 at the time, one later dropped out, leaving 12) to provide estimates of genetic harm to the U.S. population exposed to a certain amount of radiation. The paper states that six took up the challenge and provided the estimates. Yet, I have in my possession, the fully documented estimates of nine of the geneticists. Three estimates were excluded by Professor James Crow, who was not given authority to do so based on my research. Secondly, the three excluded values resulted in significantly reducing the variability of the estimates of harm. This was a goal of Crow since he was afraid that the recommendations would not be accepted if the public saw just how uncertain the panelists were in their assessments. The true statement would have been that nine accepted the challenge and that three were eliminated and to have provided an explanation for the elimination. This statement in the Science paper is a clear example of falsification on this critical assignment.
Specific Claims # 2 and # 3
Of the remaining six estimates the Science paper reports that the variation in damage ranged over 100-fold, that is, a mean +/- 10 fold. In the table of values of the six geneticists, the variability was about 750-fold. It is important to note that the panel actually voted NOT to show the data. Thus, they decided to hide the real values and falsified actual variability in the Science publication.
Another occurrence of falsification occurred when the article failed to indicate that three members refused to provide estimates because of the profound uncertainty in making such estimates. Written statements by panelist James Neel indicated that it would be irresponsible, in his opinion, to provide such estimates. The point is that the Science paper failed to indicate the responses from the entire group of the geneticists, providing only those that might be supportive of recommendation for linearity and, yet, still being untruthful on that as well. These statements collectively indicate that the panel committed scientific misconduct on multiple occasions, all with the same expressed purpose of concealing from the public the actual uncertainty so that the LNT recommendation would be accepted.
U.S. Federal Agency Standard Definition of Scientific Misconduct
Research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.
(a) Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
(b) Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
(c) Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.
(d) Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.
I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
The paper that Dr. Calabrese has published documenting the specifics of the results of his extensive research into the documentary evidence of the the BEAR 1 Genetics Committee meetings and correspondence is damning but enlightening. In future posts, we will note and discuss some of the implications of his findings, including an Atomic Insights interpretation of the possible motivations for the deceptive manipulations.
In before Bob’s first comparison to creationists!
A new sport: how long will it take before Bob shows up to lob a stink bomb? Rod should start an Atomic Insights pool…
As near as I can tell, Applebaum hasn’t commented here since April 8. His own blog at http://ribjoint.blogspot.com shows the last post on December 27, 2014.
Wow, you guys kinda abracadabra’d his resurrection. Be careful watcha wish for, eh?
I like giving people the opportunity to ignore Lincoln’s dictum,
“Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak out [or use your keyboard] and remove all doubt.”
Is this the same Ed Calabrese who takes contributions from the Koch Brother’s Cato Institute, which denies any science which might result in government regulation?
Is this the same Ed Calabrese who was paid off by the Tobacco Institute to convince people cigarettes don’t cause cancer?
Answers: Of Course, you morons!
Well, that’s the thing, Bob. Prof Calabrese may be construed as accusing top level genetics scientists of falsifying data in return for grant funding. In this case external (Rockefeller), not governmental e.g. NSF. But the distinction will likely be lost upon those who have suggested certain climate scientists may have engaged in precisely this sort of supposed misconduct.
Now, those more recent climate accusations have been thoroughly refuted by independently funded external researchers, notably the (ahem) Koch-funded Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study, and multiple university and parliamentary investigatory committees. But that has not stemmed the flood of fossil fud over Climategate, and it’s unlikely Prof Calabrese’s completely unrelated radiation genetics investigations, no matter how thoroughly documented, will either.
Now, apparently Prof Calabrese would like to clear the air and invite a bit more rationality into radiation standards and public perception of risk, which would inevitably aid the nuclear power and climate mitigation interests. But in so doing he may inadvertently (or unavoidably, there is a difference) be aiding the very fossil energy interests he might otherwise wish were shuffled to the margin.
As to your apparent suggestion that Prof Calabrese’s recent Environmental Research publication was funded by fossil interests, perhaps you may provide some evidence? Only fair, as I’m sure Prof Calabrese will no doubt be asked for further details of his own.
Last, regardless of his funding source, Prof Calabrese investigations should stand on their own, and you are welcome to critique them on their professional merit. As the aforementioned Berkeley Earth study attests, not even special-interest funding agencies are completely immune from the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Well that’s the thing, Ed. It’s the same dumb ass approach that Intelligent Design promoters use, called Haeckel’s Embryos.
Unlike right wingers, people in science don’t just continue into the future clinging to the same old ideas. Even if Haeckel’s drawings were intentionally drawn wrong, it doesn’t mean they are of any importance to our understanding today. They are not.
Even if Muller did something wrong (Calabrese doesn’t know, just seeing what will stick), it isn’t of any importance to science today. We have much better microbiology today.
Slick Eddie will keep on manufacturing propaganda because that is what he has been hired to do. Just like Gish (if he weren’t dead).
“. . .people in science don’t just continue into the future clinging to the same old ideas.” Really? If one is a scientist who has based their career and 25 years of research on a particular theory, and some upstart comes along with a piece of evidence (a fossil, a document, a double-blind test, a peer-reviewed study with open release of data and methodology) and says you’re wrong, won’t you fight tooth and nail to dismiss, discredit, and destroy the competing theory? Scientists, like police officers, lawyers, and politicians, are neither better nor worse than the population at large.
And this isn’t the only evidence that the LNT model is fatally flawed. Look at the predictions of deaths and cancers from the Chernobyl disaster (based on the LNT) versus the facts on the ground (as reported by the IAEA- not exactly Fox News.) If your model doesn’t fit the facts, then the model is wrong, period. Evidence from radioactive locations like the Ukraine and Ramsar, Iran shows that the dose response is NOT linear, and that there is a threshold below which the risks to human health are too small to measure. How many billions of dollars have we wasted, and how many people have we killed from lung disease caused by power plant emissions, because of the LNT? I say that nuclear energy kills fewer humans per MWH of electricity than any other form of power generation. Refute that with facts, if you can.
You’re unfamiliar with Thomas Kuhn’s pivotal 1962 essay: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. Scientists *do* cling to old scientific paradigms, especially if they have a lot of time, personal energy, status, and self esteem invested in old ideas, which is almost always the case. FWIW Thomas Kuhn’s prose is nearly on par with his Ideas. If you haven’t read ” The structure of Scientific Revolutions” then you should do so.
Thomas Kuhn didn’t say it, but the old adage holds true that science advances one funeral at a time.
@ Bob Applebaum
More of your predictable criticism of the proponents of Creation Science, oblivious to the irony that it is YOU who religiously hold to dogma; YOU that have marched “into the future clinging to the same old ideas”. You appear impervious to fact based documentation as you religiously defend the orthodoxy of LNT and AGW.
Evolution, LNT, and AGW may or may not be correct but because the Pontiff and Cardinals of these theories have descended the mountain to dispense authoritative doctrine, YOU have fallen in line. Are the clergy of your chosen church immune to the kind of influences you seem to accuse Calabrese of?
Given the subject matter of this website, I’d prefer a spirited defense of LNT to the sophomoric attack based upon a researcher’s funding sources. As Leaver has pointed out, the research stands on its own merit and any criticisms should be directed at this research.
Just curious, are you seriously suggesting that the Duane T. Gish who so manhandled his evolutionary opponents was just a hireling and didn’t personally subscribe to the positions he defended?
The tale to be told will be the response this letter will recieve. Its almost impossible to have a conversation about this until seeing the response. I hope Rod stays on top of it.
So what’s the backstory here, Rod? Ed Calabrese doesn’t strike one as the grandstanding spot-light grabber. That said, his (somewhat) evocatively titled “On the origins of the linear no-threshold (LNT) dogma by means of untruths, artful dodges and blind faith” (Environmental Research 142 (2015) 432–442) possibly invites a modicum of controversy, concluding as it does (page 440) with
…so one supposes some sort of dust-up with Science was inevitable. But why public? Why now?
Why now? He’s been doing it for decades. Why public? Because right wingers find a handful of unethical people with science degrees to spread science denial propaganda in order to slow government regulation. It has to be public to be effective.
It is funded through right wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute and….the Cato Institute. They take money from the rich (like the Koch Brothers), and give to the unethical PhD’s, who fail to make meaningful contributions to science (scroll down within link):
The entire National Academy of Sciences / National Research Council Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation effort was 100% funded by the Rockefeller Foundation from 1954-1963. The majority of the members of the Genetics subcommittee were Rockefeller Foundation grantees both before and AFTER they served on the committee that created the LNT assumption. The Chairman of that committee was not a biologist, not a geneticist, and not a radiation physicist. He was a mathematician named Warren Weaver who had been serving as the program director of molecular biology and genetics at the Rockefeller Foundation since 1932 and continued to serve in that position through 1958. He was THE GUY who approved and distributed RF grants to scientists serving on his committee.
Not only did the RF fund the studies, they initiated the request. An RF board of trustees member, Detlev Bronk, ran the NAS. Another member of the board of trustees, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, was the publisher of the New York Times and made sure that the 1956 committee reports were heavily promoted. The ENTIRE Genetics Committee report was published in full in the June 13, 1956 issue, filling up 3 pages of newsprint (with some allowances for ads that are not in the on-line archived copies.)
I have no idea what “wing” of politics the Rockefellers inhabited during that period, but I do know that they and their board were firmly part of the hydrocarbon based economic establishment whose wealth and power was being threatened by a formidable competitor.
The fact that radiation causes mutations has nothing to do with nuclear power or hydrocarbon power. Radiation causes mutations. Radiation is emitted by both fossil fuel and nuclear plants.
Maybe you can go back to the Stone Age and fabricate some vast conspiracy about fire.
Yes, radiation causes mutations. Fire burns. Lead is toxic. Sunlight causes skin cancer. The question is, precisely what level of either acute or chronic radiation exposure is required to cause a measurable effect on human health? And is the dose response really linear, from either zero or a measurable threshold. If it is linear, is the slope of the graph correct?
Honestly, this whole debate is starting to remind me of the flap about azodicarbonamide as a food additive. It is used as a dough conditioner and bleaching agent for flour at levels below 45 PPM. Neither azodicarbonamide nor its secondary reaction products (semicarbazide and ethyl carbamate) are toxic at this level. But try to share the MSDS for azodicarbonamide with someone who has read a random meme on the Internet stating that this chemical will kill them, and the response is “My mind is made up- don’t confuse me with the facts.” Their next comment accuses me of being “A paid shill for (insert industry.)” I have even been called a “Kochsucker” on occasion. :-/
Seriously, if anybody knows where I sign up to get paid to support causes I already support by posting to online forums, please hook me up. The Koch Brothers’ money is as green as anybody else’s, and I have a kid to put through college.
The accusation of “troll” is not rare here on this blog either. I think all blogs tend to have people leveling that accusation at anyone that strays from the mainstream mindset the blog represents.
However, I have only seen indisputable evidence of one special interest group that actually trains and encourages trolls. Google “hasbara”.
I love it when a liberal like Applebaum opposes a liberal like Adams. A house divided against itself shall fall. Who said that? Oh wait, I don’t care; as a liberal, history starts at my birth. So why should I care about something that happened in 1956 before I was born. Wait, that’s science – my very own little god science. Oh I am so smart. I know science!
PS, Cato Institute that Applebaum referenced is no more conservative than that guy Bernie Sanders who worked for VY’s shutdown. It is libertarian – the people who think you can do whatever you what to do whenever you want to do it as long as you don’t initiate force.
OK, delete my comment. Conservatives are persona no grata in liberal space. So much for open minds. Or maybe your minds are open – all the knowledge falls on out.
Paul, I have never seen Rod delete a comment of yours. He has, however, deleted numerous comments of mine, often deservedly so. So accusing Rod of some sort of biased moderation against conservatives is BS.
I have deleted many of Paul’s more outrageous comments. They usually don’t make it through moderation, so you would never see them appear and then disappear when I realize a thread has gone entirely off the rails.
Egads. I can’t imagine, knowing Paul’s comments that DO make it through…
You mean he gets even MORE outrageous in his hatred?
I’m a bit curious about how you feel about the Pope’s concern about GW, wieghed against the huge stock holdings the Catholic Church has in fossil fuel entities. For example, the Archdiocese in Chigago alone has over 100 million dollars of fossil fuel investment holdings. The church forbids holdings of stocks connected to contraception, abortion, and war, but seems to be extremely fond of investing in the fossil fuel sector.
And, uh, by the way, Paul…..
“In July, shortly after the deal with was reached, Bishop Oscar Cantú, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace for U.S. bishops’ conference, sent a letter to every member of Congress welcoming “the momentous agreement,” which he said “signals progress in global nuclear non-proliferation.””
“In the letter, Cantú, who recently visited Japan for the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, said, “The United States and its international partners have taken a remarkable step with Iran in reaching this agreement. We encourage Congress to support these efforts to build bridges that foster peace and greater understanding.””
“Conservatives are persona no grata in liberal space. So much for open minds. Or maybe your minds are open – all the knowledge falls on out.”
I really don’t get it. You constantly harangue against the “left”and “liberals”, painting their positions as godless perversities. Yet after dropping these bombs, you rarely offer any defense when challenged.
Basing your hatred on religious piety, proclaiming to be a devout Catholic, you never bother explain the rational behind you holding positions that are absolutely polar to official church policies and positions.
Are you unable to offer anything other than shallow expressions of disgust towards the left? Where are the substantive arguments that defend the positions you claim are a manifestation of your faith, when your actual positions defy those of your spiritual leaders?
I never wrote “conservative”, I wrote “right wing”. I don’t oppose Adams on any liberal issue I’m aware of. I oppose the spreading of science denial propaganda, whether done by a libertarian or anyone else.
Calabrese is just offering his version of Haeckel’s embryos.
Just waiting on Adams to silence me….which he will.
Bob, i have had my fights with Rob too, but he has never scilenced me. I have very high regard for scientist. My father was one, and he made notable contributions both to reactor material research, to Nuclear safety and to the chemistry of Molten Salt Reactors as well the transport of radioactive materials in the enviroonment and in the Fossil fuel industry. My father was a scientist who had great integrity. So, I might add did Alvin Weinberg, who is also like my father, one of my scientific heros. BNreaches of scientific integrity are possible. The scientific method is designed to catch both unintentional errors, but every now and then errors do slip through. This appears to be an extreme;y sgregious case of deliberate scientific error, intewnded to benifit the oil industry. The small investment of Oilmoney into the pay of tame scientists, I always use bruno latour’s black box theory, when looking at the possibility of scientific error. Very often when I opened up the black boxes and loked at the sources, the sources did not say what is attributed to them by the black boxes. It turns out that peer review is no protection from accidental or deliberate scientific error.
Some times errors get caught, but all too often they stay ther in papers that are never examined carefully. It is not anti-science to care about the presence of deliberate or accidental errors in science. agree with Karl Popper who viewed controversy and criticism as the life blood of science.
You are a hard nut to crack Bob.
“Just waiting on Adams to silence me….which he will.” This seems to be a constant “dare.” So what’s in that for you? If you don’t want to be here you could simply go away. My bet is he won’t silence you. Step up your game Bob… issue a double dog dare.
You won’t know if he’s silenced me or I’ve left. Only he and I will know you moron.
They will also have some basis for believing me if I tell them that you have departed. I’ve been straight with people for a long time.
“Only he and I will know you moron.”
I had forgot all about you in your absence. You’re must be the left’s version of Brian.
It seems to me relatively straightforward that Calabrese is incorrect (and revisionist) in his overstated and hyperbolic summary of the report and statements by Crow and others about variability and limitations regarding ongoing research on health effects and dose response at the time.
From the second summary of the BEAR Committee on Genetic Effects (1960):
Is it scientific misconduct to be clear and astute in summarizing this research (“present knowledge is all too limited”) and recommending further research (“should be extended and expanded”) to more carefully develop and document these important scientific questions and observations at the time? Is the AES equally culpable of scientific misconduct as NAS, health professionals, foreign scientific review bodies (British MRC), university reps, ORNL, Argonne, Brookhaven, GE, and numerous others (both inside and outside the industry) … significant stakeholders in BEAR?
The reply from McNutt seems well considered. It’s not one paper that forms the basis for prudent radiation protection standards and derived dose response models (which are well known and widely acknowledged to be highly variable in the low dose range), but 59 years of research,. There is no conspiracy of fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or research contucted to correctly summarize this research (as BEAR did) and adequately attests to the variability and “limited” results in the low dose range. I’m not sure what is being asserted here … that research scientists were correct at the time (and continue to be so), and that no adequate model has yet to emerge to more fully account for variability in human, lab, case control, and population studies in a low dose range than LNT (!), and a more precautionary approach? Historical revisionism (or exaggerated and overstated claims) that falsely characterize historical context and the assumed motivational bias of scientists at the time (across a broad range of specialties and disciplines) does little to advance the interests of nuclear. Capable, careful, independent, and routine science does better! Calabrese misses the mark, and distorts a great deal of history and actual observed data (the statements of his historical subjects) in the process. If he’s writing about history, he sure has me fooled, and appears to be starting off on the wrong foot.
Why are you quoting BEAR II (1960)?
Did you overlook the fact that Calabrese was writing about BEAR I (1956)?
As indicated in link, I can only find on-line source for second summary report from Committee on Genetic Effects (and not first). Do you have an on-line source for the first?
I subscribe to the NY Times and obtained a full PDF from their archives.
Please do not try to make the case that information unavailable online does not exist.
Here is an on-line source for first summary (1956) … after an extended period of sleuthing. I did not find the document on the NYT?
I find many similar comments about uncertainties, limitations of data, importance of future research (extending current findings and filling in necessary gaps), balancing of risk, prospective insights and recommendations, etc. “We do know something, though not nearly enough to give definite answers to a great many important questions. There is a considerable margin of uncertainty about much of this, and as a result, there are naturally some differences of opinion among geneticists …” The document is circumspect, and offers a general guidance on radiation protection (10 roentgens from ages 0 to 30 above background radiation and from man-made sources). Section X makes “some remarks about approximate estimates,” and suggests precise answers are lacking … “there are many situations in which science can give only rough estimates.” More specifically “… it is seldom the case that one knows with much accuracy the numerical values that enter into the calculations.” Much of this remains to be explored and developed by future science and rigorous methods, and I find no indication in the text that warns against this (or suggests that this should not be done).
If this document had any influence (“The LNT model essentially originated with this report,” as suggested by Doss), it gives us no insight to look at subsequent reports and statements made by the same Committee? You add: “That flaw formed the basis for many subsequent studies.” Ok … I suppose we’re not going to consider the evidence for this (we’ll just take you at your word)?
I’ll pose the question again … what is the claim here, that scientists at the time made accurate and informed comments concerning the scope of research and objective findings at the time (including uncertainties, limitations in the data, what is generally accepted, and differences of opinion among geneticists)? I’m not sure what all the hulabaloo is about and why such a thing should merit retraction (and charges of scientific misconduct). Do you think this may be based on Calabrese’s misreading of these documents (and very selective sense of indignation and offense), rather than the reports themselves (and their subsequent follow-up and refinement). This would seem to be the case to me. Considering at the diverse stakeholders involved in report (AES, health professionals, university reps, ORNL, Argonne, Brookhaven, GE and other industry stakeholders) would seem to suggest as much as well.
Warning – This exchange may end up being elevated to the front page.
I find many similar comments about uncertainties, limitations of data, importance of future research (extending current findings and filling in necessary gaps), balancing of risk, prospective insights and recommendations, etc. “We do know something, though not nearly enough to give definite answers to a great many important questions. There is a considerable margin of uncertainty about much of this, and as a result, there are naturally some differences of opinion among geneticists …”
While there are prevarications and statements of uncertainty, the report also contains statements that are overly confident and seem specifically designed to establish a foundation of “settled science” from which to begin future research. Here are some example passages from your link supporting my claim.
(Aside: That passage is better understood in the context of knowing that many members of the Genetics Committee were eugenicists before that term gained a bad reputation during and after WWII.)
And here are the final three sentences of the report:
“We may find it desirable or even almost obligatory that we spend a certain amount of atomic power plants. But we must watch and guard all our expenditures. From the point of view of genetics, they are all bad.”
You wrote I’ll pose the question again … what is the claim here, that scientists at the time made accurate and informed comments concerning the scope of research and objective findings at the time (including uncertainties, limitations in the data, what is generally accepted, and differences of opinion among geneticists)?
The claim is that an identifiable, carefully selected group of scientists wrote a report that stated that they knew that all radiation doses, no matter how low, were harmful. They dismissed fifty years of prior work that assumed there was a threshold below which damage was too low to be measured and was thus safe. They confidently stated that all biological organisms, because they share a common chemistry, respond in similar ways to radiation. They clearly bounded future work to be limited to determining the precise effects, since they already knew the general nature of the effects.
That certainty was based on experimental results — as admitted by the committee itself — from bacteria, fruit flies and corn plants with some preliminary results from mice. What they did not admit in the report, but which Calabrese has found through study of original historical correspondence, is that committee leadership purposely misled readers about the magnitude of the uncertainties. If they had accurately reported those, critically thinking readers would have recognized that they had no basis for any certainty at all about the health effects of low dose radiation. They had no way of ruling out the possibility that radiation might be a stimulant at low doses.
In fact, they had to ignore numerous deterministic studies on humans — admittedly with relatively small sample sizes — to reach their conclusion.
Calabrese (and your) reading of these reports and summaries would appear to presume that there are no such thing as “critically thinking readers”. That nobody can read what is said and well described in these reports, consult reference and cited original source material, and scientists can’t challenge received thinking or do any better work to correct errors and extend findings. I already summarized why this is a flawed approach to these questions, doing history, and an unconventional view of scientific communities, practices, and communication (here).
Where you and Calabrese see certainties, others see a testable scientific claim … as stated above, “One that is open to question, and can be scrutinized and advanced with future work.” When did 1956 and a single paper become the sole basis for assessing these questions? Just 4 years later, one finds the statement: “… we emphasize that present knowledge is all too limited as to the effects of low levels of radiation in inducing malignant neoplasms. We cannot say with any assurance whether the dose-response curve for induction of malignant diseases is linear or non-linear at low levels … We believe that studies of this kind on experimental mammals should be extended and expanded, even though they are difficult.” Odd, I would say, for a Committee that is referenced by some as the origin of the LNT model (wouldn’t you say).
This is just poor history … and imputes motives to readers and scientists that are nearly impossible to justify (because they aren’t based on a reasonable view of these questions, human psychology, or a normal view of science). Not surprising from someone, such as Calabrese, who feels much the same way about other debates and discussions in the scientific community (such as climate change). If I had to label it, I would call it a “paranoid” view of science (where everyone is out to rig the game … and the duplicitous almost always win).
I don’t think it serves the interest of nuclear, or of the site, to be so dismissive of science (as self-correcting, subject to peer review, often very narrow and ordinary in scope, and rarely settled about larger questions and the complexity of human understanding, histories, and science). Misreading the past and being insensitive to historical context is a poor way to go about making a best case for nuclear, advancing science, and improving regulatory standards to better fit with current understandings (summarized on a routine basis) over the last 60 years.
I believe I’ve said as much on the topic that is worth saying. I’m not sure Calabrese’s paper merits anything more?
I’m happy to hear that you are running out of arguments.
The report of the BEAR I Genetics Committee was not a mere “paper.” It was not a scientific effort begun by someone with an observation and a curiosity intent on understanding and explaining.
The report was an interim deliverable of a strategic, coordinated effort to push the public and future studies on an important topic in a particular, selected direction. This is not an unknowable mystery solved by guesswork. It is a statement of historical fact based on diligent, multi-year, multi-person investigation of a virtual mountain of historical documents, original correspondence, and contemporary press reports.
The BEAR effort was initiated, not by scientists or by a responsible government agency, but by the board of trustees of a “charitable”, tax exempt foundation formed by one of the largest and most influential family fortunes ever accumulated. That family had a deep understanding of the importance of controlling the supply of energy sources, a foundational commodity that enables our industrial economy. That understanding is what gave them the wealth and power they had accumulated – John D.’s Standard Oil was not an oil producer, it dominated the industry by controlling refining, defining products, controlling markets and owning transportation access and capital. In addition to understanding energy, the RF was also deeply involved in the medical industry and pharmaceuticals. In several areas, radiation-based treatments competed with chemical drugs for markets. The RF also had many board members that had deep understanding of Bernays’s studies and advice about public relations and marketing, which he wrote about under the title of “Propaganda.” (At least one of the Rockefeller brothers – David – was an intelligence agent during WWII.)
The RF board approached the most respected body of professional scientists in the United States with a checkbook and told them they wanted to produce information that would influence public opinion — “reduce confusion” — because they recognized that the public was losing faith in the information they were being given by the AEC, the government agency responsible for protecting in the area of radiation exposure. (The fact that Lewis Strauss — the Chairman of the AEC, one of the primary leaders of the atmospheric testing program and the radiation information/protection program — was also a Rockefeller investment advisor is a part of the story for another day.)
Not only did the RF go to the NAS with a checkbook, but they also provided Warren Weaver, one of their key program directors, as the chairman of one of the key committees. Weaver exercised some influence on the selection of his committee members, purposely leaving out Bruce Wallace, one of the most respected experts in the field of radiation genetics. Wallace actively questioned the stridency with which Muller promoted his “no safe dose” assertions.
When the work of this committee — one of six committees formed for the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation study — was complete, it was announced with far more fanfare than is usually applied to scientific reports. There was a press conference and extensive coverage in the “paper of record” including a full text copy of the report. None of the other sub-committee reports were similarly promoted or published. The publisher of the New York Times, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, was a member of the RF board of trustees. Apparently, he was involved in — perhaps put in charge of — the publicity campaign to promote the findings of the Genetics Committee.
That full text report was republished in Science, one of the most respected general purpose science publications in the world.
I am not being dismissive of “science.”
I am viewing this history through the lens of 35 years of professional experience with many different kinds of people and recognizing that even some of the most admirable people I have ever met have occasionally be heard to say things like “Topics that interest my boss fascinate me.” Money is a powerful tool of influence among people. Scientists are, as a lot, not that much different from other people. They can be persuaded to make statements and take actions with which they do not fully disagree in order to obtain money — perhaps not for personal consumption, but to support their important work. That is the reward that Weaver, representing the RF, offered to smooth over differences of opinion and come out with a report that acknowledged uncertainties about the MAGNITUDE of the slope of the dose response curve, but also expressed CERTAINTY that there was no threshold. The report did not mention the possibility that the effect could be beneficial at certain doses.
The RF effort to influence publicly known “facts” about radiation health effects did not stop with the issuance of that first report. They continued providing all of the money for the BEAR studies through 1962. They also supported the work of people like Ed Lewis from Cal Tech, who applied the BEAR I assumptions in another influential paper in 1957 that computed the leukemia risks of fallout from the atomic bomb testing program.
History is messy, especially when it involves people who take actions to further their personal as well as professional interests. Science is not immune.
I tried this once before, to no avail….
But here goes again…
What does EL do for a living?
I promised EL I would not reveal any of his personal information.
Its unfortunate that EL will not offer even a general bio. One has no gauge by which to measure motive.
But in the same story, John Beatty, a professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of British Columbia in Canada who has studied Muller’s career, agrees that given the paucity of data, Muller may have been too confident about the linear model.
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