Post 3 – Merchants of Doubt
The reviews on the back of this book said if you only have time to read one book this year, Read Merchants of Doubt. If you only have time to read two books this year, Read Merchants of Doubt again. I agree whole heartedly but must admit I only read it once. I’ve been encouraging everyone I can to read it since then.
The book really brings to light the different conflicts we’ve had in the media be it second hand smoke, the ozone hole, acid rain and now climate change. It plays at how the media manipulates science journals. Often unintentionally by not fully understanding the jargon or the results. Sometimes intentionally, and by scientists. It’s not only the journalists who are to blame, scientists, editing content that has already passed extensive peer review. They do this on purpose because it means a promotion or exchange of money. When the paper gets published, outrage ensures by the scientists whose name is associated with misinformation, and perhaps a correction is made in the following edition. But who reads those? Then the article is out there, perhaps corrected. Then it is cited, but which version? And you can see how the issues arise. Then it’s up to the reader to interpret the article. Of course, you might jump to an article that tells you that second hand smoke isn’t causing lung cancer. Great! Because you are addicted and will cling to anything to put your mind to ease that you might not be killing yourself. “ The studies show”, what a famous line, but what about the studies? What was the audience? Data set? Time frame? When the studies show that men and women who smoked, more men got cancer than women, that could indicate that it is not because of the smoking. There must be something else! So smoking is ok! You stop there, not wanting to know more. But if you did dig, you’d find that that study was done not long after it became socially acceptable for women to smoke. Thus, in the 5 year period, they didn’t have time to develop higher cancer rates. If you let it simmer for a decade longer you’ll find both men and women who smoke have higher lung cancer rates than those who do not.
These gargantuan problems are so large we don’t know what to do about them – so we hope for the facts that tell us its not that bad or everything will be ok. We don’t need to change anything. But we do. The ozone hole is real. Second hand and first hand smoke is horrible for you. Acid rain is not a good thing. Climate change is happening faster than anything seen in the last 800,000 years and its caused by us. These are facts. This book does a fantastic job of showing us how knowledge that is clear as day to the majority of scientists became convoluted in the public eye. Please read this book. Question your media sources for fake news. Think for yourself and do what’s right.