One of the foremost father figures in the history of medicine famously said, “There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.”
Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician revered for high ethical and moral standards that are the reason every doctor in America pledges the Hippocratic oath upon graduation, would be rolling in his whatever is left of his grave if he knew that opinion is overtaking science.
According to an investigation launched by The Center for Public Integrity called “Science for Sale,” opinion is overtaking science in the halls of Congress, the laboratories of regulatory agencies and the witness stands of U.S. courtrooms. Tainted facts lead politicians to believe arsenic isn’t as harmful as once believed. Tainted facts disavow the work done by researchers at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. Tainted facts crush the lawsuits of those who have contracted brain tumors and mesothelioma.
Corporate greed and industry profit seem to have joined forces to create bought-and-paid-for science that benefits their interests. Take the case of a defense lawyer from San Francisco who decided that asbestos couldn’t possibly be the only cause of mesothelioma and hired a consultant from a firm that represents chemical companies around the world to write white papers to that effect, blaming tobacco instead.
The “Science for Sale” investigation lambasts the firm, Gradient, of Cambridge, Mass., for defending its clients within an inch of their lives.
“Gradient belongs to a breed of scientific consulting firms that defends the products of its corporate clients beyond credulity, even exhaustively studied substances whose dangers are not in doubt, such as asbestos, lead and arsenic,” writes The Center for Public Integrity’s David Heath in an article titled “Meet the ‘rented white coats’ who defend toxic chemicals.”
Such seedy shenanigans are made easier by the fact that government-funded research has plummeted from an all-time high in 2010 to an all-time low in 2015. So the only way dangerous chemicals such as hexavalent chromium, for example, can be studied is through privately funded research that in and of itself breeds bias.
When Attorney Shawn Acton agreed to represent mesothelioma victim Pam Collins, the twisted theory about tobacco as the culprit reared its head.
“I almost fell out of my chair,” Acton is quoted as saying in Heath’s article. “I’ve cross-examined some of the best defense experts in the country. And I’ve never heard even the most hardcore advocate for the defense ever claim that smoking causes mesothelioma.”
At a time when it seems as if facts can be made up, The Center for Public Integrity’s investigation is both telling and troubling.
“This is the meaning Sycophant,” a commenter says at the end of the article. “The ancient Greeks had a similar problem: people with social credibility and clout selling their influence to anyone with money. It explains why the term has become pejorative.”