Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The General Public Should Not Trust Scientists - Here's Why

The article You Can Stop Worrying About A Radiation Disaster In Japan -- Here's Why from businessinsider.com was published just after the earthquake that destroyed the nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan. The article quotes from an essay by a research scientist at MIT who wrote:

I repeat, there was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors.

The article includes the scientist's full essay which gives a long explanation of his reasoning. According to an article in newscientist.com, the essay

... echoed across Facebook and Twitter, where CNBC's Jim Cramer recommended it as the "best piece on the nuke issue". The high-profile sites The Telegraph and Discover cited the essay and Business Insider reproduced it in full, with a headline proclaiming, "You Can Stop Worrying About A Radiation Disaster In Japan – Here's Why".
The newscientist.com article also said that "The blog adaptation of" the essay "had gone viral, gaining more than 50,000 views."

However, since that time, the world has learned that the essay was wrong. In Fukushima vs Chernobyl vs Three Mile Island posted on skeptoid.com we learn the true amount of radiation released at Fukushima:

Where does Fukushima fit between those two? At the high end, about 500 PBq. That's about a million times more than Three Mile Island, and about a third of Chernobyl.
Another article on skeptoid, Are Your Days of Eating Pacific Ocean Fish Really Over?, also says:
Obviously, the situation at Fukushima is distressing, and not at all something that should be shrugged off.

More evidence that the general public should not trust scientists are the scientific papers that overstate the problems caused by the radiation leaked. All The Best, Scientifically Verified, Information on Fukushima Impacts in deepseanews.com discusses one flawed study:

Are babies in the U.S. dying as a direct result of Fukushima radiation? Michael Moyer is a writer and editor at Scientific American and writes about these concerns (Post 1, Post 2). The first post deals with an unpublished study where “researchers” cherry picked data to fit their agenda. This group revised their analyses and now have a “published study” that is so fundamentally flawed it’s not worth mentioning. Take Home: Babies in the U.S. are not dying from Fukushima radiation. Favorite Quotes: “A check [of the data] reveals that the authors’ statistical claims are critically flawed—if not deliberate mistruths…picking only the data that suits your analysis isn’t science—it’s politics.” But my all time favorite quote is this baby that comes across as a stern gentlemanly slap to the face, “No attempt is made at providing systematic error estimates, or error estimates of any kind. No attempt is made to catalog any biases that may have crept into the analysis, though a cursory look finds biases a-plenty (the authors are anti-nuclear activists unaffiliated with any research institution). The analysis assumes that the plume arrived on U.S. shores, spread everywhere, instantly, and started killing people immediately. It assumes that the “excess” deaths after March 20 are a real signal, not just a statistical aberration, and that every one of them is due to Fukushima radiation.”
The article Study: Fukushima Radiation Has Already Killed 14,000 Americans in Washingtonblog.com gives an overview of the scientific controversy. The article includes these quotes:
Pediatrician Helen Caldicott said recently:
May I say that North America has received quite a large fallout itself.


We’re going to see an incredible increase in cancer, leukemia, and — down the time track — genetic disease. Not just in Japan but in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly North America.

Caldicott also wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed:
Children are innately sensitive to the carcinogenic effects of radiation, fetuses even more so. Like Chernobyl, the accident at Fukushima is of global proportions. Unusual levels of radiation have been discovered in British Columbia, along the West Coast and East Coast of the United States and in Europe, and heavy contamination has been found in oceanic waters.
The article Fukushima Radiation Damages Thyroid Glands Of California Babies published in collective-evolution.com describes, a "... study published in the peer-reviewed Open Journal of Pediatrics has found that radioactive Iodine from Fukushima has caused a significant increase in hypothyroidism among babies in California."

If the scientists themselves can't agree, what basis does the ordinary citizen have for faith in the pronouncements of scientists?

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