The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science by Tom Bethell
Review By Dustin HawkinsJan 9, 2006
Throw out your textbooks and forget everything you have learned about science. They didn’t teach you this stuff in college.The media generally follows the “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy: Stories detailing devastation garner front-page status while stories lacking prophetic dramatic climax wind up on page B-17. As Tom Bethell writes in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, this can be universally applied to science. Such an understanding has been grasped by high-powered special interest groups who use the media to further their causes by predicting the most ominous disasters that man will ever see. Many entities, from the media to politicians, are all too willing to help these special interests along in their causes—the media by promoting the panic, and the government by funding it.As a result, declarations of destruction caused by supposed man-made global warming dominate headlines while opposing viewpoints, though equal in number, are left without the megaphone of major newspapers, scientific journals, nightly newscasts, and congressional hearings.Studies claiming that SUV’s are causing polar ice caps to melt and thereby turning Florida into a giant swimming pool are, admittedly, interesting. Studies disputing such claims, and thus not predicting massive wide-scale destruction, are not interesting. Therefore, the former gets a Hollywood movie deal, a prime-time news segment, and prominently displayed magazine covers while the latter is sent to the garbage can.Global temperature patterns are just one of the many areas of science that is under heavy assault by liberal activists and environmentalists. As the book’s teaser claims, “Liberals have hijacked science for long enough. It’s time to set the record straight.”Science bias is happening on a much larger scale than most people realize. For instance, scare tactics have successfully crippled the use of nuclear power in America as an energy source. Despite nuclear plants emitting no carbon dioxides, sulfur dioxides, or nitrogen oxides—unlike coal-fired plants—anti-nuclear activists have derailed the cleaner, safer energy source with the help of a friendly media and Hollywood movies:The highly regarded TV commentator Edwin Newman said on NBC that as a result of the heat generated by nuclear power plants, ‘by the end of the decade our rivers may have reached the boiling point.’ Then life imitated art. In 1979, Columbia Pictures released The China Syndrome, starring activist actress Jane Fonda. In the movie, the meltdown of a nuclear reactor core threatened to burn its way deep into the earth, “all the way to China.”Bethell then brings into the nuclear energy discussion the phenomenon hormesis, which is described as being “so widely observed that it deserves to be called a law of nature.” Yet its existence is practically buried in scientific debate. Hormesis maintains that “things that are toxic in large doses are helpful in small doses,” including nuclear radiation, which appears to have a positive effect on the reduction of various cancers.This can be best understood by considering the effects of alcohol in both large and small quantities. Heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning and ultimately be fatal. Yet doctors recommend the consumption of small amounts of alcohol as it has proven to have cardiovascular benefits, including cutting the risk of heart attacks. The same concept applies to many other irrationally feared substances, such as mercury, across the board. Yet the U.S. policy on nuclear radiation maintains that no levels of nuclear radiation are safe and special interest groups have run with that philosophy in their attempts to prevent the expansion of nuclear power usage.Another myth countered in Bethell’s book is the idea that, up until the 14th century, there was a long-standing, wide-spread belief that the earth was flat. The flat-earth myth was first heavily promoted by Washington Irving, the creator of Rip Van Winkle, in the early 19th century and later popularized further by John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White. The latter two, Draper a medical school dean at NYU and White the founder of Cornell University, wrote highly influential books promoting the existence of the “flat-earthers” in the late 1800s. Their works were among the first to pit so furiously religion against science.The goal of these writers was to project religious persons, with a heavy focus on the Catholic Church, as being anti-science, anti-learning and as having actually repressed the idea that the earth was spherical for hundreds of years. As a result of their version of history becoming the scientific mainstream, Christopher Columbus has been erroneously transformed into a “bold rationalist who overcame ignorant churchmen and superstitious sailors” by proving that the earth was not flat. Reality would say that there was no reason to prove that the earth was round because very few people believed anything else. Thanks to nineteenth-century revisionists, history books tell a different story.Indeed, there are far too many scientific falsehoods uncovered in this Politically Incorrect Guide to be summarized here. Among the other findings: embryonic stem cells cannot be used directly in therapy, because they cause cancer; new, unknown species of animals continue to appear far more frequently than known species disappear; in Africa, AIDS has been so narrowly redefined that almost any sick person can be diagnosed with the syndrome; the hysteria over DDT has led to the death of millions of people living in third-world countries; and private investors avoid stem cell research, because they know it likely will not produce any real results.Interest groups have long distorted the truth and twisted findings in studies in order to frame the debate about scientific issues. Groups lacking causes lack funding. The best way to get funding is to make sure that there exists the greatest number of, not just problems, disasters that need action. Greenpeace, a liberal activist organization, would cease to exist if it were publicly believed that any warming that might exist is merely part of a natural cycle. Without global warming, there is no Greenpeace.As a result, people are told that drilling for oil in Alaska will kill off all wildlife, nuclear power is deadly, the earth is turning into a giant oven, and most of the world thought the earth was flat until Columbus discovered otherwise. And you might even believe it all, too. But now with a Politically Incorrect rebuttal of these popularized myths, science will never be viewed in the same way again.
Dustin Hawkins is the Editor and Publisher of the Capitol Hill Journal.Copyright © 2006 Townhall.com