To the Editor:
In his review of Rational Readings on Environmental Concerns, edited by Jay Lehr [Books in Review, October 1992], Jeffrey Salmon cites a depressing number of instances of environmental pseudo-science. The problem, however, is of wider scope. Other fields of science are also being subjected to similar perversion for political purposes. For example:
* A leading scientific journal describes an experiment designed to establish the existence of global warming. A deep hole was drilled in the Greenland ice cap, and the ice was analyzed to see how much had been laid down each year. It was assumed that less ice had been laid down in recent years as compared with the preceding centuries, but in fact the reverse was found to be true—more ice is being laid down now. Did the authors of the experiment conclude that they had been mistaken, and that global warming had not occurred, or failing that, did they at least admit that the data were confusing, and no conclusion could be reached? No, they concluded that as the earth warmed, more water would evaporate from the oceans, and thus more snow would fall on Greenland. In other words, more ice forming every year supported the hypothesis that the earth was warming. Of course, if less ice had formed in recent years, this too would have supported the hypothesis. Thus the “scientists” could have saved themselves a lot of work by concluding that whatever the ice in Greenland showed, it would support global warming. They could have simply stayed home.
* A study in a leading medical journal finds that the suicide rate for ages fifteen to twenty-four is higher in Seattle than in Vancouver and attributes this to the stricter gun-control laws in Vancouver. The authors do not comment on the fact that the suicide rate for ages thirty-five to forty-four, however, is higher in Vancouver, and they certainly do not blame gun-control laws for this finding. A letter to the editor points out the discrepancy and notes that, using the authors’ criteria, almost any result would support the hypothesis that gun-control laws are good, and almost no result could refute it. The letter is not published.
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