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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wade Allison - Is No Expert

I recently posted on some poor reasoning by Dr. Wade Allison who has been promoting the idea that radiation safety limits should be raised a thousand-fold.

According to his website, he is selling a book which provides a "clear and positive scientific account of the effect of radiation on life".  And you can schedule him for a lecture! 

This suggests he has expertise on the subject.  And yet I was perplexed at his erroneous and simplistic reasoning as I pointed out in the earlier post.

I am perplexed no more.

Here are 4 short clips (about 2 minutes each, you may have to "Load 10 More Videos" to get to them, they are the "Oxford Discussion" series) with Dr. Allison.

He admits he has no expertise in the field of radiation safety (at about 1:30 in the 2:01 minute video).  Even worse, he denounces expertise. 

Why would anyone want a lecture (or buy a book) on a subject by someone who states he doesn't have expertise in it? 

Of course, it's obvious Allison doesn't have expertise in the field (see my previous post), but it is nice to hear him acknowledge it.  Apparently Allison has become a science denier.

He seems to think the ICRP is locked into a WWII mindset, which simply isn't true.  They review the status of the science frequently.  In 2005 they published ICRP 99 which was an examination of the application of LNT to low doses and concluded such an application was prudent. They did this again in 2007 with ICRP 103.

Allison points out that no one has died from Fukushima radiation.  But cancer doesn't manifest in terms of weeks or months.  It manifests over years or decades.  You can look out your window at traffic and see no collision.  That doesn't mean collisions don't happen.  He says he has "his calculations" to show that people won't die from cancer, but he hasn't published them in a peer reviewed journal  (might be because he's no expert).

He states that the concept "as low as reasonably achievable" is NOT a statement about safety.  Say what???  Of course it is.  Allison claims it is a statement about "how low can you get it".  No it isn't.  We can easily get much lower doses (technically easy, just costs more money), it just isn't reasonable to do so considering the trivial gains in safety.  When it is reasonable to do so, we raise dose limits (adult limits higher than children, occupational limits are higher than general public limits, emergency limits are higher than routine limits, etc.).

His "as high as relatively safe" is what is employed by U.S. regulators.  They use similar risk coefficients for other environmental toxins.  Radiation isn't targeted as some special carcinogen, it is regulated at a level relatively consistent with other carcinogens.

Allison tells us that he is motivated by his desire to move to nuclear energy.  But the ICRP, NCRP, etc. are not motivated by either a pro- or anti-nuclear stance.  They are doing objective science. 

I'm reminded of the creationist dentist from Texas.   He didn't like the fact that science supports evolutionary biology, not creationism.  So he says, "Someone has to stand up to the experts!"   

(I guess there's no need for his patients to consult him on dentistry.  According to him, expertise doesn't matter.) 

The similarities between LNT-deniers, evolutionary biology deniers and global warming deniers are obvious.  They "know" what the conclusion "needs to be", based on motivated reasoning and confirmation bias.  When the facts don't support their needs, they respond with conspiracy theories by experts.

Here's a funny clip, which really isn't funny because we see this sort of thing actually play out with the deniers (in fact the Republican strategist in the clip is being serious, she's not in on the act).

"It should be up to the American people to decide what's true!!  Doesn't it make common sense?"



P.S.  Note that the comments are disabled for those Allison videos.  No surprise.

1 comment:

  1. ICRP 103: ‘since the estimation of nominal cancer risk coefficients is based upon direct human epidemiological data, any contribution from these
    biological mechanisms would be included in that estimate’

    The gardener of Isfahan