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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Letter To Nuclear News Editor

Don't know if it'll get printed or not, but it's in response to the subject of my last blog post.

Dear Editor:

ANS members should be skeptical of any claims which are contrary to the consensus science on any subject, but particularly on a subject closely related to nuclear energy.  As most ANS members support nuclear energy, they may be less wary of claims that harmonize with that view, even when those claims contradict the science.   

Similarly, people who support fossil fuel energy are more likely to be receptive to claims on climatology which support their pro-fossil fuel bias, even when those claims contradict the science. 

In psychology, this cognitive phenomenon is called confirmation bias.  It is something to be avoided, not promoted.

Unfortunately, Nuclear News promoted confirmation bias with its coverage of the President’s Special Session: Low Level Radiation and Its Implications for Fukushima Recovery in the last issue. 

The session’s cherry-picked content stands in stark contrast to the international scientific consensus on the biological effects of radiation.

Yet Nuclear News described the speakers in these terms:

“All of the panelists, in one way or another, could be properly termed debunkers of the received wisdom on radiation exposure, as each presented evidence suggesting that not only are popular anxieties over radiation overwrought, but that low doses of radiation can, in fact, provide health benefits when properly administered."

 There wasn’t any new evidence presented in that session that hasn’t been known for years.  Nothing has changed scientifically since that session took place and won’t into the future.  All of the panelists, in one way or another, could be properly termed deniers of the science of health physics, not debunkers.  Similarly, the global warming deniers have not debunked anything in climatology.    

And what was meant by the term “received wisdom”?

The first objective of the ANS, from its bylaws, is to “to promote the advancement of science and engineering relating to the atomic nucleus, and of allied sciences and arts.”

Promote, not deny.

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