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Saturday, August 29, 2015

HPS Newsletter Publicly Available

The Health Physics Society has made their monthly newsletter available for public consumption.

I read the Boice Report within it.  It is John Boice's personal take on LNT.

I felt compelled to write him an email - pertinent parts below the fold.

I liked much of your LNT discussion, but cringed at other aspects.

In my opinion, LNT is not an "assumption", it is a conclusion.  It is a conclusion based upon a number of tested hypotheses.  The explanation which substantiates that conclusion is a scientific theory.  Yet you didn't use that word at all.  I wonder why?

Scientific theories cannot be proven true, and because of that, are subject to attack.  The theory of evolution (which parallels LNT, except it deals with mutations in sex cells leading to species evolution, rather than mutations in somatic cells leading to cancer evolution) has constantly been under attack. The theory of anthropogenic global warming is currently under attack.  

Theories represent our highest level of understanding of natural phenomena.  Theories must be falsifiable and compatible with theories in other fields of science.  LNT is a decades old theory, just like evolution.

You also used the term "LNT hypothesis" a couple of times.   In fact, you asked whether the LNT hypothesis would ever be validated to which you answered in the negative.  Well, a scientific hypothesis is a narrow idea within a larger theoretical framework WHICH MUST BE TESTABLE to be a scientific hypothesis.  In other words, if LNT were a hypothesis it would be testable, and we could reach a conclusion. It's not a hypothesis.  It's a theory drawn upon many tested hypotheses (which are described in epidemiological studies, molecular biology studies, etc.).  

If we work hard to falsify a scientific theory and fail, that provides greater confidence that the theory is correct.  So, we can look to the U.S. DoE Low Dose Radiation Research Program which spent a decade and a couple of hundred million dollars seeking to falsify LNT.  They failed.  This gives us confidence in our theory (not "assumption"!)  

Science denial is the inability to accept scientific theories because of some underlying bias.  Religious sentiment can bias someone against the theory of evolution.  Pro-nuclear power sentiment can bias someone against the theory of LNT.  Science deniers withdraw from the scientific process (peer reviewed hypothesis testing) and take to rhetorical attacks (petitions, websites, videos, etc.) in order to undermine scientific theories.  If people with advanced science degrees do that, it is unethical (they don't get to self anoint themselves as the final say, science is about accepting peer review conclusions with humility and objectivity, and educating the public on what the scientific consensus is).

Creationists (anti-evolution theory) refer to evolution as an "assumption", "hypothesis", etc.  Global warming deniers (anti-anthropogenic global warming theory) do the same.  LNT deniers (who I've penned "DeNiArs") do the same.

That's what made me were using the language of science deniers, though I know that is not your position.

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