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Thursday, October 1, 2015

SARI Invades the HPS

The DeNiArs have gotten an opinion piece published in the latest issue of the Health Physics Society's Newsletter. I called my response, "LNT Fail", which I've emailed to the newsletter's editor.

I wonder if it will get published? See below.....

The HPS Newsletter is not a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  Its purpose is to announce activities, training opportunities, chapter accomplishments, etc. People with advanced science degrees should know that scientific arguments are not made in newsletters.

So why would the authors of “LNT 999”, in the October Newsletter, submit their scientific argument to a newsletter? 

There may be some HPS members who don’t accept the theory of anthropogenic global warming, others may not accept the theory of evolution, and some may not accept the theory of LNT. The HPS should not allow its Newsletter to be commandeered by individual society members so they can broadcast propaganda regarding their denial of a particular scientific theory.

The opinion piece was part of a broader effort to confuse the public on LNT. The authors and a few others have anointed themselves as the “real” experts on radiation safety under the name “Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information” (or SARI, phonetically ironic). As is the case with many science denial groups, their goal is to manufacture doubt and confuse the public on a scientific theory they can’t accept. 

Some of SARI’s other rhetorical tactics include submitting the Petitions for Rulemaking mentioned in “LNT 999”. Those petitions follow earlier petitions to the White House (fail) and U.S. EPA. (fail). And of course they have a website. Science isn’t carried out through websites, newsletters and petitions.

In “LNT 999”, the authors claim that LNT is responsible for radiophobia. They incorrectly refer to LNT as a hypothesis or an “assumption”.  Surely if LNT is a hypothesis they could test the hypothesis and publish their results in the peer reviewed scientific literature. In doing so, they could show that the scientific consensus is wrong. Where’s the science?

The answer is that LNT is not a hypothesis rather it’s a theory. The theory of evolution is not a hypothesis or “assumption” either, though Creationists who can’t accept that theory frequently attempt to denigrate it using those terms, to imply it’s a simple, untested idea. The tested hypotheses upon which the theory of LNT is built are described in BEIR VII, yet the authors seem to claim there is no evidence to support the theory while also describing some of the evidence within BEIR VII.

Since scientific theories are detailed explanations and cannot be shown directly to be true, they are subject to attack.

The authors seem to offer the fallacy of the “argument from consequences”. They would like us to reject LNT because of the poor response after the Fukushima accident. We don’t discard science because we are unhappy with its consequences. LNT is our best theory of low dose radiation effects. The pro-nuclear power IAEA investigated the Fukushima accident and they didn’t blame LNT or any other scientific theories.[1]  Instead, it was poor emergency planning that led to poor emergency response. SARI fails again.

A scientific theory is arrived at rationally (we “ratio” our degree of belief consistent with the strength of the evidence). Radiophobia is the irrational fear of radiation. People who understand LNT aren’t irrationally scared of low doses of radiation. They take rational precautions to minimize their dose. People who do NOT understand LNT may be radiophobic under the mistaken belief that low doses will result in some biological effect not supported by the evidence.

The current propaganda campaign attacking LNT isn’t new. The poor arguments are not new. LNT applies not only to ionizing radiation, but also to other genotoxic substances, including cigarette smoke. When the tobacco industry was threatened by the scientific conclusions of the health consequences of smoking, they realized that in addition to cigarettes, doubt would be their product. So they vigorously tried to confuse the public on LNT by manufacturing propaganda and disseminating it wherever they could find an audience. SARI is using the same strategy and tactics.

The fossil fuel industry has also copied that same strategy by fomenting doubt attacking the scientific conclusion that carbon dioxide pollution is warming the planet. In regards to cigarettes, ionizing radiation, and global warming, science deniers pose a threat to public health. The HPS Newsletter should not accommodate these efforts, especially now that the document is publicly available.

The HPS was formed, in part, due to the efforts of the late Karl Z. Morgan who also authored, The Angry Genie, One Man’s Walk Through The Nuclear Age. Chapter Seven of that book is titled, “The Advance and Decline of Health Physics”. 

I have no doubt what Dr. Morgan would think of SARI’s propaganda campaign and their exploitation of the Newsletter in furthering it. It represents a decline…a fail.


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