A week in junk science

Science has become a political football to be controlled to stage-manage advocacy for a pre-set agenda. We can't afford it to be

David Atherton
On 25 March 2013 15:52

On March 18th, case number CV 12-5168-JGB,, James E. Enstrom vs. The Regents of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), came before the US District Judge, the Honorable Jesus G. Bernal.

Dr. James Enstrom, an employee of UCLA for nearly 40 years, was allowed to proceed with his case by Bernal since it was alleged his rights were violated under the First and Fourteenth amendments. He has not received a salary for a year and his research funds have been confiscated.

Why? Well, after his long slog as a Research Professor of epidemiology at the university, he was fired since his “research [was] not aligned with the academic mission.”

It seems Enstrom’s main problem is that he produces honest science.

Firstly, in 2003, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) peer-reviewed and published his paper, co-written with Dr. Geoffrey Kabat, “Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98.” The research was paid for, between 1960 and 1997, by anti-smoking money and the data of 118,094 adults was supplied by the evidently anti-smoking American Cancer Society (ACS).

By 1997 the results were assembled. But, despite the obvious bias and intended mission to prove that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) caused lung cancer and heart disease in non-smokers, Enstrom and Kabat honestly concluded that “The results do not support a causal relationship between ETS and tobacco related mortality.” Oh dear.

As a result, Drs. John Seffrin and Michael Thun of the ACS tried to have Enstrom dismissed from UCLA for “scientific misconduct" as you can see from this letter

Just to make things worse for the university, Enstrom was funded by the Electric Power Institute to see if the emissions from diesel exhausts of particulate matter of a size of less than 2.5 microns has an effect on mortality. Again, no link was discovered. 

As an aside: it turned out the California Air Resources Board (CARB) had been massaging the numbers of 2,000 “premature deaths” a year from PM2.5. The lead author “Dr.” Hien Tran falsified his Doctorate in Applied Statistics from “Thornhill University”, purchasing it online for $1,000. Mary Nichols, chair of CARB, suppressed these facts until the legislation on restricting diesel trucks and cars had been passed.

Hence Dr. James Enstrom’s “research is not aligned with the academic mission.” In August 2010 he was fired and his principled stand is going through the courts.

Unfortunately for us Brits, it’s not only the US that is susceptible to questionable science. Our very own Department of Health (DH) was subject to a scathing report released last week written by Rupert Darwall of the White House Writers Group. In a disturbing review, Darwall claimed: “The consultation was deliberately framed to garner support for plain packaging, presenting policy-makers with a loaded question.”

He went on to lambast “questionable evidence”, stating that there is “no causal link between packaging and smoking”, before claiming the “Department of Health admitted the consultation was biased but has done nothing about it.”

“Overall”, wrote Darwall, “the consultation creates a misleading impression that plain packaging will cut smoking.”

Finally all those who think their £2 a month to Cancer Research UK (CRUK) goes to scientists looking to cure a terminal disease will be disappointed to learn it is playing politics on plain packaging again. In fact, you may be shocked to discover just how much of its money is spent on political advocacy and pen pushing. 

Out of the £498 million the charity receives, £203 million is directly attributable to specific cancer research. According to CRUK’s accounts, £332 million in total is spent in this area. But that leaves a whopping £166 million, or 33 percent, potentially spent on dubious research, questionable papers, and slick PR consultants.

The latest batch of inaccuracies claims: “About 207,000 children aged 11 to 15 started to smoke in 2011, a sharp rise from 157,000 in 2010.” Government data completely contradicts this assertion:

“The 5% of 11-15yr olds considered regular smokers in 2011 is unchanged over 2010. The proportion of 11-15yr olds who have never smoked increased from 73% to 75% (60% in 2005).”

Institute of Economic Affairs Fellow Chris Snowdon describes how they fiddled the figures. He concludes: “It's imaginative junk science… If this kind of thing is representative of Cancer Research's work, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for them to find a cure for cancer.”

Not for the first time have I remarked how science these days is a political football, to be caressed, manipulated and controlled to stage-manage advocacy for a pre-set agenda. After all “it is for our own good, it is for the children and who does not believe in good health?”

David Atherton is Chairman of Freedom2Choose, which seeks to protect the informed choices of consenting adults on the issues of smoking. Follow him on Twitter: @DaveAtherton20

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