Sunday, March 20, 2011


How would you respond if you were asked the following questions:
(1) Would you prefer government agencies or private industries to regulate the toxic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, or teratogenic (embryo damaging) harm of the foods you eat, the cosmetics you use, or the products you buy for your household (insecticides, cleaners, air fresheners, paints, etc.)?
(2) Would you believe scientists working in the field with no financial benefit from corporations or scientists hired by these corporations on questions or claims such as “Is smoking tobacco safe?”; “Are carbon emissions by industry leading to global climate changes and a likely rise in sea waters by the end of this century? “; or “Nuclear reactors are safe and should be expanded in number throughout the United States.”
I suspect most people would prefer government regulation when it comes to our health from manufactured products. I suspect most people will favor some sort of effort to prevent serious climate change and its consequences rather than face a formidable response to such changes once they occur. I also suspect that most people distrust nuclear energy after three major failures and would oppose the construction of a nuclear reactor in their own neighborhood. Most of that response, I believe, comes from a public that does not like being lied to or deceived. Whenever self-interest predominates in an issue up for debate, voters get suspicious. But most voters probably have no scientific basis for choosing between the claims of government agencies, university scientists who are not beholden to industry, and those scientists whose employers are the companies themselves.
I would much prefer that the public was educated to know enough of the science involved to make informed decisions. There may be times when industry is right and the critics are wrong. That means we need both informed citizens and informed legislators.
I have written about 300 Life Lines articles on a variety of topics on the life sciences with multiple intent. I like to share my love of the life sciences. It is a thrill to learn of new insights into how cells work, how organisms are related to one another, the adaptations living things develop to cope with their environments, and the social implications of new science. Only about 5% of my Life Lines articles are political in the sense that I give my opinion on issues of science and society. For that reason I wish to use this Blog site to advocate my own point of view about science and society issues. I hope that some of you reading this will comment. It is good for the public to see the different views people have on how they came to their conclusions or why they disagree with my own interpretations. Most people do not comment on my Life Lines articles unless they are motivated by religious creationism or fundamentalism and disagree with an article that I write about evolution. But on other matters of deep concern to society I have gotten silence. I don’t know if those who disagree have good reasons for their views or if they are afraid to make arguments when they know virtually nothing about the science itself. I hope some of you will have courage to express your views.

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