and a documentation of harmful
The self-correcting mechanism of science
does not work in the real world
An open letter to Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com) and author of a monthly column on skeptical thinking in Scientific American, also of the books "How We Believe" and "The Borderlands of Science".
June 24, 2002
Dear Mr. Shermer:
I have followed with interest your "Skeptic" column in Scientific American and applaud you for your efforts in guarding the public perceptions of science from attacks by unsupported assertions.
Your "Baloney Detection" checklist for outlandish claims from last November and December is one of the most detailed collections of criteria for dubiousness I remember having seen. I would therefore like to suggest that you apply the same questions not only to the visibly weird "borderlands" from which the reputation of science may be assaulted, but also to the much more dangerous threats posed by rogue researchers within the life sciences who don the mantle of science and use its cover to hijack their doctrine. These cause great harm to the public and to the credibility of a science that covers up its errors instead of admitting them.
You often and eloquently affirm your belief in the self- correcting mechanism of science, and in the long run you may well be right that Copernicus and Galileo ultimately won over Ptolemy and his misinformed predecessors, and that this process might somehow repeat itself. Amen.
However, in the real world this postulated mechanism does not work on a human time scale, and yet, fundamentalist faith in the honesty of scientific cliques appears to be the only defense against frauds within the halls of science itself.
To illustrate this point, I want to draw your attention to the thorough documentation for a series of reckless but uncorrected frauds in medical research which I just posted and linked to www.recoveredscience.com/medicine_index.htm
As summarized in the series of pages on "Research Frauds", two small groups of intensive care nursery doctors took over the pediatric doctrine and distorted it to their own eugenics- influenced wishes, with blatant frauds right in the study designs that killed many babies and still blind many others.
These research frauds have caused more deaths and injuries than all the suicidal UFO cults and their ilk combined, and also more damage than all hijacked airplanes and other terrorist bombings combined.
In fact, the results from the first of the rigged studies I describe, held in the mid 1950s, have killed and maimed more Americans than the Viet Nam war, and they continue to inflict much suffering and unnecessary death on premature babies today.
This harmful research fraud has duped a gullible and apparently defenseless scientific community already longer than the harmless Piltdown hoax did in its time. It is now almost five decades since the intentionally biased and never replicated results of that bogus study were announced by a ceremonial panel of medical authorities, and instantly became the unchallengeable bedrock dogma on which most modern intensive care nursery routines are still based.
The alleged self- correcting mechanism of science was in this case suppressed by the dogma- oriented nature of medical education, and it was blocked by the conscious or subconscious self- interest of the groups organized around that dogma. Their members do not dare to admit the glaring errors in their practices and to acknowledge liability for the damage their biased doctrine keeps inflicting. Even those who may have doubts would probably risk their medical careers if they spoke out against their profession's long- standing doctrine.
Said postulated mechanism was further actively sabotaged by a more recent rigged study, called LIGHT-ROP and held from 1995 to 1998, that was knowingly designed to mislead about the causes of the harm the doctors involved want to hide.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary documentation, so I obtained the trial protocol for the rigged LIGHT-ROP study under the Freedom of Information Act and posted relevant excerpts from the trial designers' own words in the series that begins at www.recoveredscience.com/LIGHT_ROP_Manual01.htm
The detailed evidence I assembled allows you to compare the alleged science behind those rigged clinical trials with your Baloney Detection checklist.
Here are the questions you proposed and the answers for the case I describe. These answers are supported by the documentation in the above and other series in the Medicine section of my site, and I can gladly supply you much more supporting material beyond that posted so far.
1. How reliable is the source of the claim? Do the data and interpretations show signs of intentional distortion?
The medical claims about oxygen supplements as major factor in the epidemic of baby- blinding retinopathy of prematurity are based on one single study which was blatantly rigged and the results of which were not confirmed in several later attempts. Moreover, some leading neonatologists admit in their discussions that they can neither define nor measure nor control the oxygen levels in the retinal blood vessels where alone they would count in their distorted theory.
The distortions in both rigged trial designs were clearly intentional.
In the case of the sham oxygen- rationing study, they match the eugenics-biased statements of its designers who ascribed the blinding to "defective germ plasm" and wanted to eliminate the "weaklings" most susceptible to the blinding.
One of the doctors involved summarized the consensus in a 1948 discussion which was then published after the group leader's and journal editor's lead article in the May 1949 issue of the American Medical Association's Archives of Ophthalmology:
"Let 'fate' settle the problem of existence of these defective persons. Obstetricians and pediatricians should not be so zealous in preserving defective persons, of which the world has a sufficient quantity already." (The quote marks around "fate" are in the original.)
Accordingly, the trial designers withheld oxygen supplements from all babies for the first two days and so eliminated all those with the weakest lungs. Those babies were also the ones with the most vulnerable eyes. Because the children who would otherwise have grown up blind were thus killed off instead, their killers found less cases of blindness among the survivors.
The rogue researchers did not count in their results those deaths by oxygen- starving which they had knowingly caused, and this trick allowed them to falsely claim that withholding the life- saving oxygen from the babies who needed it most had prevented the blinding without risk to the babies. See my series on Oxygen Withholding.
In the case of the LIGHT-ROP clinical trial, the study authors knew that the blue- light damage to the retinae which they pretended to study is usually inflicted in exposures of just a few minutes, so they patched the eyes of the allegedly protected group only within up to 24 hours. Both groups were therefore equally over- exposed, and there was predictably no difference in blinding among them. Yet, the researchers declared that this demonstrated the innocence of the current nursery lights for the blinding.
2. Does this source often make similar claims? Watch out for a pattern of fringe thinking that consistently ignores or distorts data.
Yes. For instance, the pediatric community also claimed for many years that babies cannot feel pain. It had to be forced by a public outcry to repudiate this absurd belief and to stop routine vivisections of human babies without pain relief. (Read an account of their persistent denials that babies feel pain.)
Similarly, the pediatric community has long brushed aside all evidence for harm from excess light to the eyes of newborn premature babies, and it has consistently ignored or denied well documented data about that harm.
3. Have the claims been verified by another source? Typically pseudoscientists make statements that are unverified or verified only by a source within their own belief circle. Who is checking the claims, and even who is checking the checkers?
The claim that bright light is harmless to human infants although it damages the eyes of adults and of animals is unverified and is asserted only by a narrow belief circle of nursery doctors. These have been known before to follow absurd and patient- harming beliefs, like that barbarian one above that made them slice through the living flesh of fully conscious children for hours on end, without a thought about the unspeakable horror of what they were doing.
No one outside that narrow belief circle is allowed a voice in questioning the claims of its adamantly defended doctrine. Also, no responsible person on any of the approval committees has checked the claims made by the authors of the rigged studies, or else these claims would never have passed muster.
The alleged Review Boards rubber- stamped the unethical and unscientific trial protocols, right to the sounds of much publicized Presidential apologies for earlier medical abuses of the very same kind, as you can see in my series on Bogus Bioethics.
Moreover, a detailed paper trail, much of it quoted and discussed in the Sovereign Doctors series, shows you how the alleged checkers of the alleged checkers willfully ignored all evidence of wrongdoing. They not only failed to do their job but helped to cover up the frauds.
There is no outside verification whatsoever for the construction of medical beliefs by a narrow circle of insiders, and no mechanism to prevent the cover-up of those known to be wrong but inconvenient to admit.
4. How does the claim fit with what we know about how the world works?
Oxygen supplements had been given to preemies for decades before their sudden condemnation for the never previously encountered blinding, and they had long been credited for saving many lives. To withhold this known life- saver and to then claim the withholding had not affected the survival defies the clinical experience with oxygen as well as the rules of logic.
The routine nursery lighting recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics exposes the retinae of preemies in 15 min or less to the dose of damage- weighted retinal irradiance which the US Occupational Safety guidelines have established as the danger limit for healthy adult industrial workers.
These official safety guidelines are based on myriads of systematic animal experiments and on reams of reports about human over- exposures to light in welding accidents or from gazing at solar eclipses, and so on.
The pediatric doctrine claims that premature babies during their most vulnerable period are somehow immune to the effects of exposures which harm much more resistant organisms in much shorter times. This self- serving and defensive claim does not fit anything of what we know about how the world works, but it reveals a dangerous cult mentality among those who make it.
5. Has anyone gone out of the way to disprove the claim, or has only supportive evidence been sought?
The pediatric community has actively suppressed and distorted reports about higher incidences of blinding connected with higher light levels in certain nurseries, and it has fabricated supportive evidence for its knowingly false claims about the harmlessness of nursery lighting.
No one has so far been able to refute any part of the documentation about the harm from current nursery lighting practices which I sent to the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as to the LIGHT-ROP authors and to many other nursery doctors across the country as well as abroad.
6. Does the preponderance of evidence point to the claimant's conclusion or to a different one?
The claimants have no evidence whatever for their positions, and all the documented evidence, not just its preponderance, points to a conclusion diametrically opposed to the one the baby doctors try to impose by their false assertions.
7. Is the claimant employing the accepted rules of reason and tools of research, or have these been abandoned in favor of others that lead to the desired conclusion?
The pediatric community has consistently resisted the rules of reason and rational thinking in its approach to nursery lighting, it has willfully ignored research results and deliberately misused the tools of research, and some of its members have fraudulently rigged trial protocols in order to obtain the desired conclusions.
8. Is the claimant providing an explanation for the observed phenomena or merely denying the existing explanation?
The pediatric community has never explained how the withdrawal of a known life- saving agent does not affect the survival rate among those deprived of the oxygen they urgently need.
To continue the denial of the retinal damage from standard nursery lighting, opinion leaders of that community have inverted the normal approach to risk evaluation which would be to remove any suspected agent that exhibits a correlation with increased harm.
A mid- 1980s study found 19 chances out of 20 that the correlation between higher light levels and increased blinding was not a random fluke but a sign for a real connection. So -- would you expose your child to those unnecessary light levels if you knew this high probability of harming her or his eyes for life?
Nursery doctors simply deny that documented risk, blindly following their biased authorities and thereby misleading the parents.
In a complete reversal of all normal logic, the pediatric community denied that the observed correlations were significant. There is no check or control on what it proclaims, so it maintains the high light levels and high blinding rates as well as the harmful oxygen rationing.
9. If the claimant proffers a new explanation, does it account for as many phenomena as the old explanation did?
See above: the pediatric community has never explained how the withdrawal of a known life- saving agent can fail to affect the survival rate among those so deprived. Nor does it offer any explanation how newborn preemies with still developing eyes can be more resistant to a known and elsewhere regulated harm than the more robust human adults and test animals on which the safety guidelines for blue- light damage are based.
10. Do the claimant's personal beliefs and biases drive the conclusions, or vice versa?
See the answer to question 1 above about the political bias against letting "weaklings" survive, and about the inherent professional bias towards denying the errors in the doctrine and covering them up.
As you can see, the current pediatric doctrine meets and exceeds all the criteria for irresponsible fringe beliefs which you set forth, and it harms the public much more. This inside attack against science inflicts many times more damage than all the theories about crystal power humming or spirit portal channels which your organization spends its time rebutting.
Limiting your attention to those "borderlands" would be like a nation that guards only its external frontiers but not its airports and other highly vulnerable internal targets.
I ask you therefore to open your eyes to this acutely dangerous inside threat and to use your skepticism where it is most needed, now that you are aware of the never refuted evidence for routine child- harming fringe behavior within a holier- than- thou scientific priesthood.
I trust that you, as one of the bishops or cardinals of the scientific faith, will duly face this threat to the credibility of the scientific establishment with the courage and intellectual honesty that you recommend in your current July column to your opponents in other religions.
I ask you therefore to speak up against the horrible abuses of vulnerable children by trusted priests of science, and to help end the continuing cover- ups of their harmful abuses by the medical hierarchy. Please show the world that the postulated self- correcting mechanism in science actually exists and works.
Besides mailing you this open letter, I am sending a copy to the editors at Scientific American, with the same request to speak up and defend science, and I am posting another copy on my website at www.recoveredscience.com/ROP_skepticstest.htm.
Please give me your kind permission to post there also your response.
I thank you in advance for your kind reply and action, and I look forward with great interest to hearing from you.
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